Located in Tonawanda, Shannon Barlow of Twisted Tiki tattoo shop NY, has been a tattoo artist for over twenty years. Creating a little slice of paradise on the East Coast, he shares his thoughts on versatility, having patience, and getting your first tattoo.
What tattoo style do you specialize in?
I try to be as versatile as possible. I like to do every single tattoo style on a high level. I’m not an artist that just likes to focus on one thing and I think that is the secret to becoming a successful artist. He needs to be versatile. I defiantly put my own spin on different things such as Bio-Mechanical. I am a cartoonist at heart and I love lots of vibrant colors.
What is the most difficult aspect of being a tattoo artist?
For me it’s focus. If you don’t have the focus and the drive instead of doing it as a means of capital gain because you won’t have passion. You have to deal with people well. Obviously the technical part has to be there. You have to be dialed in on all phases. Everything has to be kinetic. And be patient.
The up and coming artists that are very young and are just phenomenal with art just don’t understand the grind of Old School apprenticeships and of working your way from the bottom. You can’t snap your fingers and have a career.
What’s the story behind a Twisted Tiki tattoo shop in NY?
I grew up in North Tonawanda New York and at three years old my mom moved me to California. I grew up around palm trees. The most important thing when someone walks into a tattoo shop is the atmosphere. I live in a freezing part of the country. I wanted to be in an atmosphere where I feel like I’m on a vacation.
Can you think of a time your art made a significant difference to someone?
There’s a lot of different stories and I’ve done a lot of cover-up tattoos. There’s so many emotional stories pinpointed to my artwork. I just like putting smiles on people’s faces.
To me that’s where it’s at.
What challenges have you had to overcome to become a professional tattoo artist?
Addictions and the rock and roll lifestyle of the 1990’s. When you’re making grips of money and going to the beat of your own drum you sort of feel you can do whatever you want. When you’re young and in your early twenties you don’t really get it yet or understand the journey. The 90’s were a blur, I’m not going to lie.
What would be your advice to someone getting their first tattoo?
Know what you want and have faith in who’s doing it. The worst thing is for people to walk into a tattoo studio and expect something on the spot. Impulse really kills people. They wake up in the morning and say “I want to get a tattoo today.”
I mean do you really want to get a tattoo today? Or do you have an idea of something that you want that you want on your body for the rest of your life?
Don’t give it the ratio of should I go to the mall or the tattoo shop today? Your body is your temple and you should respect that.
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Images courtesy Twisted Tiki