Artists: Mike Adams
Thicker Than Water Tattoo
181 Ave. B
New York, NY 10009
What year did you start tattooing?
I started tattooing in April of 2007.
How did you get into tattooing?
I had a roommate in college who had a bunch of tattoos, and he got me into them. I was in art school at the time and I started incorporating traditional tattoo imagery into my art projects. After college I found my way into an apprenticeship.
Where did you apprentice?
I apprenticed under a guy named Ronny Veritas in Pittsburgh, PA. He had just moved from Boston and got a job at the first shop he could. Unfortunately it wasn’t the best shop. The owner had a lot of bad habits when it came to being a clean and sterile tattooer. It was good in a sense because Ronny was very strict with me about tattoo safety and really drilled it into my head. He would always point out stuff the boss was doing and let me know to never do that.
Do you have any special training?
While I worked with Ronny he taught me basic machine tuning and essential things needed to make a machine run the exact way I wanted it to. We didn’t have money for raw metal and tools, so the only things we could make ourselves were springs cut from tempered steel, and we would wrap our own coils with copper magnet wire and steel cores. Tony Urbanek taught me some tricks that made my builds run as efficiently as possible.
What conventions have you worked? Have you won any awards? What are some of your best convention memories?
I’ve worked Philly a few years, and it’s my favorite. I’ve also worked Pittsburgh, Richmond, Scranton (another awesome one), and a few others. I’m hoping to do a bunch in 2013.
How do you describe your style?
I like very old traditional pieces with a heavy influence on folk art. I really like to do anything with a folky or romantic feel, preferably all black with extremely limited and muted colors.
What inspires you as an artist?
I’m inspired by very early 1900s tattooers and tattoo flash, as well as old photographs and adverts from that era. I’m also inspired by my close tattooer friends Josh Stephens and Lian “Tron” Tongoy. They’re such rad artists and we feed off each other quite a bit.
What sets you apart from other artists?
Lately I’ve almost ditched color altogether. I’ve always gone by the rule that once the black is done, the tattoo should look finished, and any color should be considered extra. So I put a lot of black into my tattoos to where no color is really needed. I’ve also taken an interest in stippling. I know a lot of awesome artists have been stippling their tattoos, but I black stipple shade traditional pieces, which I’m hoping people can notice in my work when they see it.
What other mediums do you work in?
I paint often, almost every day if I can. All watercolors. I really paint so I can become a better painter, but also to show others the tattoos I’d like to potentially do.
How have you branched out from tattooing?
I’ve gotten heavily into antiques, stemming from all the old imagery and history I use in my tattooing. There’s just something really awesome about owning a piece of history. If you find a cool old glass bottle or a really ornate end table, you have to ask your- self, “What was in this bottle? Who owned it?” and “Who owned this table? What did they put on it?” You’ll never know, but it’s interesting to think about that stuff.
What tattoo artists do you admire most?
I try to not “admire” anyone, but I do like quite a bit of artists’ work from around the country. My best friends are Josh Stephens and Tron, so they’re really my favorites.
What kind of tattoos do you look forward to doing?
Anything fun with a folky feel, and black or stippled.
Before someone gets a tattoo what advice do you give them?
Don’t draw your own tattoos to give to an artist.