There’s a lot to consider when you get a tattoo, but the most import decisions, when turning your tattoo idea into a visually successful reality, depend on the artists and shop from which you get it. Weekly Inc. is a new column that profiles tattoo shops and artists in and around Madison. Whether you’re new to tattoos or a long-time ink enthusiast, tattoo columnist Edgar Sanchez will provide you with some interesting and useful insight into the world of Midwest tattoos.
Trevor Kuborn is a calm and collected 25-year-old man with a passion for traditional American style and Japanese tattoos. Over a large cup of iced coffee at his favorite shop (where the barista already knew his order before he could say hello) and through the lens of his dark-rimmed Ray Bans, we discussed everything from the counterculture of tattoos to his worst client experience.
Kuborn started tattooing when he was 20, and began his apprenticeship in Denver.. He explained that most apprenticeships usually take two years, but the experience is completely reflective of the artist and their capabilities. He first struggled to describe the experience but explained, “It all depends on the shop though, I mean, it's a lot more of doing the little stuff and being able to be versatile. You have to learn how to do the things besides what you really wanna push.”
Kuborn’s philosophy behind tattooing is that at the end of the day you are ultimately providing a service, and your client is trusting you to alter their body permanently. He opened up about the trust a client gives him and discussed how, “It's a very fulfilling and humbling experience to have the opportunity to change a person’s body.”
He acknowledged that a challenging hill to overcome is learning how to accept that you don’t always get to do what you want at the end of the day. “It's not your tattoo, though it's a shared ownership,” Kuborn said. He noted the cause of most failed appreticeships is a lack of humility from really good artists who think they should be able to do exactly what they want to do early into their careers.
Part way through his apprenticeship in Denver, family issues brought him back home to Rockford, Ill.,, where he resumed his apprenticeship at the parlor where he first got tattooed. Roughly several years later, he traveled to Madison with a fellow artist and discovered Blue Lotus. Kuborn explained over sips of coffee that, “The quality of the work, the cleanliness—it all stood out to me, and it left a good impression.” A few years later, after applying to a Craigslist ad and interviewing at the shop, the owner hired him on the spot.
When asked about current popular trends and styles in the community of tattooing, the first genre to come up was watercolor. They are generally abstract and “splishy splashy,” Kuborn explained. hey lack black ink, resulting in a piece that both ages poorly and lacks contrast. However, new technology is being developed to specifically cater to making a better watercolor piece in the absence of black ink.
When I asked him about his worst experience tattooing a client, it did not take long for him to come up with a story. He described a client who wanted a large phoenix on their back, but after only 45 minutes in the chair she began, “wailing and digging her acrylic nails into [his] thigh.” He chuckled as he explained that, since he started with the phoenix's talons, she only had what looked like a chicken's foot on her back when she walked out. The client never came back, and the image of a lone chicken claw tattoo made us burst into laughter.
When I asked what tattoo artist he most admired, he broke the question into two parts. One part was in regards to the artistic talent, the other about philosophy. Seth Wood, an Oakland-based artist with an eye-catching illustrative style, was the first name Kuborn uttered. He went on in detail to describe his neo-traditional style that results in amazing animal pieces, without becoming photorealistic.
The second artist he mentioned was Jeff Gogue, an artist famous for his highly technical and refined pieces. Kuborn respected Gogue’s perspective on the culture of tattoos and found Gougue’s philosophy inspiring.
Kuborn said he loves Madison and continues to be surprised and delighted at the daily adventures that come walking into his shop. Those intersted in seeing Kuborn’s work can go to tattoomadison.com or visit his personal Facebook page.