"I hope that we can provide a stepping stone for artists.”
-Mike Locasio, Owner of Ink Inc. New York
Since 1983, Ink Inc. owner Mike Locasio has watched tattooing go from being a curiosity to an industry. They’re sought after by people of all ages and professions, on every body part imaginable, and it’s only growing: one out of three people aged 18-25 has at least one tattoo.
What was once niche and underground is now mainstream; few people would be shocked if a lawyer or doctor revealed a tattoo on their arm. It’s gotten to the point where tattooing is being looked at as one of the top growth industries in the world, alongside health technology, game development and senior care.
What’s happening now is that there’s more demand for tattoos than there are artists. There’s also a lot of opportunity for artists to make a living doing what they love. To help new artists get started, Mike is now offering a tattoo illustration course at SUNY Ulster this fall, and intensive four to six week apprenticeships at his shop in Kingston, NY.
Lots of people can draw, but you should take a class, and be apprenticing with a respected master tattooer in a professional shop when you think of picking up a tattoo machine."
The biggest concern for the industry, both here in the Hudson Valley and across the world? Scratchers, aka people who tattoo in apartments and basements without appropriate licensing, safety precautions or training.
“People need to take the appropriate, serious pathways to working in a licensed shop,” said Locasio. “Lots of people can draw, but you should take a class, and be apprenticing with a respected master tattooer in a professional shop when you think of picking up a tattoo machine."
He’s had over 30 apprentices come and go since opening his shop in 1997.
“They’ve all had different personalities, and it’s on them to dictate the course of their journey,” Mike says. “It's been wonderful to watch them transition and evolve as young artists. Unless you’re slaughtered busy, you get to come to work and do what you love.”
As an 18 year old on Long Island in the early 80s, Mike was constantly drawing, and stumbled onto tattooing by chance.
“Fine line, with prismacolor pencils, watercolor, graphite,” he says. “I was doing lots of florals, and lots of fantasy-type stuff. I forgot some of my drawings in the backseat of a friend’s car, and a few days later, another one of his friends who was a tattoo artist gave me a call.”
Mike accepted an offer to apprentice in a shop in Oceanside and was “taken under the wing.”
“I was just like a sponge learning from everybody as an apprentice,” he says. “I fed off of their creativity, and after a year, I pulled off a really clean, beautiful floral piece. I said, “I have arrived.”
Mike then tattooed in Colorado, and in apartments in New York City, where it was actually illegal to tattoo until it was legalized by Rudy Giuliani in the late 90s.
In 1997, Mike opened up Ink Inc. Tattooing on Wall Street in Uptown Kingston.
“People thought I was crazy to open up a business in that climate, and it was a slow progression to get off the ground then,” says Mike. “I lived in the studio for two years. I would shower at the gym across the street at a place called Fitness Unlimited.”
However, both Kingston’s and the tattoo industry’s fortunes have changed for the better.
“I think it's going to continue to grow,” he says. “Seeing multiple generations of people coming here is such a blessing. I hope that we can provide a stepping stone for artists to experience the same thing.”
Winter 2022 Tattoo Illustration Course at Cornell Creative Arts Center
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Ink Inc.'s four to six week apprenticeships help artists explore new career possibilities in the tattoo industry. We can help you hit the ground running in a lucrative, booming field. Enter your information to find out more.