Even from across the street, New York City’s Daredevil Tattoo demands your attention with its vintage neon sign blazing. Once inside the pristine shop is filled with tattoo memorabilia (it is a museum after all), spacious work stations, and one of the most gorgeous chandeliers this side of Versailles. They’ve come a long way in 20 years. On the eve of their weekend-long celebration, co-owners Brad Fink and Michelle Myles sat down and considered their journey.
“The funny thing for me, I had been working underground with no sign outside or anything like that,” Myles reminisces. “I’ll never forget when we opened the shop on that first day, it was just me and Brad and we had built the shop ourselves, there was still sawdust on the floor.”
“We built it and we had absolutely no idea how to build stuff,” Fink interrupts with a laugh. “We’d spend a day doing something and three days trying to fix it.”
“I’ll never forget the first person that walked in… I was like, is that how it works?” Myles continues. “They just walk in like that? Shouldn’t they have to knock or something. It was a weird feeling after being underground for all these years.”
That first customer walked into a shop that was world’s away from the one that they currently call home. It was only about nine feet wide and no more than 25 feet deep, roughly 300 square feet, not unlike the earliest shops in NYC history whose flash hangs on the walls of the modern Daredevil. That’s not a lot of space, especially considering the realities of tattooing in 1997.
“Back then the Xerox machine took up a whole station,” Fink laughs. “There was no premade nothing, there weren’t any premade tubes or anything of that nature. We had to get there and make needles in the morning.”
Eventually they would be able to expand by taking over the apartment behind the shop. Like so many places in the cramped city, this set up had it’s unusual quirks, there was a little tunnel that you had to go through in order to get to the expanded section. While there is no argument that their current Chinatown location is a major upgrade, there is still nostalgia for those early days.
“It was a lot of uncharted waters, it was a magical time,” Fink says. “I think about how grateful I am to have come about in that time because it was such a huge transition from the private studios, people like (Michael) McCabe and all those guys, and now it was out in the open.”
Getting ready for the big day. #daredeviltattoo
For the entirety of this weekend, April 21st - 23rd, Daredevil will be celebrating both their past and their future by hosting quite a tattoo event with 20 of their dearest colleagues from around the country. Each artist painted their own interpretation of a classic flash sheet hanging on Daredevil’s walls, and will be working off of those sheets for the “You Pick It, We Stick It” weekend.
With so many tattooers making the trip from around the country — including Mike Rubendall, Dan Smith, Chris Garver, Mary Joy, Nick Colella and many more — the weekend will ultimately be a celebration of how strong the community is, for enthusiasts and artists alike.
“It’s been so exciting to see all of the support that we’ve had,” Myles says. “I love that people are engaged with this, I feel like it’s such a good way to convey that New York City’s tattoo history is everyone’s history. That’s why we wanted to other artists to come in, it’s not just about us, it’s about the entire community.”
Show your support by swinging by Daredevil Tattoo for the opening party on Friday April 21st from 7 pm -10 pm. Or, grab yourself a tattoo Saturday from 12 - 10 pm or Sunday Noon - 8 pm. Tattoodo will be there, so if you can’t make it in person you can live vicariously through our social media. Oh, and pay special attention to the Tattoodo Instagram tonight for your opportunity to skip the line Saturday or Sunday and grab a tattoo from any of the 20 artists.