Offering free nipple tattoos for breast cancer survivors, Mario Delgado of Moth and Dagger Tattoo Studio in San Francisco, CA, has seen many changes during his fourteen years working as a tattoo artist. He shares his thoughts on Pinterest tattoos, learning the ropes, and why he won’t do facial tattoos (even on a rookie artist).
What’s the vibe of Moth and Dagger Tattoo Studio?
We’re like a small boutique shop. We don’t have any flash on our walls; it’s all artwork that we’ve made. You’re not going to hear straight up death metal playing when you walk in.
We’re full custom and like to hand draw everything that we can. We have no problem with people submitting art, but we will not copy anyone’s artwork. We’ll take the design, add to it or emulate in some way. If anyone brings something in from Pinterest we try not to do them as much as possible.
How do you handle Pinterest tattoo design requests?
We raised our minimum; not because we’re trying to make more money, it’s just we want people to think, ‘Do I really want the same bird tattoo for eighty dollars’?
Pinterest tattoos probably meant something to the first person that got them, but everyone else tries to make these designs meaningful to them so they can justify getting them.
The problem is people on Pinterest try to make tattoos fashion, and they’re not. These young impressionable girls get these little small tattoos that their favorite celebrity gets just so they can emulate them.
Do you have more women or male clients in your tattoo studio?
We always get a lot of women.
The younger girls will bring in like fifty friends whereas people that are older will get a tattoo by themselves. We’re in San Francisco so we see more of a culture switch rather than a gender.
We’re actually getting a lot more Indian and Chinese women, basically lots of computer programmers. They’re getting little quotes and symbols, nothing really profound but they’re changing the stereotypes within their culture and how they were raised that tattoos were bad.
What’s the biggest change in the tattoo industry?
There are more people tattooing that shouldn’t be. You can buy a kit for $250 and start tattooing and there’s no respect for a traditional apprenticeship.
What change would you like to see?
I wish people would stop looking at social media for ideas and do what they want.
What’s your greatest strength as a tattoo artist?
I do a lot of things here that people don’t do. There’s lots of New School, Old School and Japanese. I do Realism and Illustrative.
What’s your advice on facial tattoos, especially on younger women and now?
It’s the most retarded thing ever. Yeah some are getting paid as tattoo models, but they’re only thinking of the here and now instead of the future. I’ve seen this industry go up and down. Some people will say they’re in a band and they want a facial tattoo. I’ll say that’s great, and when you pull up in your Ferrari I’ll tattoo your face. It’s still corporate America. Shit can change.
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