Artists: Megan Massacre
FRESHLY INKED: What year did you start tattooing?
MEGAN MASSACRE: I started tattooing back in January of 2004—I had just recently graduated high school and turned 18 years old.
How did you get into tattooing?
Tattooing honestly in a way fell in my lap—it wasn’t something that I had always thought growing up I would want to do as my life career. Coming from a rather conservative household, a job idea such as tattooing would have been frowned upon. I really had no idea what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be—all I knew is that I wanted to have a job that really embraced my artistic talents. I have been drawing since age 2, and art has been a huge and natural part of my life since I can remember. Growing up I had real passion for learning every different medium of art that I could. I took classes on painting, sculpture, calligraphy, photography—anything that would further my artistic knowledge. When I reached 14 years of age I had an opportunity to go into my first tattoo studio. At the time I knew a few people who had gotten tattoos and I saw it as another medium of art, one which I highly desired to know the application. While at the tattoo studio I inquired about how one goes about learning to tattoo. When they told me I would need an apprenticeship I asked what I needed to get one, and when they said $4,000 my heart completely sank—$4,000 seems like a lifetime of savings to a 14-year-old kid! Ha ha. Right after I graduated high school I had a part-time job at a department store selling furniture and I had enrolled in community college, taking general credits, still really having no idea what my true calling was in life. The store was going bankrupt and a few coworkers started seeking jobs elsewhere. One in particular wanted to get a job as a body piercer at a local tattoo studio. One evening after work she asked if I would give her a ride there to try out for the job. When we got there I hung out in the lobby admiring the hundreds of colorful sheets of flash on the walls as she displayed her handwork on a willing participant in the back of the shop. Shortly after getting there the boss peeked his head in the front room and said to me, “So, your friend says you can draw, very well. Let’s see what you can do?” He handed me a pencil and a pad of paper, and described several tattoo ideas to me. I went to work on the designs, having really no previous knowledge of traditional styled tattoo artwork, and only the flash in the lobby to use as reference. When I showed him the drawings he seemed pleasantly surprised, and another tattoo artist at the shop replied, “Yup, she got it.” With that he then asked, “Have you ever done a tat- too?” I of course said no, but that I had always wanted to learn. He then asked, “Would you like to do one right now?” I was honestly both stunned and scared shitless at this question, but I knew that this may be my only chance to try it out, and without wasting another second I blurted out, “YES.” They put together the whole setup for me, and the owner sat down next to me as he put a stencil onto the shop apprentice’s leg that read “Timmy,” his name in script. Extremely nervous, I picked up the tattoo machine and followed every instruction he gave me with the greatest of concentration. As I began my hand was shaking terribly as I produced a few wiggly lines, but as I kept going I started to gain confidence, and by the end my lines had straightened out quite nicely for a first tattoo! Afterward, the owner asked if I wanted to learn, and the rest is history. In a way I feel like I didn’t find tattooing—tattooing found me.
Where did you apprentice?
The first tattoo shop I worked at was a shop called Squid Ink Tattoo; it was your pretty typical local street shop. I tattooed there for about a year, but honestly not long after I started working there I realized that the reason the guys wanted me around was not so much to nurture me into a great tattoo artist as much as it was to just have a “pretty face” around. Things went sour during my stint there; it got to the point where I wasn’t learning much past the basics of tattooing, and the turmoil surrounding my relationships there was stunting my growth as an artist. I left, and came and went from a few local shops, trying to find a good fit. I finally met an artist named Jason Strunk who had formerly worked at one of the shops I was working at at the time, but he had since moved on to open his own place. He had a style that at time was something new and innovative I hadn’t experienced yet, new school. I took a job at his shop, called Color Wheel Tattoo, in Shillington, PA. He taught me much about color and that I didn’t have to stay within normal style constraints of “traditional” tattooing. I worked there for about two years, and felt it was time to finally make the move to the city, that being Philadelphia. Through tattoo conventions I had made friends with an artist named Paul Acker, who owned a tattoo shop in Philadelphia named Deep Six Laboratory. I really admired his color portrait and horror-styled work, and when I was offered a job to work with him and the rest of the very talented and multifaceted artists at the shop, I couldn’t say no. I worked at Deep Six for about three to four years. I feel working there is where I really started honing in on the details of my style. I then moved onto NYC about a year and a half ago, to work at Wooster Street Social Club for the filming of NY Ink, and it is where I am currently still tattooing. I feel working here I got a more in-depth lesson about traditional tattooing, and the opportunity to learn about some aspects of tattooing that I was deprived of in my first initial apprenticeship. It’s honestly hard for me to say when my apprenticeship officially ended; to this day I still feel like I am learning new techniques and evolving as an artist. I really believe a true artist never stops learning more about their craft, even almost nine years later.
How do you describe your style?
This is always a hard question for me to answer, because I enjoy tattooing in so many different styles. I love both black-and-gray, color, and combining the two. I also enjoy portraiture, realism, new school, neo-traditional, traditional, all of it! I guess if I had to pick my favorite, though, it would be color for sure. I like doing new school–styled, bright and bold color tattoos that have three-dimensional realism aspects combined with neo-traditional and even traditional aspects. A blending of styles, if you will. I also recently got into playing around with very graphic, art neuvo, and geometric backgrounds.
What inspires you as an artist?
Well, everything, really. From walking through a 100-year-old cemetery or looking at some graffiti while riding on the subway, I find inspiration everywhere I look. A huge part of my inspiration is other artists, whether they be tattoo artists, fine art, or what have you, and also fashion, movies, makeup and hair, and pop culture.
What other mediums do you work in?
I have experience in many forms of art; however, lately I’ve mostly stuck to pencil, colored pencil, marker, and watercolor painting outside of tattooing. I have also been dabbling in and would like to spend more time in fashion and T-shirt design.
How have you branched out from tattooing?
I would say the two biggest branch-outs I have from tattooing are alternative modeling and DJing. Alt modeling I have been doing for about six years now; it’s a hobby turned mini career that I have always found to be a lot of fun. Coming up with artistic concepts for shoots, combining hair and makeup styling with composed lighting and poses is a whole different art form, in my eyes. DJing is pretty recent for me; it began upon meeting my now boyfriend, Joe Letz, at a music festival about a year ago. We got to talking about music—he’s a drummer for several bands, best known in the industrial band Combichrist. Music is something I always wanted to play around with, but between tattooing and modeling I just never could make the time. Joe explained to me how when he was off from touring, he would DJ, and that he could teach me pretty easily. It was a good starting point to break into that scene. Now we’ve formed a DJ duo called “Letz Massacre,” through which we’ve been traveling the country playing some shows together. It’s definitely a nice change of pace for me and I have a ton of fun with it. We’re starting to work on some music of our own, so I guess we will see in the future if anything more comes of it.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
Really, I look forward to working on any client who comes to me with an open mind and a general cool idea that they will let me run with. The minute the client has a long list of instructions or restrictions to every little detail, the more it inhibits my creativity, and the less inspired I am to do the piece. I want to give people a piece of my artwork, not a rendition of someone else’s. That is the only way I can give them my very best.