Bryan Childs has been tattooing for over twenty years in the Pacific Northwest, and fourteen years ago opened Spidermonkey Tattoos in Olympia, Washington. His reputation and regular clientele have required him to close his schedule entirely, while he instead works from a nearly three-year backlog of potential clients.
Tell me about your shop and the artists:
I have five full-time tattooers besides myself.
Each of these artists has a clear and unique style - sometimes a client comes in and can’t remember the name of their tattooer, and we can always tell right away which one of us did it.
Skrappy has been with us the longest, and he loves to do everything. Bright colors, black and grey, fine line and traditional. His portraiture will be renowned in coming years, but he’s also gained a recent following for nature-inspired tattoos, such as landscapes and fish and game.
Caine I’ve actually known the longest, but started tattooing at Spidermonkey about eight years ago. His work is clear and bold, and as he likes to say: it’s a good tattoo if you can tell what it is from ten feet away. He would die happy if we could set him up with pin-ups all day long, five days a week.
Matthew’s work is very detailed and ethereal. Once a client asked “Who can tattoo a representation of astral projection?” and everyone said “Matthew” at the same time. His biomechanical is exceptionally good, but his Asian dragons might have it beat. Like all of us, he one-ups himself on a daily basis.
Nickhole Arcade is already known as the person in town to do really fluid, dipping-nib style pen script, as well as watercolor and other fine, graceful, subtle work. And monsters. She’s also had experience with tattooing cosmetic nipples and areola and wants for oncologists in the area to know that she offers a reduced fee for them.
Wizard Garrett draws a lot of his influence from graphic novels, and I think you can see that quality right away. Really crisp, balanced lines and saturated color. His color palette is very 80’s with lots of mint and purple, but his interests can be pretty macabre. A sweet guy who likes to draw violently amputated ladies, what can I say.
I like doing everything: black and grey, Japanese, animals, portraits, realism, and mythological creatures and monsters. Though I’m currently working through my backlog of clients, I’m really focused on Northwest coastal native designs and biomech. I might make exceptions if people come to be with those tattoos in mind. Especially if they want to combine them!
What are some of the current tattoo trends at Spidermonkey Tattoos?
There’s no mistaking that we’re a Pacific Northwest shop. We’re not a California shop, we’re not a New York shop. We’re a Washington shop. We’re all influenced by our surroundings: evergreen forests, mountain ranges, lakes, wildlife. Sasquatch.
For me, the focus is on Northwest coastal, and being authentic to the culture.
How do you find new inspirations for your tattoo designs?
Science fiction, horror and mythology. I love antiques, I love how people used to pay attention to the form over function. My house is full of antiques. But my number one inspiration is to avoid trends. I want to do my own thing.
What personal sacrifices have you made to become a professional tattoo artist?
I grew up with lupus, so I have less energy than most people. I struggle but I’m a workaholic. I still work all day.
My social life suffers as well. For example, I’m sure my wife would like to go on vacation without talking about tattoos the whole time. I would like that too. But it’s the career we chose, and if going to France means attending a tattoo convention, then of course that is better than no France at all.
What has being an artist taught you about yourself?
You need to listen to people, and interpret what they are trying to convey. Most people don’t know how to articulate what they want, so part of a good tattooer’s job is to be the medium for that.
So much of it is the ideas sparked from actually talking to someone. I give my suggestion and try to clarify, and they are inspired by that. This back-and-forth is what gives a custom tattoo authenticity. It should be as much their tattoo as mine.
I take my sweet ass time. People wait while I draw, sometimes for weeks. I have no problem expressing my style, but I have to work on it until it is done, and it may happen in one sitting, or it may take a long time. I’m good at what I do and I have a good reputation because I discourage impulse buys.
When you aren’t tattooing, you can be found…
For now it’s working in special effects makeup. I’m finally going back to the original passion that I had. And oil-painting.
Have you ever done a tattoo that changed someone’s life?
I’ve done a lot of memorial portraits, and for those people you can often see in their faces that the tattoo is closure. There is grief, but also relief. I think that loss is this awful feeling of drifting loose and the tattoo can be an anchor.
Bryan is internationally renowned for his black and grey seminars, where tattooers can watch his technique in real-time on a live client. Industry professionals have given universally positive feedback, with some tattooers reporting that it has totally changed the way they approach black and grey.
To book him for a seminar, please contact the shop directly.
To view artist portfolios, or review Spidermonkey Tattoos, be sure to visit their Member Profile.
Images courtesy Spidermonkey Tattoos