arizona, art, artist, black sails tattoo, body, canvas, change, customer, david lopez, design, different, dreams, history, imprinted, ink, inspiration, interview, japan, japanese, lopez family tattooing, nashville, new york, okinawa, one shot tattoo, origin, quality, ron and dave's, ron lopez, skin, staten island, symbolism, Tattoo, traditional, work
Imprinted by the Gun….
Tattoo Gun That Is
By: Allison Ryder
Ron & Dave’s is an extremely well known and respected tattoo shop in Staten Island. It’s a place customers go with trusting attitudes and the ability to release the reins of control and allow the tattoo artists to create art that incorporates their vision as an artist, with the reflection of the idea in the customer’s mind. Ron Lopez is a dedicated and extremely talented artist whose reputation precedes himself, and his sons David and Christian Lopez, not only followed in his footsteps but are also impeccable tattoo artists. Ron opened up his own shop in Elizabeth NJ after working underground early in his tattoo career. In 1998, Ron and Dave opened up a tattoo shop, side by side and seventeen years later, that shop has not only become a landmark in the midst of Castleton Corners but it has become a location, people travel from all over the world to, to get a tattoo done by one of these artists. Ron passed down all of his knowledge and abilities to both of his sons and Chris began tattooing at 16 years old. Prior to this shop opening, the first tattoo Dave ever did was “the outline of the hot stuff red devil on my dad’s leg at twelve years old,” he nodded in remembrance of where it all began.
I wondered if he had always known this is what he wanted to do. Some people know their whole lives and some people know in a moment. When asked, Dave’s response was;
“As a child, I was always fascinated by tattoos and watching my dad do his work. He’s been incredibly influential in my career but in high school, I had no idea if I wanted to be a tattoo artist or not. I approached my dad about learning how to tattoo because it was something I wanted to know how to do. I didn’t learn, thinking it would be my full time job but once I started, I fell in love with it.”
The love he speaks of is reflected in every creative, finely detailed, and beautifully colored piece of art he sends out into this world on someone’s body. At 16 years old, Dave began tattooing and his first in shop tattoo was a blue rose on a woman’s back. Since that moment, it’s become such a significant part of his life and it has brought him countless opportunities, friendships, and experiences: “I love that someone comes in with blank skin and leaves with a picture that’s going to be on them for the rest of their lives.” Spoken like a true artist, appreciative and dedicated to the work he’s putting out there.
Dave followed his father’s footsteps in a courageous way, however, Ron is not the only artist he admires and finds influential. Kevin Craig, Guy Verderosa, Satoru Koizumi, and Shuryu are others, just to name a few.
While Dave does not categorize the style of tattoos he is capable of creating and while he enjoys everything he does with no piece favored over the other, he likes Japanese and traditional American tattoos best. I admire the mixture of these two styles which cover his arms as he states, “I like Japanese style because of the stories that are involved with the designs and I like traditional American style based tattoos because it’s the stuff I grew up seeing and doing on those who came before me. I would like to do more Tibetan style tattoos in the future.” Dave also enjoys tattooing older people generally because they’re usually more tolerant, however, “I can usually tell who is going to give me a hard time as far as pain goes but then some people really surprise me.”
I look around at the diverse artwork hanging upon the walls of the shop by various artists. I admire the large red letters towards the back of the shop with little bulbs illuminating RON & DAVE’S, to be seen immediately upon entrance. There are countless books and sketches for customers to go through and pinpoint precisely what kind of tattoo they’re interested in getting. Driving up Victory Boulevard, you can see the lights shine from the frame of the glass window out front, as the shop makes its mark on the busy street. It’s not just the tattoos that Dave puts his time and efforts into, it’s the entire shop. Upon first glance, this immaculate, artistic, and comfortable atmosphere draws customers in, as does his personable and honest approach to the customers. A conversation can be started with anyone if someone cares enough to try, and he always cares enough to ask.
So now I ask, what is it like owning and running your own business?
“Owning my own shop can be extremely stressful sometimes but it also allows me the freedom to do other things like travel. When I work as a guest artist in someone else’s shop, they are my boss and I enjoy that as well because when I’m working for someone else I’m less stressed. This is because I’m only worried about what I’m doing and not worried about how everyone else is operating. But I wouldn’t change a thing.”
And thank god for that.
The history of tattoos is a lengthy one, dating back to Neolithic times. The practice has been transferred through various cultures and countries, as a portrayal of religion and status, to pledges of love and bravery, to identification, and independent and artistic expression. In periods of Chinese history, tattoos were used upon slaves to reflect ownership, in India, tattoos can be symbolic to specifics within culture, in Japan, criminals were tattooed as a sign of punishment, and in the United State, tattoos were once used to identify someone as a seamen. For someone who’s been tattooing for a little over 20 years, there has to be distinctive changes in this practice and I questioned how it’s changed throughout the years.
“Tattooing became mainstream. Tattoos used to be symbolic images conveying feelings and thoughts, and now tattooing is very literal. Everyone thinks their tattoo is different and has a specific meaning to them, when at this point in tattooing, I find the opposite to be true. Tattoos mean less now than they ever did.”
A lot of younger generations get tattooed because it is the latest trend and not because of their value or appreciation for the origin of tattoos, whereas citizens of history got tattoos that stood as an individualistic mark. However, there are still some people who get tattoos of meaning, myself included, and then there are the people who get pieces of artistic expression in uncommon styles of tattooing to truly portray the beauty of art. How I came to begin getting tattooed at Ron & Dave’s was because of my sister who has been loyal to this shop, as well as Ron’s other shop in New Jersey for many years. My first tattoo was done in another shop and initially it was beautiful but upon healing, I could see the error and returned in hopes the artist would fix it, however he was no longer working there. I was extremely picky in entering another shop after my first experience but I knew of Ron & Dave’s from many people. Their reputation certainly proceeded itself and I knew my sister’s work was done well. Her loyalty instantly transferred down to me as I reached out to Dave and had my first interaction with him. While my first encounter was for a miniscule quote, I’ve come a long way since that tattoo, with intricately impeccable pieces that cover entire portions of my body. Almost all of my tattoos hold a significant meaning to me and while I provided him with an idea or an image, he took it and painted it more beautiful than I could have ever imagined, marking it different with his signature. But one tattoo, I completely released the reins on as I entered the realm of Japanese style tattoos with a David Lopez twist. As someone who has been tattooing through such different time periods, it is more visible when something becomes more about popularity than symbolism. It not only shows the change in the business but the change in society.
Not only does Dave co-own and run Ron & Dave’s but upon relocating to Arizona, he opened up Black Sails Tattoo Shop with Fritz Andrews, where he remained for five years: “I looked around and I couldn’t find a suitable shop. I was self-employed here so why not open up my own shop in Arizona and do things my way.” Most people would fear starting up their own business, let alone doing it away from all the people they know but confidence surrounds every word he speaks because no matter where he is, the quality of his work is unquestionable.
So now I wonder, what is the biggest difference having owned a shop on two sides of the United States?
“People in New York give me more freedom to do what I think is best. They’re more comfortable with me because my reputation is more well-known here, whereas in Arizona, they’re taking my word for it.”
Aside from New York and Arizona, we can add Nashville and Japan to the list. Let’s begin with Mike Kepper, a professional skateboarder from New Jersey who Dave looked up to, as he was a skateboarder himself. He eventually got to meet Mike because his father tattooed him and since their first encounter, Mike became one of Dave’s longtime friends. Mike ended up moving to Nashville and opening up Music City Tattoo with his girlfriend Laura in 2004. Within a year of their grand opening, Dave became a guest artist in their shop, describing the experience as “Amazing. I’m working in a shop with great friends of mine and Nashville is drenched with creativity and such artistic people. There’s an enormous amount of individualistic expression there and it’s truly awesome to work beside someone I grew up, looking up to.”
Dave doesn’t stop at the border of fifty states, he crosses the world to be a guest artist at One Shot Tattoo in Okinawa, Japan. Satoru Koizumi has been tattooing since 1994, opening up One Shot Tattoo in 2004. He is an artist with a pristine eye for detail, and a shop that tourists and inhabitants alike are sure to visit to get some of the most culture infused pieces they could get done in Japan. How does a situation like this even begin you might ask and I would say, through proactive initiative to not only market himself as an artist but to learn more, to improve, to expand his knowledge and apply it to his own business.
“I contacted Satoru through MySpace to ask if he took guest artists and he said yes so in December of 2012, I traveled out there for the first time.”
Irezumi is the Japanese word for tattoo or to be literal, the insertion of ink under the skin. In Japanese culture, the art of tattooing is said to date back to approximately 10,000 BC. At the beginning of the Meji period in roughly 1868, tattoos were outlawed by the government and it wasn’t until 1948, that they were legalized.
So the question is: What is it like tattooing in a culture that inspired so many great artists and pieces of work varying from religious reasons and social rank, to cultural and artistic expression?
“The work ethic of the Japanese is better than anyone I’ve come into contact with. Being able to work alongside of them is truly a privilege and it improves the way I go about my daily business in every aspect. I actually tattoo mostly Americans in Japan but it’s just an amazing experience to work side by side with people who are so dedicated to what they’re doing. It’s not just a job to them, it’s their life and they take every aspect seriously down to the smallest detail.”
Shuryu is a Tebori practitioner who Dave met through Satoru at One Shot Tattoo. Shuryu comes from a large tattoo “family” in Japan and upon their meeting they had become friends and his first time in New York was in 2014 with Dave. It’s upon rare occasions, you can find this amazing artist at Ron & Dave’s shop where he tattoos in an authentic Japanese way. The style used at Ron & Dave’s is strictly tattoos created with western style tattoo machines whereas Shuryu’s style is a mix between western and traditional Japanese style with hand tool methods. Tebori is the traditional form of tattooing in Japan. The tattoo is applied using a bamboo or metal stick with needles attached at the end that is thrust into the skin at a specific rhythm, depositing pigment into the skin layers.
Not only is David Lopez a remarkable tattoo artist traveling around this world creating art, learning and absorbing practices and cultures to mold into the business he’s created for himself, but now, as of 2015, a new road is on the horizon. Not only does he offer tattoos and piercings at his shop but he also offers non-laser tattoo removal. It is considered to be the tattoo over method where a solution is applied in the exact same way as a tattoo. It is applied with use of a tattoo machine and tattoo needles, to inject the solution under the skin. This in turn reacts to the tattoo pigment already embodied in the skin and removes it via the scabbing process, as it’s healing. Depending on the person, it takes between 2-3 months to heal. Dave reassuringly confirms, “This process is better than laser removal because it is not color specific like laser is and it is much less painful. It also tends to remove more pigment per session than the laser does.”
Dave speaks of his experience and opportunities in Japan with the utmost admiration and respect of their work ethic, never once comparing himself. The reality of it is that Dave was raised by one of the best artists in Staten Island and New Jersey, and he worked his way up to gain his own well-known reputation, and he continues to build this tattooing empire. His work ethic is identical to that of the Japanese. He is hard working and dedicated, and has such a love and passion for what he is doing. It isn’t just a job he clocks in and out of; he puts in the hours on days off to draw pieces, he looks for ways to change with the times but also keep the authenticity and history of tattoos alive. Dave runs an immaculate shop with a talented artist at his side (Guy Verderosa), filled with pictures of some of the greatest work this world has ever known and filled with culture. He is courageous enough to begin a business in a place where he has to make a name for himself, literally from the desert up. Since Dave imprinted my body with ink, there is no place else I would go or refer to because this is a man who has devoted his life, his time, and his heart to creating pieces of art that will not fade in color but last for years, just as vibrant as the day it was done. A man who puts the time into every detail and works seven days a week, 365 days a year to accommodate people, to better his business, and to inject images onto bodies that truly matter and are admired by those wear his work so proudly.
So lastly, I ask: Any advice for future customers?
“Yes. Future customers should be concerned with quality over price. People need to stop shopping by price and start focusing on the quality of the tattoos they’re getting. I have an absurd amount of cover-ups, and the reason is because most people don’t research tattoo artists before they get garbage tattooed on them.”
Some businesses charge minimal money to try and gain customers which is appealing to people but the thing is, this isn’t like buying a cheap but attractive sweater that may rip the first time you wash it– this is a piece of art on your body, portrayed to the world, permanently. The customers think they’re scoring a deal because they’re saving money and getting work that seems to be mediocre in their eyes and they end up with work that’s just not done well. A lot of the shops that customers think are a little pricier are the shops with the artists who are doing the better quality work. The bottom line is, a person is going to spend the extra money for something that is better for them and when it comes to tattoos, it shouldn’t be any different. Instead of focusing on the price or thinking what you think they might charge, try focusing on the work and try asking them.
David Lopez is an extremely talented and inspirational tattoo artist who is ambitious, dedicated, worldly, and hard working. He puts in the sleepless nights to make sure every detail is perfection and he has an amazing mind to come up with vibrant color combinations perfectly befitting the piece. The amount of years he has been tattooing, plus the many requests he receives to tattoo outside of New York, as well as the incredible work he produces is part of what makes his reputation so great and well-known. He is his father’s son; both highly dedicated to their craft and putting every ounce of themselves in the business and life they are creating.
The three photos below are done by Guy Verderosa, who also tattoos at Ron and Dave’s in Staten Island.
Ron & Dave’s
603 Manor Road
Staten Island NY 10314
607 Westfield Avenue
Elizabeth NJ 07208
Find these shops on Instagram & Facebook to see some of the amazing work done by these one of a kind artists.
the hardest thing about changing something about yourself is the habit you’re breaking. everyone has flaws but some flaws need the changing if they’re stopping you, if they’re holding you back from the best you can be. it could be a long road and not the easiest. what makes it tolerable is the value of what or who is motivating you.
30/30, absence, answers, April, beliefs, challenges, choices, comparisons, consequences, creativity, death, guilt, haunted, heartbreak, individual, innocence, inspiration, language, letter, life, linked, love, money, motivation, muse, national poetry month, opinions, people, perspective, poetry, poetry prompts, poor, questions, quotes, rich, saint, sections, side effects, sinner, stanza, subjects, waiting
write a poem about
the disease of optimism
the more we see, the less we know vs. the more we see, the more we know
title: “Another Language” or “Translation”
in two sections about two completely different things with a title linking them in a surprising way
prove your innocence
anything you say can and will be used against you
entertain a myth or superstition
saint vs. sinner
about the richest person you know and the poorest person you know
concerning the absence of something
series of questions and answers to compose the poem
if you could see me now
who do you think you are?
about another state
the importance/significance of a dollar
how when you’re dead is when people start listening
reflecting a natural event
write it like a letter to someone, uncovering some truth
describe love without ever using the word love
describe heart break without ever using either word
that involves consequences
involves a rivalry
analyze, April, artist, challenge, characters, class, creative, critique, desire, effort, fear, fiction, growth, inspiration, muse, national poetry month, passion, patricia smith, personal, perspective, poetry, writing
April is National Poetry Month. Ever since I had the amazing privilege of taking Professor Smith’s poetry course and she had us challenge ourselves, explore the world and our minds, and make an effort to be apart of something that would inspire our work, as well as cause us to grow as artists – I have taken part in this. She had our class post a poem a day for the month of April. It’s difficult to find the time, right? What do you write about? That’s the beauty of it. There’s no boundaries. Travel into the depths of your imagination. Uncover your darkest fears, your deepest desires. Take a part the outside world, literally. Make time for it. If you are a writer, a poet – if this is something you pursue as I pursue it, then I encourage you to try and post a poem a day on your blog for the month of April. We also would critique each other’s poems and analyze them and help make them better – offer suggestions, never putting down the writer or demanding a change. Writing is unique to its author – everyone has a different style, something about their writing that makes it theirs but an outside perspective is always nice – especially when the truth is covered by symbolism and metaphors and readers are attempting to figure out its content. You’re more than welcome to critique my stuff and let me know if you’re doing it and I will pay the same respect 🙂 just try… at the end of April, you will have works that you might consider publishing or you will just find a growth in your writing and in yourself.
my poetry is all fiction. even if some of the pieces have experience as the muse, it’s exaggerated in such a way that my writing strays from reality and is injected into a relatable fantasy.
as of 8/24/13 my blog was nominated for the liebster award by itsonlyacuddle.wordpress.com
“Submitted on 2013/08/24 at 5:46 am
I just nominated your blog for The Liebster Award! You can check out the details and how to take part here http://itsonlyacuddle.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/the-liebster-award/ 🙂 ”
thank you for this 🙂
i am extremely excited to be nominated for this award and thrilled to be apart of something so amazing. this is an award that only exists on the internet and it is given to a blogger by other bloggers. needless to say, i’m fairly new in the world of blogging but i am not new to being a writer. for as long as i can remember, this is what i knew i was meant to do – it is my passion, my dream, and my calling and i choose to pursue it despite the difficulties and obstacles i face along the way.
the individual who nominated me took the time to create some questions for me to answer and so, i would like to take the time to answer each of them…
1. What do you LOVE?
i love writing. i love photography. i love dancing. i love baking. then there are the people i love, who i love spending time with. the qualities about them that i fell in love with. and then there are things i love like bartending, movies, babies, husky’s and pitbulls, racing, motorcycles, atv’s, and quotes. then there are the little thing’s i love like holidays, hand written letters and birthday cards, romantic text messages or phonecalls, romantic dates, flowers, spending time with the people i care for, being told i’m thought of. then there’s waterfalls, sunrises and sunsets, stars, mountains, and nature. there is an endless amount of answers for this question – none more important than the next for they are all deeply a part of me and a part of the person i am. it is impossible for me to state one thing i love when it is all that i love, that defines me.
2. How would you define success?
to me, success is achieving my goals, making my dreams my reality, accomplishing the things i pursue. success is not defined by someone else- it is defined by the standards you create for yourself. it is not based on wealth or fame, it is about putting yourself out there and going after the things you want in life, and remaining dedicated and determined until they happen. an award like this is a success. graduating with high honors in English was a success. publishing my first book was a success. success is about succeeding with the things that matter most to you. it’s that feeling of happiness and completion at the end of the day because you did something with purpose- whether it be for yourself or for the world. you did it. that’s what success means to me.
3. Who is your biggest inspiration?
this has to be the most difficult question for me because i find inspiration in many different places and in the support and encouragement of those i hold closest to my heart such as my parents. i find inspiration within my nieces and nephew- simply in their birth for i want to be someone inspiring to them. i find inspiration within fictional characters and i find it in true leaders such as martin luther king jr. i find inspiration in music such as 30 seconds to mars, carrie underwood, eminem, the backstreet boys, justin timberlake. and this is just inspiration towards my writing. this is the best answer i can give to this question because i need to truly contemplate its contents, and still i may not come up with an answer better than this one.
4. What do you want to achieve?
i want to pursue business when it comes to my writing and my books and become an editor at a book publishing company. i want to be a published writer who is acknowledged and known for my writing in a positive light – as someone who inspires and helps people in a greater way. i want to change peoples’ lives for the better. i have a bucket list of over 200 things of what i want to achieve in my life and i want to achieve every one of these things before my life is over, for everything on there will give me an experience and a piece of life i didn’t have prior to accomplishing that number. i want to pursue my photography and baking and bring it to another level.
5. How do you travel?
by any means necessary. i will drive. i will walk. i will ride a quad. i will race against time. i will fly. but mainly car, quad, anything that speeds would be the way i travel on a daily basis because only, i can put myself in neutral.
in a greater spectrum of this question, since it can mean anything – i travel with an open mind and wide eyes, noticing everything i pass, embracing every ounce of beauty in such a simple atmosphere, seeing something more in everything that the majority calls ordinary. i travel windows down, music blasting and a camera in hand to document every moment because there is something powerful in the smallest moments.
6. What is your favourite food?
my favorite foods are chicken, pasta, and bread. gotta love those carbs 😉
7. Do you like singing?
i don’t have a like or dislike for it. i sing in the car, when i’m cleaning, and whenever i’m alone but i don’t think i can sing like christina aguilera or the backstreet boys but i like listening to those who can. i like the lyrics – they’re powerful, they’re poetry and that is my forte after all. singing is a part of music and music introduced me to dance. in my childhood, i would watch my favorite artists sing and dance in music videos and that is where my love for dance was born.
8. Are you a good dancer?
i am actually, very much so- and people never know it until they go out with me and see for themselves. dance is something i love very much. it’s a form of art and expression.
9. What is your favourite sport?
my favorite sports by far are dance, gymnastics, and football.
10. Would you give me a cuddle if you met me?
sure.. it’s what makes the world go round right? 😉
thank the person who nominated you & link/tag them to that blog where you will answer the 11 questions they have posted for you. once you’re done, nominate 9 people and post 11 new questions for your nominees to answer 🙂
by: allison ryder
i will make sure i never die;
not in the physicality, not in the decay
of my flesh and bones-
but in my memory, my heart, my legacy.
i will leave behind something extraordinary,
so i will never die. i will alter
all those i encounter with such a transformation,
their life is better and touched by my soul.
truth will come like daggers from my lips;
i will never lie, never leave with silence.
i will move the boulders trying to crush me,
from within my mind. i will move mountains and never stop,
until i change the world.
i will instill inspiration in dark corners,
encourage risk, trust, love.
oh love, how it causes amnesia of all worries, of all struggles,
and blissfully connects our lives with another-
whom we will share storms and sunsets with.
oh how it rips us open and leaves us for dead,
with no desire to feel such a way again.
but we will. we must.
i will be remembered for how i love.
i will never stop.
i will never truly be gone
because my legacy’s going to keep me alive some day.