SCOTT CAMPBELL is a legend in the tattoo world and out, having made his mark in the modern art arena and even the fashion world through his collaboration with Louis Vuitton. So when he puts his shop’s name and his artistry on a wine bottle, one takes notice. Saved Wines, launched late last summer, is the convergence of two artisanal craftsmen, Campbell and Wild Horse wine maker Clay Brock. Like a tattoo artist, a wine maker must have precision as well as vision and the ability to be inventive. And just like one of Campbell’s tattoos, the Saved Wines—a red and a rosé—are intricate without being overdone. We sat down with the tattooer at his Saved Tattoo office to talk about his latest masterpiece.
INKED: How did you and Clay Brock hook up and decide to make wine together?
CAMPBELL: We met through a mutual friend, and Lake [Bell, Campbell’s wife] and I stopped by the winery on a road trip. I never had an intention of getting involved with wine before meeting him, but he is so passionate about what he does that you know whatever comes from his hands is going to be great. I really respect how committed he is to his craft.
Do you see any similarity between creating wine and creating art?
Oh man, we could dive into the “what is art” conversation for an hour, and then come out of it right here in the same place, just an hour older, so I’ll spare you that. I guess in the same way that any art or any tattoo happens, you start with an inspiration, and then you react to it, using whatever medium you are comfortable with or fluent in. Our media are completely different—his being wine, and mine being drawing pictures—but they worked well together to create Saved Wines. With the artwork for the labels, that starting point was Clay and his devotion to his craft, the symbols and superstitions associated with it and the importance he places on family.
Did Clay have input on the label, and did you have a hand in the wine-making?
Clay put different wines in front of me and got an idea of what I prefer, but I certainly know better than to try and tell someone as masterful as Clay how he should do his job. As for the drawing and design of the bottle, he was very trusting of me. When designing the wine labels, I just wanted to make sure that the drawings would do the wines justice. ”
How is designing a tattoo similar to designing a label? Did the thought of permanence echo through your head when crafting the label?
Tattoos are not permanent. Tattoos get old, they get sunburned, and they get run over by buses. Tattoos, like people, are ephemeral. I think the idea of permanence is something any artist should just not think about. It’s really important to me to be able to create work without an awareness of critics or judgment, to be able to shut all those voices out and just make what feels right. If I were to start thinking about anything I’m working on as permanent, it puts a pressure on it that makes it harder to be sincere.
Both of the wine labels utilize negative space rather than having a paste label slapped across the bottle. Was that a conscious decision, to use the color of the wine inside the bottle as part of the design?
I like the design to be a part of the bottle, not just something stuck onto it. And of course, this way it brings transparency into the design, which gives it a little more dimension.
A few of the colors you used on the bottles, like the gold, are inks you can’t really use in tattooing. Did the fact that you weren’t limited by inks help you feel freer in your artistic process?
Every medium has its pros and cons, different freedoms and limitations. It’s like saying what you want to say, but using a different vocabulary. On wine bottles you have the option of shiny colors, and with tattoos, you have the option to use texture and gradients that aren’t possible on a wine label.
What do you hope customers discern about the contents of the bottle from the design?
I didn’t really think too much about how it would be seen by customers when designing it. I was just hoping that if I really put time and energy and my own feelings into it that it would resonate in the final product. I still hope that is true even if customers don’t know exactly what was going through my head when drawing it up, or what the symbols and words mean. I just want it to be apparent that this is a label and a story that someone really put time and care into, and that it’s worthy of further investigation.
So what’s the symbolism you were referring to in the design?
Oh man, it’s nearly impossible to fully explain the thoughts behind every symbol that went into it. Some of them are personal references and some are more general. I believe symbols and superstitions carry whatever power you give them. If you have a lucky rabbit’s foot in your pocket, obviously that rabbit’s foot does not itself affect the way the world unfolds around you. But if you believe that that rabbit’s foot makes you luckier, you walk through the world differently, and you make yourself more open to receive luck. The symbol changes the way you approach the world, and that affects the way the world receives you. The symbols and references I put into my work represent positive things that I want to put forward, in hopes that good things will come back.