I grew up in northern Kentucky, about ten minutes or so from downtown Cincinnati. My mom is an art teacher at an elementary school and my dad is a child psychologist. I have two sisters, one older and the other younger. My older sister is 26 and is getting ready to get married this summer. My little sister is 16 and dives and cheerleads at her high school. I went to high school at Covington Catholic. It was an all boys high school, but it wasn’t that bad. I swam all through high school and into college. I ended up going to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. At the U I juggled sports and academics for a while. I was majoring in art education and the basic art courses required a lot of hours outside class as well as four-hour classes three times a week. Mix that with an asshole for a coach and that was all it took. I started my second year and quit swimming. Since I quit, they pulled my scholarship. I sat out a semester and then registered for summer school classes. I ended up coming home sometime after and started working landscaping at Florence Nursery. Compared to swimming working there was easy as shit. I made decent money so it was ok. That mind set lasted about a minute, and I said fuck that. I didn’t want to be one of those guys who are forty but look like they are eighty years old. That job would suck you in and cripple you. I started going to night classes. I switched majors to psychology but still took a couple of art classes.
I never had a huge interest in art. Actually I had no interest in it at all until I got into high school. I didn’t take art classes as a freshman and only because my mom hassled me about it I decided to take them my sophomore year. The art teacher at Cov Cath was and I believe still is Tim Haders. He actually gave a shit. The first year the class was a full class, 30 or so people and sucked. It was full of tedious bullshit that served no point except to show you that you need to spend more than an hour on something to make it nice. I found out that a lot of it also was to weed out the people that just took the class to get an easy A. The next couple of years I started to get into it but my teacher had such an impact on me I decided that I wanted to follow in my moms path and be an art teacher. My early influences were pretty much just my family and a couple of my swim coaches. Ken Stopkotte in particular. He taught me a lot about my self and about life. And for a while he instilled self-discipline and dedication in me.
I got my first real tattoo on my 18th birthday. I had my design all ready and me and my dad and my girlfriend went to SkinCraft off of short vine, in Cincinnati. I swear to God when that motherfucker laid down the first line, if you could have erased it I would have said thank you but no thank you, and would be on my way. I got a half sleeve started while I was in Salt Lake City, but left before I could get it finished. But I WILL return to get it finished…. Someday. I always had somewhat of an interest in tattoos and tattooing. From the first machine I made out of a tape player motor and guitar string I though that tattooing was something I wouldn’t mind doing so I started inquiring about it. I didn’t know if I would be worth a shit but like most other people I thought, “well I can draw a little I can probably tattoo also.” And as everyone knows who has tried, getting an apprenticeship unless you are born into it isn’t exactly easy. I eventually said fuck it and asked my parents for a tattoo kit out of the back of a magazine for Christmas. They got it for me and with my guinea pig Justin it was on. Justin had the same mentality. He figured since I could draw I could tattoo. I think I busted the outline out with a single needle. I was dragging the tip along the line, watching the skin split open as it moved along. With sparks a flying, we continued on to the solid color. I think I switched to 3 needle or maybe a 5 round. 4 hours later we were half way done. We called it a session. One more 4 hour session and it was done. My first tattoo. And now that I look back on it I am so fucking lucky I didn’t scar the shit out of him. My last victim wasn’t so lucky. We were partying and the tattoo never should have happened. It was a kid I worked with and he wanted a cross on his foot with his daughters nickname “ B Gizzle” going down the center. I free handed it. That’s all I’m going to say about that one.
After that the machine went into the box and under the bed. I wasn’t going to fuck anyone else up. I was still working landscaping and was registered for classes in the fall when I first inquired about the program. Mike called me back shortly later while I was at work and gave me some info on the program. I ran it by my parents to see what they thought, and they told me to pursue it. It just so happened that they were going to be traveling to Texas later that month as we always did to visit family, and the shops were only about an hour and a half away. So, I flew down to meet my parents and then we all drove here to check out the shops and to meet Mike and Ed. My parents liked the shops and I liked the shops so on to the next issue. 10g’s.. Where the fuck would I get that? I looked at it like this, the program is two years long so five grand a year. That’s about the same as any college that you would go to and if this was going to be my career then there was no difference. I saw this as a once in a lifetime opportunity. The way they had it set up I could still make money while I was learning everything I needed to know. I went to the bank, got approved for the loan and was out there within the month.
The first month or so was rough it was just a lot of adjusting. I didn’t know anyone here or where anything was. Mike and Ed helped me find a place to stay and helped me get settled in and adjusted into the tattoo world. I have been here now for about 6 months or so and I love it. The shops are building an awesome reputation in town, and we have a great atmosphere going on. I feel like I have been here a whole lot longer than that but I am just starting to realize how much that I don’t know, and how much more I have to learn. These shops become your life and all the people you work with become family. I have grown a lot since I first came here, learning to work with all sorts of people. Mike and Ed have both been great to me. Ed lets me know when I fuck up tattoo wise, and Mike lets me know when I fuck up otherwise. But I know I need a good kick in the ass sometimes and its always justified. I consider it to be kind of like constructive criticism. Its nice knowing that you have Mike and Ed there to bail you out when you get yourself in a sticky situation. Seeing the results and the quality of work that me and the other apprentices are putting out with all of us tattooing for such a short amount of time under Notorious is amazing, and I try to imagine what I’m going to see on skin with five or ten years experience. This is becoming my life, and I’ve never been happier. Right now I could never imagine myself doing anything different.