What was the original spark or inspiriation that got you into tattooing?
‘I was living off a skateboard salary and some savings until the skateboard salary vanished out of thin air. It was a reality check and I started working at labour ready. At the time my buddy Stephen gabrielli was tattooing me and was convincing me that my portrait drawing talents could get me somewhere in tattooing. I would rather die then do anything like labour ready lifting sandbags and getting paid 40$ for the day so I put everything into tattooing to learn how to do it right. It all started with a fish eating a mushroom.’
Where do you currently live and tattoo out of?
‘Currently living in Vancouver BC and I have a legit home studio that work out of. I have plans to buy a house in Kamloops but will likely have a secondary home here in van because of my client base.
How long have you been tattooing for?
‘I’ve been tattooing for 2.5 years which is a trip. It feels like yesterday that I started.’
Have you always been into making art, drawing and being creative outside of skateboarding?
‘I never really stopped since school doing portraits and being creative which I’m thankful for but it’s literally in my blood. My dad was an amazing artist and was always doing crazy creative stuff like making life sized Mickey Mouse characters cut out of wood and painted.. singing carols in the snow. Halloween was insane at our house. I actually sold a fair amount of paintings leading up to tattooing but it’s a lot of work for no reward if you don’t have the clientele for it. ‘
Are you completely self taught as a tattooer or did you have any training or apprenticeships?
‘Stephen Gabrielli and I would go back and forth about everything when I started. He’s done lots of great work on me and cares a lot about what he does and at the time he had 5 years under his belt roughly. It’s interesting to see where I’ve gone since then and how different I tattoo.. he was never there to look over my shoulder I would just do the tattoo and report back about the problems I may have encountered. But I owe it all to him for getting me in the door. I don’t recommend doing it the way I did but i can’t say not to.. the stars aligned for my situation and I have a handful of amazing people in the tattoo world that have my back but generally if you’re not meticulous enough you’re going to have a shitty time so I can see how people like me are looked down on in the tattoo world..and I’ve seen people try and start the way I did kinda learning on your own and it’s a mess.’
As you progressed, were there any similarities between learning to skateboard and learning to tattoo?
‘I wouldn’t say there are any similarities to the progression but I will say that skateboarding teaches you work ethic and I treated my situation like I was a young skater and I would go hang out at the tattoo supply as if it were a skate shop. I would just go and talk their ear off about tattooing and sit around as people came and bought their shit. They told me I’m the only person to ever do that and they support me as a home artist and have seen my progression from day one.’
Do you get the same satisfaction with tattooing as you do learning new tricks?
‘100%… It’s super addicting to get the ideas out there like landing a new trick you thought of and doing it as clean as possible. I don’t have enough time in the day to get the thousands of tattoo ideas I have out there but that’s what fuels it. I’ll be doing this till you cut my hands off and then I’ll likely use my feet. Now that I have something that takes all my attention away from skateboarding I’ve been more satisfied with skating and get rarely get upset with it. It’s making skateboarding easier somehow even though I could blink and two weeks has gone by without skating.’
Whats one word of advice for growing artists wanting to potentially get into tattooing?
‘Like I said before I can’t say not to but I don’t recommend doing what I did. It’s like running on a tight rope over a lava pit.. it was an insane amount of stress. Give it a shot just learn the sanitation portion which was the first thing I was shown.. the rest is just art wether it’s sketchy or clean.. your tattooing ability is what will carry you and how personable and comfortable you make people feel. A lot of tattooers will apprentice you but don’t want you in the tattoo world… where as I’m not worried about my clients being spread thin because there’s guys who do a crappy job after ten years of doing it and I know in my head I’m constantly trying to progress and push myself to be better and faster at the same time. Just keep drawing.. if you thought you drew a lot before tattooing wait till you get into it.. and if you start on your own.. start small!! Do all the triangles and circles people want because they teach you the basics… going into wanting to only do your designs won’t teach you the same.. I do a lot of tattoos i don’t generally like but most of them are stepping stones or training.’
Check out more of Stacys work and skating on Instagram @Unclegabes
Portraits by Jim Diehl,Jordan Waller and Nick Nicholson
Interview by Sam Fidlin