Appearing on the biggest tattoo reality show of all time introduced America to the skills and electric personality of Amy Nicoletto. The Jersey-born slinger remains one of the leading ambassadors for tattooing, as well as one of the most respected and in-demand slingers in the game. With the calendar nearing 2013, Amy continues to maintain a strong presence on the convention circuit, and is currently in the development stage of a new studio and gallery space near her West Coast digs.
REBEL INK: We've run into you at a lot of conventions in recent years. How does being on the road so much and working the shows play a role in your development as an artist at this point?
Amy Nicoletto: You know what it is, I can reach out and talk to people that wouldn't normally see me, like if they can't get out to New Jersey or Los Angeles. I guess that helps get my name out there. But what really helps me out as an artist is getting to see the amazing tattoo artists at these conventions. You know, just being surrounded by art constantly. I think that helps me a lot.
Are there other things you do to continue your development as an artist?
Actually, I'm about to take a few art classes out here in Pasadena. I'm taking some oil painting classes. I mean I've always been an artist; I've used water colors but I've never really used oil paints, so I really want to do that and I'll draw and stuff like that. I'll also check out YouTube and see certain styles and what certain people are doing. You know, I'm constantly buying books of some of my favorite artists...so I think that's how I kind of keep up with that.
Does knowing the back-story of a piece or the significance of the tattoo to the client change how you approach doing the work?
Some people are very secretive about why they're getting tattooed. Some people have suffered something tragic and don't want to talk about it. I don't think it affects how much I'm going to put into it. But, at the same time, yeah, I definitely feel more connected to that person and I appreciate when they do tell me their stories. I guess I just appreciate when someone trusts me enough to share the story behind the actual tattoo. I do love hearing their stories. Sometimes they're tragic, so you don't really love to hear them. But it does make you feel closer to your client. I don't think it affects how well I do my art, but it definitely makes me feel a stronger bond with my client.
It is important that you play a part in the creation and development in the design of every piece you do? Are you okay with some just bringing you a finished design to work with?
I have had that happen, many times. A lot of times, I will tell them I'd like to make some changes, though. Sometimes you get something that's not - it just might not be my style. Say someone brings in a piece of artwork that someone else drew - I shouldn't even say this - I've had people bring in artwork that was so bad, it's like you don't want to tell them, but you just say, "Hey look, do you mind if I redraw this a little bit?" Honestly, if I'm tattooing it, I'm putting a piece of myself in it anyway. But yeah, of course I'd much rather draw something. I think that's how we all are.
On the technical side, what are your tools of choice?
I use Ernie D's machines, from Deluxe Irons. Sometimes I'll use a rotary machine, but I always find myself going back to a coil machine because that's what I learned. If it isn't broke, don't fix it. I do have rotaries and stuff. I've been using the Cheyenne Hawk. I really love my Neotat. I have to say though, that the Ernie D machines are my favorite. As for inks, I am sponsored by Eternal, so I only use Eternal Inks. I also use all of the Ink-eeze products.
Are the styles and influences that first drew you to tattooing the same styles that excite you today?
They are the same. Of course, different styles come and go, but I started really liking tattooing when Guy Aitchison was huge and doing all that organic biomechanical kind of stuff. And now that's all back in style and people are getting it again. People still get old styles like tribal. I hate that. I won't do tribal unless there's some kind of artistic flare to it.
What I have seen lately are all of these artists that have come out of the woodwork are just amazing, and they've only been tattooing for a few years. It just makes you want to chop your hands off [laughs]. I'm like, "Oh, my God." I need to learn more and more. You never stop learning in tattooing, I guess - you just keep going. I've said this before - if you think you've learned everything, you might as well just hang it up 'cause you can learn something every day.
There are people who believe that tattoo reality shows have played a big part in advancing the cause of tattooing. Others feel the shows have harmed the profession. Having been a part of that world, what do you believe the long-term effect of tattoo reality shows has been?
I believe it's become a household thing now, and opened the world up to people who wouldn't normally be into tattooing. I have people in their 50s, 60s, 70s coming in saying, "Oh, my God, I was always kind of scared to get a tattoo; it was so taboo or it was so frowned upon. Now watching the show, I feel so comfortable. Now it seems like it's okay to do, because it's on TV." It also does hurt the industry, and I understand that. Because now a lot more people think that they can tattoo and they shouldn't be doing it.
What is the process of getting some work from you?
Contact my manager, he also owns Ink-eeze. So just go to his email, it's firstname.lastname@example.org. People can also go on my Facebook fan page (www.facebook.com/pages/Amy-Nicoletto/140863805952360); it has his email as well. I don't really take many appointments in advance because I travel so much. When I'm traveling between different countries, I always try to book appointments in advance and I try not to schedule anything in that time, because those people are coming from very far away. When I'm at home, I just let people know I'm at home and they all just start pouring in.
Where else can we find you online?
We are working on amynicolettotattoo.com. I am also on Facebook and Instagram (@amynicoletto), but I have to admit that I am terrible at the whole social network thing [laughs].
Photography by Jennifer Erickson
Article by Razor Leary
Assistant: Jesus Carreno
MUA: Christina Ramirez
Hairstylist: Andrew Marlin
Stylist: Rafael Linares.
6000 Avalon Blvd, Suite 1
Los Angeles, CA 90003
Chain dress - LaureLuxe
Leather skirts - Jungletribe Couture
Zipper front corset - Perfectly Polished
Black bra top - Lip Service
Red corset - Lip Service
Shoes - Alejandra G., Blonde Ambition
Red bra top - Katie Kutthroat
Corset - House of Devali
Skirt - Rachel Pally
Leather dress - Irfe
Jewelry - Glynneth B.
Hat - Lip Service