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Artist Doles Out Free Tattoos at House Parties - Bushwick - DNAinfo.com New York

RIDGEWOOD — After dropping hundreds of dollars for two tattoos right after he turned 18, Alex Solano swore off getting inked again, thinking it was too expensive to continue.

But when he went to a friend's party last month and realized he could get tatted for free, Solano's tattoo sabbatical ended and he got four more in a matter of weeks.

"I wasn't thinking of getting another tattoo...but the fact you can walk in and get one right now without worrying about the money is one less barrier to doing it," said Solano, 25, an art handler and musician who got what he estimated to be $400 worth of body art for free from friend Josh Kil.

Kil — who has lost track of the exact number of tattoos he has but estimates the number at about 30 — started holding free tattoo parties at his apartment in Ridgewood, just over the border from Bushwick, this fall. He wanted to make the art more accessible and to practice his skills, after the price of tattoos has risen in recent years, he said.

"Most of my friends are also poor artists...they can't afford all the tattoos they want," Kil said about the cost of a tattoo, which he said now starts at about $100, compared with about $40 a decade ago.

Every few weeks, Kil sets up his needles in his living room, invites friends over and doles out free tattoos. He and friends have also supplied free haircuts, massages and nail painting.

"I philosophically like the idea of being able to give a tattoo for free...It's a refreshing moment in a capitalist world," said Kil, who averages nine tattoos at each party and often works on someone's skin until the wee hours of the morning.

"I start at 7 and often go until 3 a.m. It can be a marathon...I already have to turn a couple of people away at the end of each party since we run out of time."

Kil — who works as an art handler by day and learned to give tattoos in an apprenticeship at East River Tattoo in Greenpoint — encourages tattoo seekers to show up with their own designs but has several pages of his own drawings available for inspiration.

Solano spontaneously designed his first tattoo from Kil — a pigeon eating an alligator, in honor of his home state of Florida — when he arrived at the first party. Kil also gave Solano tattoos of a cyclops with hands and an angel in a cloud. Other people got a ram and the word "DiCaprio," in honor of Leonardo DiCaprio.

Kil said he doesn't mind not getting paid for his work.

"I'm fighting against the constant pressure to charge for everything that I do — that everything that feels pure to me has to be ruined by turning it into a business."

Kil has not yet set a date for his next free tattoo party. Interested guests can email him at josh3rdeye@gmail.com for details.

Interesting...

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Obvious comments about people getting the infections...errrrr...tattoos they deserve aside, this guy is an idiot. Given that it's a pretty nasty feature of contemporary capitalism that it's even harder to make a living as an artist, illustrator, photographer, musician, writer, etc. because increasingly fewer people want to pay for that kind of work--not to mention the number of other careers that now practically require countless hours of unpaid labour in the form of internships--there's nothing at all "refreshing" about working for free. Maybe if these people actually valued artists and paid money for art that instead of complaining about how they, the oh-so-romantic-Jawbreaker-is-my-favorite-band perpetually starving artists, don't have money for things like tattoos (but please don't ask them how much money they spend on drugs), they would have money for things like tattoos. Maybe they'd have to live on tighter budgets, pick up extra shifts at work, wear clothes and shoes a little longer, and so on, to save the money to get tattooed and that it would be worth it because if you love tattoos you'll find a way to make it work even if it doesn't mean instant gratification. Not to mention that if you have a respect for tattooing as a craft, or shit, for crafts and craftspeople in general, that you should understand that this stuff always comes at a price and that the craft isn't less "pure" because of it. I can't wait for the hipsters to be eradicated by a plague of hepatitis.

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I am very much tempted to send him an email to fish for info on one of these parties and just send it to the health department...

But alas, this pisses me off quite a lot because there are artists whose work I really admire who have worked at East River Tattoo, and that is just such a fucking bummer. I guess at the same time, you can't attribute one person's dumbassery to their coworkers.

Mostly, this just makes me really sad.

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I suppose there's solace in that he's most likely not taking a whole heap of business from a legitimate shop, as it sounds like these folk only want things for free. Here's hoping they share something more than the experience...

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I am slightly infuriated about the "I want it for free" or "it should be for free" mentality - nothing is for free. I suppose if you are okay with getting "meh" or crappy tattoos then by all means, get the tattoo you deserve at one of his parties. There's no way I'd ever expect or want anyone to work for free - creative/artist, craftsman, or otherwise. If you want a tattoo oh so badly, what is the problem with saving up for it, taking on extra jobs, selling stuff you no longer use/want/need in order to afford getting the tattoo? You'll have it for the rest of your life - there's no harm in waiting. As far as he's concerned... seems rather self-deprecating/disrespectful to be offering your art for free like that - without a charity, fundraiser, or some type of barter system to hasten the exchange of energy.

This is the second thing today that's been a "it's all about me", "I want it for free" that I've had to deal with today. Must be the weather...

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I am very much tempted to send him an email to fish for info on one of these parties and just send it to the health department...

But alas, this pisses me off quite a lot because there are artists whose work I really admire who have worked at East River Tattoo, and that is just such a fucking bummer. I guess at the same time, you can't attribute one person's dumbassery to their coworkers.

Mostly, this just makes me really sad.

Chances are this guy is lying about his apprenticeship. People do that all the time to try to gain credibility. And it's a real shame that most people reading the article won't be able to read the subtext of what this guy really is saying which is that he sucks too horribly and is too lazy to get a spot at a real shop, and because of that he could never actually charge anyone for his work. He's probably just using this to be "cool" with his jerkoff hipster friends. Yet another crappy side effect of tattoo TV shows.

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he should atleast charge some beer for the ink he so smoothly lays down on his bros....i mean, he being drunk doesn't really make anything worse...

I'm having a free tattoo party this weekend as well: hep c needles(sewingneedles of course) and some kind of "ink". no need to wash. gloves? a myth....don't need those....pretty cheap too...just give some disease i can give on to the next fellow and we're good! everyone welcome!!(except juggalos)

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Bleeeuuggghhh can we just remove this article from this forum so as to not spread this spewing uninformed BS. I hate people with that mentality, especially since my fiance is a musician and supports himself the same way as a tattooer. He recently had a regular gig and the guy shorted him because of something he didn't like (but he didn't tell my fiance anything, just gave him less $) and he had to give up the gig, because he can't afford to not be paid or worry about not being paid. That's true among all service jobs.

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that guy is a really good tattooer. And i'd bet a million bucks he's taking precautions when doing these kinds of homie setups. The prices charged at the shop he apprenticed at are bk hipster high if you are trying to make nyc rent as an artist. He shouldn't be advertising this though. Bummed that he's doing that. That's just really stupid, but so new york...

If you look at the pictures on that article and are still so confident that he's taking adequate precautions that you're willing to bet a million bucks on it then I accept your bet and I hope you have the money to pay up. Please point out to me where his clip cord cover is.

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I don't think I'd get tattooed by this guy, but on the other hand different people are into different styles. I wouldn't want a 'bad' tattoo, but I've seen some very rudimentary looking tattoos on friends of mine or other musicians that look cool with their style and seem compliment their other pro looking work well.

I understand the position that some feel that stuff like this demeans the art form, but the truth is, every art form has high and low-brow expressions. I don't mean to over-simplify or offend anyone, and it goes without saying that unsafe unsanitary work is not cool, but to each their own, right?

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that guy is a really good tattooer. And i'd bet a million bucks he's taking precautions when doing these kinds of homie setups. The prices charged at the shop he apprenticed at are bk hipster high if you are trying to make nyc rent as an artist. He shouldn't be advertising this though. Bummed that he's doing that. That's just really stupid, but so new york...

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I understand the position that some feel that stuff like this demeans the art form, but the truth is, every art form has high and low-brow expressions. I don't mean to over-simplify or offend anyone, and it goes without saying that unsafe unsanitary work is not cool, but to each their own, right?

Imo it doesn't just demean the artform, but is a step towards undermining the whole craft. The more people who do this kind of thing, the more people will expect tattooers working for nothing.

@Graeme noted earlier, that

"Given that it's a pretty nasty feature of contemporary capitalism that it's even harder to make a living as an artist, illustrator, photographer, musician, writer, etc. because increasingly fewer people want to pay for that kind of work."

Which is spot on. I make my living as an artist/illustrator, and I get request to do freebies all the time. Make me wanna fucking puke. Just last week a danish music festival contacted me: "We would love to have you decorate one of our bar areas, but unfortunately, we do not have a budget for this, but there will be lot's of publicity". Seriously - these guys have a million dollar budget, but expect me to work for nothing? Fuck that. It's come to a point, where I don't even write anything back - I just send them this:

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Chances are this guy is lying about his apprenticeship. People do that all the time to try to gain credibility. And it's a real shame that most people reading the article won't be able to read the subtext of what this guy really is saying which is that he sucks too horribly and is too lazy to get a spot at a real shop, and because of that he could never actually charge anyone for his work. He's probably just using this to be "cool" with his jerkoff hipster friends. Yet another crappy side effect of tattoo TV shows.

No legit shop would have him as an apprentice after reading that article. Few shops would even talk to him if they knew he was tattooing, period. It was people like him who got the whole trade shut down in NYC.

Rob

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My understanding of the shutdown in NYC from reading what has been said by a few tattooers that were tattooing back then is that it was due to to there being an outbreak of hep in the navy (nationwide according to Jerry) that the navy passed the buck on to tattooing across the nation. NYC tried to get the tattooers there to get together to come up with a set of reasonable health regulations, but since there was so much in-fighting and territorialism between tattooers there, that they wouldn't come together so the city just shut it all down. I believe it was both Crazy Eddie and Stan M that were quoted as saying that.

Tattooing was regulated or shut down in many places across the country at the same time, which tends to support Jerry's story.

Anyway, this guy in the article is a turd regardless, and is doing a dis-service to not only our trade, but to his "friends" as well.

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