Artists: Jace Masula
jacemasula.com | mysticowltattoo.com
Mystic Owl Tattoo
44 North Fairground Street NE
Marietta, GA 30060
FRESHLY INKED: What year did you start tattooing?
JACE MASULA: I left my computer business back in 2005 to pursue my dream of making art for a living. I started my apprenticeship in early 2006 and it has been a blast so far!
How did you get into tattooing?
Well, I have always fancied myself a creator of sorts. I was always making shit and tinkering around with whatever I could find lying around the house. I made my first tattoo machine when I was 16, but it didn’t work so great, so my best friend and I just hand-poked our tattoos. I had never really considered tattooing as a professional career path. I guess I was just tired of the daily grind of business meetings and all-night cod- ing sessions. I was living in Summerville, SC, back then. I told my business partner, Adam, that he could run with the business, and that I was quitting to be a tattoo artist. He took it well, and off I went to scrub floors and clean up after some nasty mofos. South Carolina state law had banned tattooing until the laws were challenged and eventually changed.
Where did you apprentice?
Holly’s Body Canvas (now defunct) in Summerville. It was the third shop in the state to open its doors, and the only shop around within 100 miles. A line down the street from dawn ’til dusk for those first few months. Pure insanity for someone who had never been exposed to the tattoo world, let alone that. It didn’t take me very long to get up to speed on what an apprentice was all about. I was that annoying, “Thank you, sir, may I have another!” apprentice. No matter how hard they tried to fuck with me, I would grin and smile, and just kept on pushing. The owner’s first words to me were “Fuck off!”—so I stayed. I showed up every day and busted ass trying to make an impression. It kinda worked. They got used to seeing me around and figured someone must have brought me in. Two months into my apprenticeship, I knew I was going to have to continue my learning by traveling to shows and taking a few seminars.
What conventions have you worked at? Have you won any awards? What are some of your best convention memories?
I have done a number of shows over the past few years, mostly on the east coast, and a couple international ones. I worked the Philly show for the first time this year, had a great time, met up with old friends and even made a few new “old friends.” Vince and I will be attending the Paradise Tattoo Gathering this year as well. I am really excited about that one. Last year I took it easy. This year, I am trying to do one or two shows each month. I have won awards, and although I completely appreciate the gesture of being recognized by your peers, it can be a bit of a dice roll some- times. Art is a very difficult thing to judge, let alone in comparison with another work of art. The number of variables that go into the decision- making process when determining a winner is practically immeasurable. Granted, you have the technical elements of tattooing, but when most who compete are almost technically equal, the judging defaults back to the art. Of course, I just made all that up. One of the first shows I ever worked was in Arkansas, and it was awe- some. That was my first convention on the other side of the curtain. I remember thinking how far I had come from those few years before. It made me feel like I had accomplished something big. Looking back on that now, I was a dork, yes, but at the time it was great. The butterflies you get that night before you first show. Can’t sleep, all worried that you may have forgotten something. The newness of it all was a thrill for me.
How do you describe your style?
That is a very tough one for me. I really don’t think I have settled into my “style” just yet. I’m still trying out different things and tweaking this and that. I figure I will be able to answer that question around my 10-year mark. I love experimenting with different tattoo genres. I get stoked when I see a good neo-traditional or new-school tattoo. Those wild ones that don’t make much sense, yet the com- position and balance somehow bring it to life.
What inspires you as an artist?
Just about everything, and I really mean that. I am a huge nerd, computer geek, ex-hacker turned game maker. My fascination with numbers really does distract me sometimes. I find inspiration in natural things, mostly. Things that are alive and have a purpose.
What sets you apart from other artists?
Honestly, I think my personality. My art ain’t bad, but I have a long way to go before I get where I am going. I am kind of like my own pimp, I sweet talk myself just enough to get the job done, then I tear my work apart by bitch-slapping my ego around. It’s a great way to stay grounded.
What other mediums do you work in?
I will paint with just about anything that will clump, smear, spray, or plop. Now, I know that sounds like a list of bodily functions, but I assure you it’s not, although I have stamped a few paintings with my mushroom head. I like to make stuff out of wood, like tables and shelves and cabinets and stuff like that. Something strangely majestic about woodworking. I consider computer programming an art as well—like I mentioned before, I write games.
How have you branched out from tattooing?
You know, long before I got into tattooing, I was a shy kinda guy. Not really the guy who would hold a conversation with strangers. You know, just not very outgoing when it came to people. I find it hard to relate to most people— they are usually sane, and well, I am not so much. After tattooing for a couple years, I really started to get over that social anxiety I would feel around people I didn’t know too well. Now I can’t help but bother strangers—you can meet the coolest people that way.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
Okay, so I could name 100 people who have helped guide me on my journey, knowing it or not. I’m gonna go with a handful of Russian and Polish tattooers who names I can’t even read, let alone remember. You know, you have seen their work and dear God, it’s so sick. I also admire the guys down at Royal Street, CW and Sean Herman; they have a sweet shop with a great vibe.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
Bigger, more complex, with smaller detailing. I’ve been doing the old “blow it up big.” I think I want to tighten things up a bit with textures and more fine-line detailing. As for a type of tattoo, I am down for anything that is cool. And by cool I mean something I will enjoy while doing.
Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give them?
First-timers, I actually tell them not to get tattooed. I do this not because I am really looking out for their moral-social well- being, but because it is fun to see their reaction as I describe in detail why they should run away as fast as possible. I tell them how I will eat all their spend money. They never listen.
Is there a tattoo that you haven’t done yet that you are dying to do?
Yes, kind of. This year I am doing a series of paintings that are all part of a theme. Each painting will be available as a tattoo, and whoever gets the tattoo will get the painting as well.