Frank Lewis, 37, is a well versed, intelligent tattoo veteran and expert. His 15 years of experience began by taking an unconventional route. Lewis realized that tattooing was his passion after working standard desk and computer jobs. As demand grew, he along with his wife decided to open Puncture Wounds Tattoo in Riverside and Colton, CA. Running an efficient and diverse four artist outfit, Puncture Wounds prides itself on working closely with customers to achieve the perfect tattoo experience. Tattoo.com had the chance to catch up with Frank Lewis in between tattoo sessions to learn more about his history in the tattoo industry.
Hey Frank, great to sit down and talk with you. Tell us a little about yourself. What is your life like outside of tattooing?
Well, I’m married with five kids. I love camping and spending time with my family. When I’m not tattooing i enjoy building my own designs and looking for the next great invention.
Why did you start tattooing? Who or what was your main inspiration?
My friends and family was the catalyst to my tattoo career. It sounded fun, but I realized it was not as easy as it seemed on paper. I watched my uncle tattoo people and get paid for a 10 minute job when he was just 16 years old, and I thought that could be me. When I was 21, I met Dean of Rose N’ Dagger. I didn’t apprentice under him, but I picked up the many traits along the course of our friendship. If not for him, I would have just continued with my IT background and stood the 9-5 jobs; I would have been making more money, but I love what I do. I eat, sleep, and digest the tattoo life.
Life becomes more fulfilling when you enjoy what you do! Dive a little deeper into your tattoo inspiration.
I won’t lie, the fast and easy money put me over the top. Mind you that I have a B.A in System Technology; I just couldn’t see myself sitting in front of a computer programming all day. Eventually, I was tattooing 25% of my co-workers at my own house, so I had to take a step back and I realized it was time to open a shop!
That’s a great story. How long has Puncture Wounds Tattoo been open? What sets your shop apart from other in the area?
We’ve been open for three years now, with two locations in Riverside, CA and Colton, CA. We provide an easy going environment and are very attentive to our customers and what they desire. I think that our humility and professionalism keep them coming!
Can you describe your relationship with your clients?
All my clients are all my friends, invited to my parties, get-togethers and anything I can think of. If it were not for them, my businesses would die.
It’s good to have that close relationship with clients that you are marking for life! Moving on to more tattoo related questions, how have you seen tattoo shops and artists change over the years?
Its not the bikers in leather jackets anymore. Old school is a dying breed, and we welcome the new school and photo realism to the game. All I can do is try to move along and learn from these new artists, and stay afloat with all the changes.
Flash is not dead; that’s the beauty of traditional art. I prefer custom tattoos or putting my own twist on traditional. New School has vivid coloring, that’s the main difference.
What artists do you really admire?
Tattoos have without a doubt gone mainstream with TV shows and celebrities. Is this a bad thing?
Nope its not a bad thing. It allows us as tattooists to make more money get our names out there, while not being looked down on. I only see it as good business
It definitely helps tattoos become more acceptable on a public forum. Do you have any memorable tattoo stories?
All my tattoos have good memories. My wildest tattoo was a girl who came in for her husbands name, after I advised her against it. I ended up covering that tattoo with flowers and hummingbirds. She continued getting tattooed by me and I ended up marrying her!
Wow, what a twist! Do you have any advice for people getting their first tattoo? How about artists looking to break into the industry?
Do your research, make sure you go to a pro, not the backyard boogie guy. Make sure it’s in a clean, sterile environment. Get comfortable with your artist. I’d advise against buying some kit from a supply shop. Don’t think you can just go to town on someone; take some art classes and try to get an apprenticeship at a reputable shop.
Good advice from a professional like yourself goes a long way. If you could sum up your philosophy or outlook on tattooing, what would it be?
Its an art, form extension of ones life. Treat it as so.
What type of machine do you use?
I build my own “Kings n’ Queens” machines. When I don’t use them, I have a one off Junebug bio, Stigma, Bishop.
Have you ever entered any art contests? What were you hoping to accomplish?
A few times. I can say I hold my own until this day, even though I admire all these new artists and how big they have become, even after only tattooing for 5 years. It’s taken me over 15 years and I’m still not close to them, but I’m happy to be apart of what they’re doing.
What are your immediate and long term goals as a tattoo artist?
I want to fill my shops with capable artists, and let their work do the talking. I’d like to get my machine line “Kings n’ Queens” going and build machines for artists to produce beautiful tattoo work.
What have been some of your biggest challenges? How’d you overcome them?
I’ve lost friends over ego trips, but I welcome any challenge and issue. Being an owner of two shops, a lot of things get thrown at me but just like everything, it’ll pass. Spending time with my family is the biggest challenge; I want them to see the fruits of my labor and see that I’ve made it.
Family is a great motivator! Do you feel the ‘economic crunch’ has hurt the industry?
In 2008 when everything crashed, it was hard on people. To me, tattoos are a luxury. With the loss of wages and employment, the tattoo industry has to figure out ways to keep on going. I’m still here and so are shops across the country so we’re doing it right.
Any comments on how your work has affected your clients’ lives?
I just did a tattoo of script “Hope” on a client before I started this interview. She tried to commit suicide a week ago. I told her “I’ve seen a lot in my time, death and life..” I told her, “You need to have hope, or what is there truly to live for. Hope is faith.” It too will all pass.
Frank Lewis has a great head on his shoulders. It’s his grounded attitude and uplifting demeanor that keeps his shops running with the highest integrity. Make sure to visit Puncture Wounds next time you are in Riverside or Colton.