Monday, September 9, 2013

Interview with Cece Pitts Henderson and Mac Davey of Gypsy CeCe Tattoo

Left to right: Stephanie Primo, Mac Davey, Cece Pitts Henderson

Who are you and where are you located, for those who are unaware or may not live in Cobourg?

Cece: Myself (Gypsy Cece) and Mac Davey are located at Gypsy Cece Tattoo at 209 Hibernia Street in downtown Cobourg.

How long have you been a tattoo artist and what made your want to start?

Cece: I've been a tattoo artist for 3 years, my father was a tattoo artist and he was my inspiration to become a tattoo artist.

Mac: I started my apprenticeship at the age of 15, I've been dedicated to it for roughly 10 years off and on. Lately I've devoted all my time to the industry. I was a pretty decent artist growing up and in high school a lot of my school mates would take my designs down to the local tattoo shop and get them inked on them. After a while of doing that the owner of the studio wanted to meet me and I fell in love with the environment, the art and everything involved with the tattoo world.

What tattoos do you have and where? If you had to pick one, what would be your favourite?

Cece: I have a wide variety of tattoos all over my skin, everything from horror to cutesy ribbons. My favourite would have to be the autographs I got from the writer and producer/actor of Night of the Living Dead, the original version of course.

Mac: I couldn't be bothered to count all my tattoos! They're located anywhere and everywhere. If I had to pick one as my favourite, I would have to say it's the jack o lantern on my neck, even though it's not completed!

Some tattoo artists practice on themselves, are any of your tattoos self done?

Cece: Most of my tattoos from the knees down are all self done, that's why I don't like to wear shorts. My favourite is the very first tattoo I ever did on myself, it's supposed to be a rose but it looks like a burnt cabbage.

Mac: Most of my tattoos are self done, during our apprenticeships most artists practice on themselves before working on another person. It allows you more freedom and control, and it's very hard to tattoo yourself so the challenge makes tattooing other people a little more comforting.

If you were to get another tattoo, what would you get and where would you put it?

Cece: I would get a zombie gypsy, to kind of represent myself, and I would get it on my upper left arm.

Mac: I have a few ideas on the go at the moment: a traditional owl head design on my knee cap and some sort of octopus or Cthulhu looking creature to fill in some arm space.

Do you have any hobbies or enjoy doing anything besides tattooing?

Cece: I used to enjoy drawing as a hobby but now it's my job so to break up the day and not get sick of drawing I like to go kayaking. I also play a lot of video games and sing at open mic night in bars on my time off.

Mac: Absolutely! All mediums of art I enjoy trying, sculpting especially. I spend a lot of time with my two kids as well. But I like to get a good video game in and do some fishing or camping when I get the opportunity.

Do you have any influences that have helped you throughout your journey in the industry or even in your art style?

Cece: My artistic inspiration is Leonardo da Vinci and my tattoo inspirations are mostly horror tattoo artists like Bob Tyrrell and Paul Booth. The person that helped me the most in my journey to becoming a tattoo artist was my mentor Mike Patterson. He taught me everything I know about black and grey realism tattooing.

Mac: I have many many influences, if it wasn't for one friend in high school I may not even be in this industry. My mentor who took me into his shop was more than helpful and supportive and always striving to better my artwork. And I take a lot of inspiration from world renowned artists such as Paul Booth, Victor Portugal, Mike DeVries, and Tony Ciavarro just to name a few.

What is your favourite part about your job?

Cece: My favourite part of the job is listening to clients' reasons for their tattoos.  I get to learn something new everyday! I like to get to know my clients and listen to their stories, I get to meet some very interesting people.

Mac: There's no real single particular aspect that's my favourite. Everything about my career is my favourite!

Describe how you go about creating a realistic tattoo from the concept to the completed design. How do you try to put your own unique touch on your tattoos?

Cece: First I get the client to use as many words as they can to describe the design they want and I ask them to send any pictures that relate to their idea. I like to try and get the feel and the emotion the client is trying to convey. I also do my own research and find reference photos for the piece. After all my information is gathered I sit down and start putting all the pieces together. I send a few sketches to my client over the internet to ensure I'm on the right track. Then after they have approved my ideas I draw a final design and send that off for approval.

Mac: That's a tough question, I try to avoid realism actually! I focus a lot on cartoony style artwork also known as "nu skool". I do a lot of custom work from memory so a majority of my work has my own unique touch to it from start to finish.

What have been your most and least favourite tattoos that you have done?

Cece: My most favourite tattoos, if I must choose, are the one's that have the most meaning to my clients, there's no way I can only choose one favourite! I love tattoos that come with a story. I can choose a least favourite though, no problem, it's all the name's I have to do when I know the person is going to regret it later. I try to talk them out of it but some people are just set on getting their partner's name. I always suggest you are with a partner for many many years before you get such a tattoo. Cover ups are hard.

Mac: Anything custom from my own head will always stand out. I don't really have a least favourite, tribal I'm not to picky about but everything I do is enjoyable regardless of the design.

What has been the cleverest or original tattoo that someone has ever asked you for?

Cece: Oh that's easy!  A zipper on the end of a scar! Turning a long scar into a zipper is very clever and original and helps the client deal with their memories of that scar.

Mac: As of today I would have to say the Zombie style pac-man is right on top.

On the other side, what has been the silliest tattoo that someone has ever asked you for?

Cece: That has to be a set of eyes on the back of a client's head. He wanted to convey the message that he has eyes in the back of his head and I made that happen!

Mac: A toaster with angel wings.

What's a tattoo that's trendy now that you wish would just go away?

Cece: Pretty much any tattoo that is found on Pinterest or Google Images. Seriously though, tattoos that celebrities have are always the most trendy, like infinity symbols. Fads and trends fade, they're not good choices for tattoos and should stay on t shirts.

Mac: I really can't answer that question out of respect for clients that may be sporting those designs.

Have you ever had a client who changed their mind about getting a tattoo midway through the process? What did you do?

Cece: Yes I have had that happen and fortunately it was an easy change.  But that was a one time exception, changes midway are not advised. You need to be sure about your tattoo well ahead of the appointment day.

Mac: Only once, they didn't change their mind, they just couldn't handle the pain. I did what I could to make it look complete and allowed them to come back at a later date.

What do you think a client should expect from you as a tattoo artist?

Cece: Communication and Honesty.  Tell me exactly what you want and if I draw something for you and you don't like it just tell me. My feelings won't get hurt, it's your tattoo and I want what you want. Satisfaction. On the other side of the fence I am honest with my clients, I give my honest input on their ideas and how their tattoo will work best.

Mac: Above all, to be courteous, respectful, and ensure a beautiful piece of artwork is created.

What do you expect from the client in return to make a successful tattoo and good artist/client cooperation?

Mac: Having trust in the artist and not bartering over pricing are two major things to come in mind. Allowing the artist to custom design the piece will result in a far better tattoo.

Is a professional attitude important to you, or do you think being yourself is better?

Cece: Both. I have a personal relationship with my clients as well as a level of professionalism that they expect from me. I can joke around and be myself around my clients but I am also serious when it comes to the job at hand.  My clients like that. My clients like my honesty and they like my humour, it's win win for us both!

Mac: I think an equal mix of the two is critical. Professionalism will better your reputation and shows your clients you are serious about what you do. And being yourself (providing you're not surly and impolite) will allow you to have better conversations with your client and help them design a piece that suits them the best, I always prefer to get to my clients and have a few laughs in the process.

You guys have gone to many conventions be it for tattoos or pop culture, like Fan Expo. Do these experiences help you as a tattoo artist?

Cece: Absolutely!  We go to tattoo conventions to learn new techniques and to learn about new products on the market. We get to network and communicate with fellow tattoo artists and make some really good friends in the industry. We go to conventions like Fan Expo to see what's trending in pop culture and to be inspired by new art and ideas.

Mac: Absolutely! Many of these conventions and expos attracted many different types of artists and people from around the world, getting exposure and mingling with those that have incredible talent by bouncing ideas and asking for advice allows us to expand on what we know and what we didn't know previously. Plus they're a lot of fun!

Do you think tattoo artistry gets enough respect as an art form? Or do you think it carries some kind of social stigma?

Cece: The social stigma of tattoos is slowly dying.  With all the tattoo television shows on the air tattoos are becoming more and more mainstream every day. However, you will still have a hard time finding a job in a small town if you have visible tattoos, large cities are more accepting of the art. I do not think tattooing gets enough respect as an art form overall, we are still considered the black sheep of the art world. Hopefully someday that will change.

Mac: Well that's a funny question to answer really. Tattoos and cave drawings are the two oldest forms of art. That being said though there still is a bit of a stigma around the art. Years ago tattoos were reserved for delinquents, sailors, gang members etc... Nowadays it's the non-tattooed people that seem to be in the minority. But I think that as the years go on tattoo art will be accepted worldwide as a viable career choice and people with tattoo's will be less discriminated against.

Do you think that tattoos will ever be accepted fully as a form of art?

Cece: Yes, with so many television shows about tattooing and so many celebrities getting tattooed there will come a time when people without tattoos will be the odd ones in society.

Mac: I think I just answered this question. Yes most definitely. Just in the last decade this industry has really taken off, with new innovations happening every year, more and more publications being printed, and even television shows and movies being made I believe there's no where to go but up.

For those who would like to start tattooing, do you have any advice for them? What do they have to do to be certified?

Cece: I highly recommend seeking a professional tattoo apprenticeship. You can be the greatest artist in the world but if you do not understand the risks of tattooing you can hurt a lot of people. Cross contamination and the spread of disease is the number one risk in tattooing without training. If you are an artist and you are confident in your work than you should have no problem wanting to do things the right way, like making sure you and your clients are at minimal risk of infection. Do some research, visit tattoo shops, talk to artists. Don't give up, do what's right.

Mac: Draw draw draw draw and draw. Try different mediums of art to better your skills. Don't be afraid to go into a shop with a good attitude and sense of humor. Always try and talk to the shop owner and artists in person if applying for an apprenticeship. Above all else show the dedication, and your passion for the art form. It's a very competitive industry and incredibly difficult to get your foot in the door. You need to set yourself apart from the people that want to get famous and rich. Certification varies around the world, but as a standard a solid apprenticeship lasting anywhere between 1-5 years is an absolute must.

Thinking into the future of the art of tattooing, where do you see it going in the next ten years or longer? Where do you see yourself in that time?

Cece: Well I see there is a trend going on right now.  Everyone wants to be what they see on televison.  However, television is also educating the general public. Soon the trend to become a tattoo artist will be outweighed by clients wanting better quality tattoos. The more the public is educated the more aspiring tattoo artists will be forced out of the business. In ten years I predict a lot of the current tattoo artists will throw in the towel for lack of work. The public will not tolerate incompetence and irresponsibility for much longer.

I'm 44 years old, in ten tears I see myself tattooing a lot less and becoming more involved in promoting younger artists. I actually plan on becoming the PR rep for my current artist Mac Davey. He's an up and coming young artist and I see a lot of potential in him.  I would get great joy in helping him become successful in his career.

Mac: In 10 years I hope safe practice and traditional teaching methods are still being used. I hope the supply companies around the world and machine builders continue to innovate new products. I honestly can say in 10 years I hope I'm still doing what I love to do, putting beautiful works of art on people and doing it with a proud smile on my face. 

Any last words for anyone reading this?

Cece: Yes. Please do research and make sure the tattoo artist is skilled in the style you want and make sure the artist is regularly inspected by the health board.

Mac: Cheap work isn't good and Good work isn't cheap? All I can say is I appreciate your taking the time to put together this interview, articles like this better us all as a whole and help people understand that the tattoo world is getting bigger every year. It's one of the oldest forms of art, and we're not going anywhere anytime soon.

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