Artists: Freddy Corbin
384 17th Street
Oakland, CA 94612
How did you get into tattooing?
I was trying to figure out a way to support myself as an artist—I was always more of a drawer than a painter. So when I got my first tattoo I saw the “light”! I found my tribe!
Where did you apprentice?
Erno Tattoo in San Francisco. Rest in peace.
What conventions have you worked at?
Too many to mention. The only tattoo conventions I support now are any tattoo convention that Miki Vialetto sponsors, and the San Jose—now San Francisco—convention that Taki throws. I don’t tattoo at conventions anymore. They’re not the same, as cliché as that sounds. At this point I would only tattoo at a convention that was in a city I’ve always wanted to go to for new experience, like Mexico City or Shanghai, for example.
What are some of your best convention memories?
I loved it when J.D. Crowe and Dennis Dwyer started the “Tattoo Tour” convention in the late ’80s as an alternate to national conventions. It was like, “OMG there will be two tattoo conventions a year!!! No way.” Kind of hard to fathom that now that there is a tattoo convention every weekend at least, literally. Some of my faves would definitely be Hanky Panky’s Amsterdam convention. Double bonus being in Amsterdam with all my friends, working, the red light district. A young man’s dream come true. Also Permanent Mark’s Tokyo conventions; they were probably the best prepared conventions I have attended. It was an honor to be on the poster and tattooing there. There were two, ’99 and 2000. It was the crème de la crème of artists! And the Japanese are great at making you feel welcome and special. I went originally for two weeks and ended up staying for a month and a half. Made a shitload of money. And came home with $200—I had a fuckin’ blast! Thank you, Mark! And returned many times.
How do you describe your style?
I guess I would say pretty straightforward. I like to do any tattoo that has a timeless feeling. And I especially love black-and-gray “East L.A./California” style as well as religious tattoos of any sect. I have the most fun while doing lettering script, old English.
What inspires you as an artist?
Everything good and evil, and a little in between.
What sets you apart from other artists?
I’m not sure, really. This is a question probably answered better by someone else. Maybe not as good as a lot of artists, better than the rest?? One thing that I do know is, I’m hitting 25 years tattooing and I love it as much as—if not more than—ever! I do wish the world still thought we were scumbags and it was like it used to be, until we hit the mid-’90s. The best thing that could happen to tattooing, in my humble opinion, is that it would become illegal! Then we would go underground, like New York was. And then all these shows, clothes, gear, and “hobby tattooer” bullshit would fall to the wayside.
What other mediums do you work in?
Black ink, pencils, charcoal, watercolors. Tile, mosaics. I also love to make found object installations, small and big.
How have you branched out from tattooing?
Not much, really. Not trying to get a show or any endorsements, really—just tattooing. Making sure all my guys have what they need and the helpers are cool. Shop’s clean, etc. That coupled with two years into being a dad. I’m usually trying to catch up to yesterday.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
Many, of course. But if I had to name one it would be Filip Leu without a doubt! He’s one of my role models. I’m way too lazy to even touch what Filip does. His person, intention, and tattooing—the most magical cutting-edge out there. Titine, his wife—the whole Leu family. He’s at the top of the pyramid.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
The ones that are the easiest.
Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give them?
To get it small, so they can actually afford to cover it up.
Is there a tattoo you haven’t done yet that you are dying to do?
Sure, a bodysuit of black- and-gray gangster-ass religious stuff, lots of lettering and roses, on a beautiful young woman who’s cool, patient, and not trippin on money. … Sounds nice, but I’m not holding my breath.