Artists: Ben McClellan
2094 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140
What year did you start tattooing?
I started my first job tattooing in September of 2003. How did you get into tattooing? I did not have a formal apprenticeship; I learned the basics from my friend Rich Muller, who was working at High Roller in Long Island at the time. I basically ended up living with Rich in Brooklyn, watching him tattoo and picking up what I could. The first few shops I worked at were very sketchy. I knew I had a long way to go, so I mostly enjoyed the craziness. I was friends with a lot of graffiti writers, which extended into a pretty big network of people that were down for free tattoos—I’d get to take my time and think things out tattooing after hours in my apartment. A friend I tattooed led me to a respected street shop in the Bronx called Tuff City. I looked up to owner Med and everyone at Tuff City long before I ever thought about tattooing. Through that job, I basically fell in love with the craft and everything that comes with it. I pretty much just kept my mouth shut and took it all in. The shop was packed daily, I think I was the ninth tattooer—they gave me two metal fold-out chairs in the corner of someone else’s room, and I’d knock out about 10 to 15 names a day.
What conventions have you worked at? Have you won any awards?
I have not worked any conventions or won any awards to date. It’s something I hope to do in the future; for now I’m just focusing on my daily work and seeing how things pan out in general. I think a little less hype at this point might be good for the business as a whole.
How do you describe your style?
I guess I would describe my style as American tattooing. I like black-and-gray, traditional, semi-traditional,
scripts. I’d like to do more Japanese but I’m sure I won’t be fooling anyone.
What inspires you as an artist?
I’m inspired by traveling through different cities, shops with legacies, other tattooers coming into their own.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
I admire everyone that brought us to this point—all the old-timers who are all but forgotten. Basically everyone that tattooed and kept it alive and moving when society supposedly hated them for it—that’s America! As far as current tattooers, there’s really too many to even think about. One guy that sticks out in my
mind is Chuey Quintanar. Topper at Philadelphia Eddie’s, that’s an awesome shop. Grime, obviously. My partners here at Redemption.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
I look forward to most tattoos, even tribal. Ideally, I like tattooing the same stuff everyone does—skulls, girls, religious themes, animals. Classic tattoos. My real goal is to try to make it mine without getting silly about it.
Before someone gets a tattoo, what advice do you give them? Before tattooing someone, I pretty much just tell people to relax and tell them if I think something won’t work or won’t last over time. The outline will hurt more than shading. I try to give them what they ask for as opposed to trying to push my influence on them.
Is there a tattoo that you haven’t done yet that you are dying to do?
I’m dying to do more reapers. Different takes on reapers, death incarnate. Death is certain.