A genius at mashing up styles, creating his own, or replicating our favorites works of ancient fine art, Jones Larsen is the type of tattoo artist everyone can count on for a special experience and a piece that they'll love for a lifetime. Working out of his shop Lacuna Tattoo in central Copenhagen, surrounded by the exciting buzz of shops, cafe's and friendly bars, Jones is well known in the area for his positive outlook on life and wonderful craftsmanship.
In this interview with Jones, he talks about how he got started in the tattoo industry, his many passions, and how the Tattoodo App has helped him make new connections while also streamlining the business of being a globe trotting working artist.
My name is Jones Larsen. I'm from Denmark and I own Lacuna Tattoo Studio in central Copenhagen. I’ve been a tattoo artist for almost seven years now, starting back in 2013.
I started out doing a lot of sketching and graffiti in Albertslund with my older brother as an inspiration. I was always looking at his sketchbooks and when he was working on his graffiti skills in the backyard. Combined with my grandmother taking care of me and I always would have to join her at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, the Glyptotek and other art museums and galleries has definitely had its impact on where I am at today. But my background is from the nightclub industry, running a bunch of different nightclubs. I started doing a lot of flair and competing in competitions because I thought it was cool to see how creative you can be with the drinks and everything. It’s where I also got more and more into being creative with my hands.
Could you touch a little bit on how you got started with art in the United States?
I did a year as a high school foreign exchange student in Minnesota, United States. It was only for a year, but I took art as one of my classes.
I kind of think that pushed me to do some more about it as well. But yeah, coming from a creative and competitive family I believe that has pushed me to find my path in life.
Let's go back seven years. You’ve found your passion about art. How did you get into being a tattoo artist specifically?
Long story short: it's actually really stupid. I was actually getting my back piece done then at this time. I was doing my own drawings with the artist and trying to be creative with it and kind of teaming up with her. She was like “I mean, you know how to draw.” She even asked if I was considering becoming a tattoo artist and I said no, not really. But one of my friends and I were supposed to go to New York and he canceled on me two days before we took off. And it was out of pure frustration, I went online and just bought my own tattoo machines.
Because of the network industry everybody knew that I actually had my own tattoo machines at this time. People started saying "Oh, you’re now a tattoo artist,” so I just started doing a little bit of tattooing on myself.
Then my girlfriend, who I’m still with, she said “You should do this, you’re creative, you love doing this.” So, I went out to see if I could get an apprenticeship. The first studio I went to, I showed them my portfolio. And they set me up and I actually got a tattoo on myself. It’s this little minion on my leg and is one of the first things I did. It was one of my first ones, so it means a lot to me. I started to become more and more interested in the tattoo industry. I didn't think I was going to make a living out of it but that experience kind of pushed me a little bit further.
So, overall, you didn't always want to be a tattoo artist, it just kind of snuck up on you?
Yeah, pretty much. I mean, I thought I was limited to Tom Cruise Cocktails and Dreams, the movie, having my own little cocktail bar somewhere. But the tattoo industry absolutely fascinates me.
Speaking of the tattoo industry, who are your heroes and inspirations?
Old school wise, I like Nikko Hurtado. I mean he started out in the West and worked with army guys and the YMCA L.A.; he really involved himself. Also, Coen Mitchell, he's a good friend of mine. He's actually a big inspiration and he's younger than me and he's just grown as a tattoo artist as well. I will be getting another tattoo from him next month in Amsterdam. Rich Harris, too. He's sick. And This dude called Mashkow, He works in New York, he mashes up different styles as well because they too bring so many different varieties and styles to the tattoo industry, as well bringing in something new.
What's the philosophy of your work? What’s the mindset you take into tattooing?
I think I'm really, really just honored about all the people that actually come to me. Even if it's something small, but they still choose me as an artist. I really, really respect all the guests.
I don't consider them as clients because they come into my studio that I call my home. Even if it's a small piece. I still totally respect that and I think it's so cool and I'm actually honored to do the tattoo as well. I even just had a woman come in and she wanted to cover her tattoo and said do whatever, freehand cause she's seen my work "I just want some of your work". That's so crazy. Also I had a cancellation last week and our apprentice Patrick was doing a piece. I loved being able to just jump in and show him a couple tricks before he dove in and then sat there for like 30 minutes to get to my tattoo fix. Just to sit with the machine in my hand and see like how the skin reacts and see as a piece takes its shape. Everything about it just fascinates me.
What would you say is your style?
I don't think I have a specific style, although my colleagues and guests say I do. But I think details in a minimalistic piece, super refined and creating those small details. I love doing black and grey and and am still learning to love techniques for colors as well.
I'm still on a path to find my own style, because I love combining the black and grey realism; working on details and flow, but to add colors and combining up styles is a fun way of creating something unique. But it's hard to say. Like I said, I’m still on my path to figure out what I want to do with it, as I'm trying to do some mash up of some of the other art stuff as well...so cool.
Are there any iconic pieces that come to mind or ones that you are super proud of?
Yeah, this guy who came in and had this big photograph of the piece called "The Lunch Break" on the Empire State Building. There’s twelve guys hanging out on a piece of metal during their lunch break. And this guy came in like “You're going to be able to do this?” Yeah. Should be able to close that in one day...and I ended up spending like five days and doing that piece instead. Everything in it like it you can see the lights in the buildings. It was a pretty cool piece for me to do.
I know you’re a basketball player, so I wanted to ask how the sports culture and tattoo culture have intersected in recent years. How do you see the two coming together?
I've been watching basketball since the early '90s. One of my biggest basketball idols is Allen Iverson. He did so much for the tattoo industry and basketball history, because he brought the whole hip-hop industry into it. But also for the basketball and the tattoo industry to get involved with each other. It's been more acceptable as well. It's not like only sailors or gang members or anything but it's actually everyday people. Even in soccer, everybody's just getting tattooed nowadays. They have full sleeves and everything and make it more like a fashion statement. It's like putting on your superhero suit. And to see people actually grow their tattoos as well; they've become something more unique. Because everybody's unique in their own kind of way, of course. See a lot of people having the same styles. But still for people who create something unique for them as well and actually to wear their "cape". That’s pretty cool.
For athletes, it’s one thing that they make so much money. They’re okay because they're settled but also I met someone earlier today who was fully covered in tattoos and she's working a normal 9 to 5 job. It is so much more acceptable for people. Young people or older people.
What else are you passionate about outside of tattooing?
I like exploring and seeing the world. Traveling combines so well with the tattoo industry as I can go to so many places and still work. Just over the last year I traveled to different places and actually learned from the history. And, actually, I can learning tattooing as well.
When I went to Hawaii I learned all about the Polynesian tattoo culture. It was fascinating for me. I love world exploring or hiking, seeing different natures. I love my Copenhagen but to see the world at large is just something else. And yeah, I love sports as well, I have all the channels at home to watch basketball or tennis or whatever.
I love being active myself. So I play tennis, swim, basketball, and soccer.
I used to be a professional runner as well. My younger brother is a Muay Thai fighter and a world champion. My older brother used to be a champ in karate also.
Why do you think the Tattoodo app is important for artists? Give us your thoughts on Tattoodo Pro and how it’s helped your business?
I’ve been following Tattoodo app from when it came out and you see how it’s grown. When it first started, it was a cool place that I could share my work and get exposure. But now that people can actually book you directly on there, it’s amazing. It’s been fun to see it grow these last couple of years. Even in the last eight months I think it’s grown a lot. For me to see how many new followers, how many people we get to come into our studio...I always ask, "How'd you find me?" and they used to say Google or whatever, but I can now see how many people started using Tattoodo to find my work and come in.
Funny story, one of my clients found a tattoo design that she wanted and took it to an artist in Brazil, but they ended up not being able to do it. So she came back and I asked her to show me the design, and it ended up being one of my designs that she found on Tattoodo! So, I did the tattoo for her instead.
I also see engagement when I travel from Tattoodo. I was traveling to Amsterdam and had around 14 messages about getting a tattoo. Next time I’ll be prepared and just book it out through the app.
Being able to do the bookings online as well and for them to do the request...it makes it way easier. In a few clicks they are all set up with an appointment. It used to be so many messages but now that’s gone. You have a new message or you have a request. Go online and click; replying is so easy. I had this guy this morning. He's like: Yeah, found you on Tattoodo.