You don’t need a reason to get a tattoo. It’s your skin. Even if you’re only 14 years old, if you want one bad enough, you’ll find a way to get one. That’s how old Kenneth Nash was when he got his first tattoo. Some parents out there might raise their eyebrows in disapproval, but for Kenneth, you could say that making this commitment as a teenager inked his fate – it was a sign of exciting things to come.
Kenneth is co-owner of Goodfellas Tattoo in Kansas City and he’s been tattooing since 2013. Keep reading to learn how he got his start and check out his incredible work along the way!
What/who inspired you to pursue your career as a tattoo artist?
I got my first tattoo when I had just turned 14, and it was this junk on my forearm. One of my good friends that I met lived down the street from me –Caleb– he had a bunch of tattoos, so we both decided that we were gonna go crazy and try to get tattooed while we were really young. His step-dad got out of prison and showed us how to make a homemade tattoo machine, so we sat downstairs and tore apart a big Walkman radio, we made a needle out of a spring from a Bic lighter… So we get to working and I say to Caleb, “Alright, tattoo me.” And he was like, “I can’t tattoo, I’ve never even fuckin’ drawn. If you can draw, then tattoo me.” So I drew a ‘KC’ on his arm, and it was history from there. So before I even knew it all my little dumb friends were offering me money, and I was like, “Oh shit, I can totally make this a hustle.” I didn’t realize how bad that was as a kid, but I did it. Fast forward a few years, when I’m 18, I’m finally able to earn a spot at a shop, so I got an apprenticeship at a little shop in Independence through a guy I met. I stayed there and did my apprenticeship, then I left, and the rest is history.
How would you describe your style?
I do a lot of neotraditional with a lot of American traditional imagery. I love American traditional, but I like doing brighter colors and stuff like that. And a lot of faceless faces. Because I don’t like tattooing faces.
How many tattoos do you have?
Too many. I don’t know. They all come together once you get to a certain level. Too many and not enough, at the same time.
Most interesting/funny/awkward tattooing experience?
Oh god. Okay, so one night at the last shop I worked at– we used to hang out there super late, just kind of partied and shot the shit– one night I’m hanging out there with Jason (Phillips), and he’s tattooing one of our other friends. It’s about 2 am and I finally decide, “Okay, I need to go home.” Well, this lady walks in in this crazy stripper outfit with like fuckin’ nine inch heels– just the whole get up. She goes, “I wanna get tattooed.” So I think, “Alright, let’s see what she wants because this could be interesting.” So she tells me that she wants two words –I can’t remember what it was– going from like the front of her hip, tracing the side of her vag, and ending up underneath her butt cheek– in a huge Times New Roman font. I think, “This lady’s fuckin’ crazy. I wanna see what happens.” So I say, “Okay, let’s do it.” She fills out her paperwork and asks to go to the restroom. She comes back out, and she’s butt ass naked. She’s not even wearing a shirt or a bra or anything. And she’s just getting her leg tattooed. So we all thought it was weird, it was funny, and we wanted to see what would happen, and nobody else was at the shop so who gives a shit? So I do her tattoo, and it just gets super weird because her lady bits are all exposed and stuff. She requested breaks, so we take a break and she pulls out this old school camera. She’s walking around the shop and she’s like, “Can I take pictures of you guys and the shop and stuff?” We were like, “Yeah, sure.” That’s just one story. I’ve got a couple.
What is one of your pet peeves as a tattoo artist?
Hmm. There’s a lot. I don’t like people who don’t take advice. When somebody gives you like 8 million bad ideas and they wanna try to throw them all together, and you try to help tell them, “Okay, these are good ideas, but let’s make them singular,” or “Let’s kind of go this direction with your idea,” and they are too bullheaded to understand, so they end up talking themselves into getting a not-so-cool looking tattoo– I don’t like that. Or people who move.
If you could tattoo any person in the world, who would you choose?
James Franco. I just love that guy.
Besides tattooing, what are you passionate about?
I like hanging out with my family. I like driving way too fast in my car. I like working out. I like riding bikes. Outdoors-y shit.
Tell us about your shop/studio – what’s the vibe like/walk us through what can a client expect when they walk through your doors?
So I’m a co-owner of what I would consider the most luxurious shop in Kansas City. We go for a high-class feel. So as soon as a client walks through the door they are greeted, they are offered a drink and a snack, and they get to sit on some pre-1930s furniture. The music is never loud, but it’s there. It’s ambient. I think we just try to set a nice classy feeling throughout the whole shop. That way they know they are welcome.
Any advice for aspiring tattoo artists?
Take the constructive criticism with a grain of salt. Don’t be big-headed, but don’t give up. Because if I gave up I wouldn’t be here right now.
What is the best way to book an appointment with you?
Email me at [email protected]