Artists: Jay Jay Dallas
JAY JAY DALLAS
What year did you start tattooing?
I started tattooing in 1994 back in Italy—that’s where I’m originally from. About a year after I started, I moved to London in the U.K. That was to try to find a shop that could take me in.
How did you get into tattooing?
I started to tattoo back in the north of Italy, but in the mid-’90s it was more complicated to get into this trade. I was lucky because my older brother had been tattooing for at least five years before I started, and in our family we have always been into art, painting, punk bands’ logos, skateboard graphics, and so on. So he kind of showed me the basic idea of what you need to do to tattoo and tried to help me get some tattoo equipment to start to do my thing. Italy in the ’90s was not really a place to work in a good shop, so the only way to do so was to emigrate to the U.K., where the tattoo scene was very advanced, with well-known tattooists.
What was your first shop experience like?
My first shop experience was very good for the time being. After I moved to the U.K., I started to work at Evil From the Needle, which was one of the best shops in London at that time. Our shop was more based on a new-school style of tattooing. It was a lucky shot for me to start in such a big and good shop, and at such a young age. The awesome cubist/new school tattoo artist Bugs taught me a lot about tattooing, the industry, and discipline in this line of work. I am very grateful to this man for giving me the opportunity to start to see this in a new perspective. That’s probably why my style is kind of a cubist/new school sort.
Do you have any special training?
Well, I’m sort of into painting and I’ve always grown up in a sort of artistic environment. In my teen years I used to do lots of graffiti. I attended some art college, but I quit before the lessons got interesting.
What conventions have you worked at recently or are planning on attending?
In the last year I worked lots of conventions, like the Milan tattoo convention, Brussels, Stockholm Ink Bash, the Brighton convention in the U.K., Copenhagen, and so on. I work at some conventions outside Europe also, but not too often, like the Toronto convention a few times in Canada, and the Cape Town convention in South Africa, and I have been thinking lately about hitting Australia, because the quality of work that has come out from there in the last few years has been outstanding.
How do you describe your style?
I would think that my style has some new school influences and some sort of cubism in it, just because I like a real strong sort of design structure. And of course, I use some of the traditional ideas and twist them in my own sort of way.
What inspires you as an artist?
The idea to try to find some sort of new challenge each time you draw a tattoo. I think this is what all the new tattooists should try to do—find something new, or at least try to!
What sets you apart from other artists?
The way that I interpret what I see around me in my own sort of way. And of course you have to have a positive attitude towards customers who want your work on their skin, and to be honest I like to get to know my client before I tattoo them, just to understand what kind of person I am going to work with. A positive experience must be exchanged in both ways, because I like to give my art away to clients, but I think they must deserve it. It’s not only about money; that’s what I think and what I stand for.
What other mediums do you work in?
I like to paint in oils, acrylics, and different sorts of media mixed up. I paint graffiti maybe once a year, unfortunately, and I love to paint and build military scale-model dioramas. I think that is one of my greatest interests after tattooing in the last few years.
How have you branched out from tattooing?
Well, after nearly 20 years in this industry, I’ve learned a lot on how to deal with people and tattoo artists, and also on how to see life in different ways. And in the last few years, I have been trying to travel lots, doing guest work in different shops in Europe and expanding the name and my work to the rest, while meeting lots of people and starting to have relationships as friends with more people around the world.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
I’m not really sure about this; it all evolves day by day, in my view. I’ve been starting to do some sort of big-scale tattoos lately, and for me that is a new thing. I prefer to tattoo sort of small-medium size kind of work, just because I like to start and finish the piece at once—makes me happier to see the result finished all at once!
Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give them?
I, of course, try to understand what kind of person they are, and see if we will be able to work well together or if it’s going to be difficult for me to do a clean job.
Is there a tattoo that you haven’t done yet that you are dying to do?
Well, not really, but I’ve been trying to do more animal figures. I find it kind of hard to draw them in my sort of style.