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Stickers When did you start your career as a tattoo artist and why? As for why, it started when I was a young, I didn’t necessarily see myself being a tattoo artist I was total opposite. I was known as a "go getta" always found ways to hustle, School wasn’t necessarily my strong suit so I was always cutting, got kicked out and ended up with probation from freshman year until I was almost done with high school. I felt that my life was heading nowhere fast. The only thing that was consistent in my life was my love for art, thanks for my mother "Ipolita Sanchez" who taught me how to draw & appreciate art. My family,friends,art teachers, would always tell me that I had a gift and needed to go somewhere with it, and I kept that as motivation. "Mad Mike" a good friend of mines that I met in Automotive high school, we met through each other’s art. We would tag up on desk,books,just everywhere etc but real nice detailed work. He was also a troubled kid,but always had money, we had a lot for our time Cars jewelry, everything was up to date. When mike called... you wanted to pick up he always had something going on. One day he called me and asked if I wanted a tattoo, I told him I have my curfew (due to my probation) but he said it’ll be quick. It was his first tattoo & it took five hours for something that should’ve taken one hour to He picked out a Pit-bull face from "Boogs flash" that resemble his pit bull he had most of his life named "Killa" still the biggest pit I ever seen. After doing my tattoo mike never put the tattoo machine down, he knew people, and people new people , long story short his name got around fast cause he was doing sick religious pieces mixed with graffiti so everyone was feeling it. Tattoos you can relate to. About a year or two after in 2008, I started working as a clean up boy at the shop Mike was working at called ‘’Notorious Brooklyn Artist" owned by another close friend of mines "Puppet" in Bushwick , very well known for his street art, DJ, and tattooing celebrity basketball players from the NY Knicks! Very big deal & his shop was always filled. Fast track a little while later I was always around tattooing I knew how to set up & break down stations, all the supplies,sterilizing, & cleaning from doing shop errands. After the summer I had to continue school due my probation so I had to stop working there for a little while but I still had tattooing in my mind & when I returned I wanted to work on being an artist. I definitely got into drawing a lot more and started transitioning my style of drawing to tattoos, because not everything that looks good on paper looks good on skin! Finally my probation was over and I started back at puppets new shop called Gallery 54 on graham ave but as full time & dropped out of high school. I felt that I found my career and put my all in this cause art is all I ever had. During the process I wasn’t the best at handling money and wasn’t really making enough $$$ to live off of & afford my own tattoo supplies being a clean up boy. Before leaving high school I was in a relationship with a girl named Noraida "Nory" , she had a job & lend me the money for a machine and immediately lost it in a bet against some random people on the street. Taught me a big lesson on naïvety lol. But afterwards was able to get the money back and got my first tattoo machine - a Mickey Sharpz liner. From then on, we found out she was pregnant with my son 1st born & we stood at my aunts place Maribel who was one of my biggest supporters. The 3 bedroom space was limited between 8 people, Maribel,salevy,Elvis,his son little Elvis,chino,ray,me & Nory but we made it work Her son, my oldest cousin Elvis was the first person I tattooed & literally let me practice on him until I gotten better. My family was never ashamed of me and they all helped me pursue my dreams. Between her and my cousins recruiting, my clientele picked up quickly. She even helped me keep my child a secret from my parents. Not to say that I was ashamed of my child, but I needed to be able to tell my parents at the right time. So that when they did find out, at least they’d see I changed my life around and had something to fall back on. With my family’s support & pressure of having my son Elijah Rivers jr was my drive and made me who I am today Tell us about your absolute favorite piece of work? Why is it your favorite ? My favorite piece that I did is actually on a good friend of mine, Shalik Hartford. It’s a realistic full back piece with wings in black and grey. It took nearly 18 hours and three sessions. Since it was so challenging, it gave the confidence to continue bigger pieces . I figured that if I was able to do that, then I’d be able to do anything ! Do you have a favorite tattoo artist ? How do they inspire you ? Definitely Boogs, I started tattooing with his flash and lettering books. I consider his work as the foundation for my own. I also really look up to Big Jaz the owner of Electric gorilla tattoo, kind of a Mr.Miyagi of tattooing. Just the way he conducts his business practices is inspiring. He’s always in the trenches with us and never makes anyone feel like You’re just an employee. What was the toughest tattoo you did? How long did it take ? Ain’t nothing like doing your first portrait tattoo. You’re under a lot of pressure to get the memorial done right, all you think about is ‘what if I mess up, will I still have my job? How would the person react if it doesn’t come out right , how bad this is going to impact my rep?!?’ and it took me half a day to do. I felt I had to prove myself and that type of stress, without a doubt, motivated the hell out me. The tattoo came out great "at the time"; portraits wasn’t as intense as they are now. What type of environment do you prefer to work in? [quiet, music, etc] I honestly prefer a work environment that has music, music brings life to my art and allows my imagination to go further. I’m versatile so depending on the tattoo I prefer to hear a certain type of music. Quiet environments are ok to a limit, as long as we can talk during the tattoo I’m cool with it. What part of the body is the hardest to tattoo ? A woman’s breast is the hardest to tattoo. It just moves a lot, it feels like tattooing a tough water balloon or a bean bag. You have to be delicate and precise. Is it difficult to concentrate when you tattoo personal parts of the body ? Not really, no. I’m used to it so I just treat it as any other body part. Though, I have to admit, it was pretty distracting for the first couple of years of tattooing. Have you ever refused work because of customer health issues ? Nah, as long as the health issue doesn’t physically impede the process, I’m fine with whatever. Where do you see yourself in the future in the tattoo industry ? I definitely see myself in my own shop with a few tattoo tutorial books. I’m going to keep learning from the greats while mentoring those who are behind me. I try to live by ‘Never Give Up’ and I know that’ll take me far in this industry. Other than that, my work will continue to speak for itself. Although I see myself as a tattoo icon, I’m in no rush to be the greatest tattooer in the world. I’m humble and feel my work will inspire others. Even if I change one persons life to be greater than me, I feel I did my job.
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