First guest on Episode 7 of 'The Tattoo Shop' is Ruben, a long time friend of Tommy Montoya who touches up an empty section of a tattoo that they did around 2006, filling some gaps, and adding a map of Baldwin Park, where they're both from. Ruben got his first tattoo at 7, an "R" for his name. They talk about going to parties back in the day and everyone getting tattoos done with ghetto-rigged machines. Ruben says, “I went into Juvenile Hall when I was 15 and I seen a kid who was covered from head to toe. And it’s something that I knew that that's what I wanted to do.” He talks about being a collector, and how Tommy introduced him to a lot of really great artists who have added to his ink.
We also meet Rob Jones, 32 years old, who lost both his legs in Sangin, Afghanistan due to an IED. He describes the loss of his limbs as a “really painful numbness" but he's embraced it with inspiring strength. "The reason why I’m getting this tattoo is because I’m a part of an eternal brotherhood among Marines, and we all made a deal a few years ago that we would all get the same quote from General Mattis that he sent out to his Marines before going into the battle of Fallujah, and the last line of it was ‘Beside you, I'd do it all again.’” While the quote is the same for all of them, they decided that the image that goes with it will be personal, and for Rob that includes the carbon fiber that, after Afghanistan, is now a constant part of his life and legs. Ami James talks about his own experience in the army, and how having the other soldiers around him gave strength and support. Rob says that since the tragedy, he’s worked hard to overcome adversity through a lot of different activities, he even won a bronze medal in the Paralympics, “I’ve become stronger, and a better person.”
This episodes Masterpiece comes from Ami James, “Usually if you do Japanese work you know how to lay it out so everything connects...laying it out is the most important thing.” Working with his client, Ami gracefully moves around the past work of another tattoo artist to create something more cohesive and strong. Referring to the samurai who is part of the clients back piece Chris Garver says, “People have been getting this character tattooed on them, probably, for 200 years.” He’s personally studied Japanese art, folklore, and history to have a more in-depth knowledge about Irezumi, and Japanese culture in general. This particular character is from the novel Water Margin, also known as Outlaws of the Marsh, by Shi Nai’an. The story is about 108 outlaws who fought against tyrannical invaders and rebel forces. This book inspired many Japanese people to get tattooed because the characters themselves were tattooed. Ami is able to outline a lot of the large piece, but there are still many hours to go, around 40 to 50, before the Masterpiece is completely finished.
Guest artist Dannii G is from Colombia but works in Dallas TX at Folklore Trading Company. At 23 years of age he's been tattooing for four years, and is already known for his super clean, Traditional work. “Lately I really enjoy doing lady heads..I’ve just been focusing on redrawing and replicating older stuff. Its something that's never going to go out of age...nice lines, a lot of black, solid color...I feel like it heals the best, it looks the best over time, you know?” Instead of doing custom work, Dannii has sketchbooks filled with tons of drawings that people can choose from. He thoroughly believes that because clients choose particular artists due to their portfolio, they should be able to trust that if the artist enjoys the design, concept, and actually doing the tattoo, that they should be able to choose the artists original artwork, so Dannii is fortunate enough to tattoo work he really wants to spend time on.
This episode Garver also decided to self tattoo his daughters name on himself, “Nyarah”, in her very own handwriting. Mixing in her DNA with the ink, she will literally and emotionally, and now in tattoo form, be with him for the rest of his life. Ami helps Garver keep his skin taut while they talk about how difficult it is to travel, and be away from their kids. As Garver smiles and looks at his brand new tattoo, he says “You gotta let your kids know how much you love them every once in awhile, ya know?”