Located in the up and coming DoMa section of Manahawkin, New Jersey, Premium Blend Tattoo was opened in 2004 by owner Ty Pallotta, 37, and his wife Robyn. Since Ty had no clientele in the area, it was a big gamble. Construction took 5 months and by the time the doors opened, they only had $300 left in the bank account. Fortunately for them, the first customer came through the door that night. News got around fast that there was a great shop with talent and now they are among the very best shops in all of Ocean County. With Ty, Curtis Adams, and Kelly Colligan on board, Premium Blend offers a variety of tattoo styles, able to adapt to virtually any client request. Having been a pro since 1998, Pallotta has become known for portraits and photo realism, as well as detailed Japanese tattoos. Ty took the time to answer some of our questions, you can read the interview below!
Hey Ty, thanks for chatting with us. Let’s get some basics out of the way; where were you born? what do you enjoy outside of tattooing?
I was born in Hackettstown, NJ in 1976. I grew up in Toms River, NJ. Outside of tattooing I enjoy woodworking and building things out of scrap pieces of wood from trees that I have cut down. I've made coasters, a large spoon and even a chandelier.
That’s a hell of a hobby. Are you an artist in any other mediums?
I paint using oils and acrylic. Since Kelly has joined the shop, I have picked up a lot of pointers when it comes to painting. It's always great to have creative minds together.
Were you artistic as a child? Did you take any art classes or spend hours in front of the tv drawing?
I was artistic but never applied myself because it was frowned upon. My dad wanted me to do something more serious with my life. It was until many years into my adulthood that I learned that he was an artist and oil painted. He had white collar dreams for me. I was infatuated at a young age with tattoos when I used to stare at my Dad's "Death before Dishonor" tattoo that he got when he was in the Air Force.
At what point in your life did you think to yourself that tattooing would be your calling?
The first time I realized that I wanted to tattoo professionally was when I was 17. Me and a handful of friends got tattooed underage. When the guy doing my tattoo didn't feel like working on me and handed me the machine and told me that I could do it myself, I was sold. Talk about your journey into professionalism.
How did you go about making tattooing a career?
I bought a machine from a friend and tattooed friends before actually doing two apprenticeships. The first was in Pt. Pleasant, NJ which was a complete joke and the owner would take my money to the bar and the other was in Austin, TX which actually taught me the basics and gave me a chance to get my foot in the door. I got a two month crash course which was enough to build a portfolio. I moved back to NJ and got a job with the original guy who was going to apprentice me. Ironically, he hired me and didn't even know who I was.
What was the biggest sacrifice you had to make in order to achieve your dream?
The biggest sacrifice I had to make was to move from NJ to TX to get an apprenticeship, which is probably further than most people are willing to travel. Nothing was handed to me and nothing was easy.
Tell us about your relationship with your clientele. Do you have people traveling to get tattooed by you?
Everything for me is a referral. I have had clients come as far as Norway. A majority of my clients live beyond a 25 mile radius from me. Most of my clients and I gel very easily. But there a some that I have a love/hate relationship with. Some of my clients that I love to tattoo are the biggest pains in the ass. But we can laugh and joke about it through the whole process. And yes, I call them pains in the ass right to their faces. The most rewarding part job is honestly the smile on people's faces after a tattoo session when they get to see the progress.
Do you participate in any conventions? Win any awards?
Yes I do travel. My very first convention was in 2012 at the Visionary Arts Tattoo Festival in Asbury Park which I took home Tattoo of the Day for Friday. I have since done 11 shows and taken home 16 awards including 9 Tattoo of the Day awards.
Who are some artists in the industry that you really admire or look up to?
The biggest inspiration for me is Jeff Gogue. I've met him twice and the reason why he is the biggest inspiration for me is he is well rounded in every style, but on his own level. I feel like he's raised the bar so high, it gives us all a fight to be better.
What kind of machines and supplies do you use or endorse?
I've been using rotaries on and off since 2003 starting with the original Swash Drive. I've used Neuma's and everything in between. Tried and true for me now is I use cartridges from Cheyenne on an Inkjecta Flight. I use After Inked aftercare. I also use a combination of Fusion, Eternal and Panthera Black. I am not sponsored by any of the above, enjoy the freedom to use what I want to use.
Talk a little about flash. Is it dead, or does it have a place in the industry?
Flash is extremely dead. The days of real artists and custom tattooers destroyed what street shops used to be. In a good way. I do all custom or photo realism reproduction tattoos. I draw my custom tattoos with multi-layer pencil sketch or sharpie marker. I prefer to draw right on the skin with sharpies.
There is definitely a clear distinction with new and old style tattoos. There is also a lot of segregation in the industry between cliques of different styles. However some people add a lot more detail to their traditional tattoo and that becomes a new style altogether.
From your experience, what has changed in the trajectory of the tattoo industry? What has helped and what has hurt the business over the years?
Tattoo shops went from dingy, dirty, intimidating with black and white checkered floors to classy, clean, comfortable and well thought out. Professional artists have really turned this industry around but there are still a lot of shitty artists. It's getting better every year. What ruins our industry is the money hungry business owners apprenticing talentless people to put more money in their pockets. I think that tattoos are more accepted nowadays with the exception of corporate douche-baggery, like Costco for one. So many employees have visible tattoos that they have to cover. Why would any company want to limit themselves by hiring a less qualified person with no tattoos?
If you had a word of advice or direction for any artists looking to break into the industry, what would you say?
I would make artists have to be capable of drawing and being artists for one. Also, remove the talentless people out of the industry that are doing nothing but permanent damage and causing the cover-ups for one. If the people regulated the quality of tattooing a little bit more you would see a lot more beautiful work and a lot less cover-ups. And I feel that would help the industry have a better name than it does. I would recommend they work slow to achieve the best quality they can and put in gruelingly long hours. Hard work is the only thing that pays.
What about a potential client looking to get their first tattoo?
What they should take into account is what they see in that artist portfolio is what they do best. They should give the artist a general idea of what they want, then zip their lip. Let the artist make a great piece of art because the more they micro-manage the process, the more they are taking away from the overall outcome.
What are your goals for the present and future? What have been some of the biggest struggles you’ve faced?
My goal for now is to continue to gain national recognition for myself and Premium Blend. For the future, I'd like to make a difference and I'd like to be remembered as one of the great tattooers of my time. Some of my biggest struggles have been to find myself as an artist. Because I have a natural ablilty for realism, I have always been envious of people who have had one specific style. I have overcome that by accepting that I am what I am and putting my efforts into what I do well.
Thanks a lot Ty. Check out Premium Blend Tattoo at 777 East Bay Avenue, Manhawkin, New Jersey, 08050 - you won’t regret it.