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Interview between and Sean"Ozz" Oliver

Crucial Ink: So what got you interested in Tattooing?

Ozz: Hard to really point it to one thing, I remember back in high school when I was sixteen and my friends and I were not old enough to get tattooed professionally we found other ways. One night we were all sitting around and they decided that I was to be the one to do the poking, we took a sewing needle, Thread wrapped around the end and some India ink and I went to town poking and stabbing away at a friend of mine named Kim. it was pretty much the exact same method as stippling, so as you can imagine it took for ever and did not feel good at all, after a couple hours trying to make these dots line up and appear to be a mushroom I then proceeded to the next friend and finally myself. Of course I would never suggest anyone being done this way now, it was completely Non-sterile and the end result was pretty much crap, as far as I know Kim has had that tattoo covered by now or redesigned, which I can not blame her for at all.
A few years later after a year or two in collage I moved to California where I did child photography. You know those quickie places in the mall. During that time I really was having the urge to learn a new medium, airbrushing just was not doing it for me, so I saved money for my 1st tattoo kit. I remember one of my life long friends who was more heavily tattooed than I at the time always saying he thought that I would do well in the industry. After doing my 1st tattoo with a real machine on my roommate and following on myself I then moved back to Houston Texas where I worked at Compaq computer and on the side worked on friends and painted as time allowed. Then enters John Stuckey of Custom Design.

Crucial Ink: Where did you apprentice and who apprenticed you?

Ozz: John Stuckey was and still is the owner of Custom Design tattoo out in Houston Texas. AT the time I was extremely fresh in the industry, I had no idea I would actually make my living off of my art at that time, or at least not with skin as my medium. I went to his shop one day with a book of drawings I had and he looked them over and said when can you start, I was very happy and pleased that he had faith that I would learn and be good at tattooing one day. John was the perfect person for me to learn with, I owe him everything I am today. John believed in many old school methods as he had been in the industry before I was even born. I think that was a big plus during my 1st year of learning. He taught me how to mix inks from powder, how to make my own jigs with strings and bottle tops and he taught me more about people and life than any group of teachers I had ever had in my life. He had no 3m machine and not a sheet of stencil paper in the shop, Everything we tattooed was free hand drawn on the customer from either our minds or redrawn looking off of a flash designs from the lobby. It was a great experience and really helped build my confidence.

Crucial Ink: What was the first tattoo you did of?

Ozz: I remember I brought a friend in to the shop and tattooed him in front of John. It was a acid trip looking sun with big googaly eyes. My 1st actual client at the shop was a bit different. I remember this fellow came in and wanted all these crazy organic looking vines covering his chest and upper arm and back shoulder blade. John gave this to me as my 1st tattoo, he just looked at me and said you ready? excitedly I replied yes. so after the guy described this large design he wanted I proceeded to draw it on him. after drawing it we then had to negotiate price. I went aside and asked john what he thought I should charge this guy for the design and he in return asked me what I thought it was worth. I answer that I thought about two hundred dollars. So he said ok and the customer seemed more than happy with that price. We then began my 1st shop tattoo. About 6 hours or more later when I finally finished and the customer left I remember John just laughing and laughing, I had under priced that tattoo by hundreds of dollars, When I asked him why he did not stop me and tell me a better more fair price, he responded with a chuckle and said I bet you never under price one like that again, better to learn through experience, it makes it stick out in your mind. He made perfect sense and I have never forgotten that to this day. After we locked up that night he bought me a late night breakfast at Denny's and we bullshitted and laughed about how I got in over my head that night.

Crucial Ink: Who is your favorite tattoo artist and why?

Ozz: To anyone who is in the industry or knows a decent amount about it, the most obvious choice would be Guy Attchison. I remember before I had ever owned or thought of owning a machine that I had an old tattoo mag and when looking through it I saw some of his work and I was very impressed, He was the only artist I had seen in the mags at that time who seemed to have a heavy psychedelic influence filled with shapes and textures to create objects. Ever sense I can remember my drawing and paintings have always had sort of a swirl and abstract texture to them and when seeing what he was doing with a similar but much more advanced version of what I had always tried to pull of it stuck hard in my mind. At the 20th anniversary convention I had the opportunity to meet and got tattooed by him and he had a great attitude towards the art and that also stuck with me.
Of course there are many other tattooist who I think are exceptional artist, some have great recognition as Aaron Cain and Paul booth and others have not gotten to that point yet like Danny Armantrout.

Crucial Ink: What was the craziest experience you had while tattooing?

Ozz: There have been so many crazy and strange things that have happened in sense I have been in this industry it would be hard to say what one would be the craziest. I remember one night when I had 1st started back at Custom Design a beat up looking woman came in late at night I was all alone and she walked across the lobby all dancing and bending over as she walked towards the back cut off point, she was wearing a little pink dress barley covering a thing and man was she just tore back, she cam to the counter and flopped her saggy tit on the counter and pointed to a rose on it and said what can you ad to this, and well I stayed as professional as possible and answered her then gave her a price. Then she curved her deflated breast and started sucking on her own nipple saying she had no money but could pay me in other ways. immediately I almost hurled up my dinner onto the floor. I told her I only accepted cash, she threw a small fit because I turned her down I guess and then left while screaming and bitching. It was an odd thing to experience so new into the business.
More recently I was at work one night with a client and a couple friends hanging out and in walks some street vagrant. just walks right back into the tattooing area mumbling something we could not make out, next thing you know he is speaking something that sounded like tongue and I asked him to leave because he was freaking out the women customers and when I did he started screaming and banging on our counter tops. so I had to put my machine down and help escort him the hell out. The list of things goes on and on and on.

flowersplash.jpg (54697 bytes) Crucial Ink: We see that you specialize in organic and comic styled work, what led you in this direction?

Ozz: I have been doing comic styled work sense I could draw, in elementary school, my big thing to draw was the mach 5 car from speed racer, in Jr. High I drew comic styled robots, High school I started really getting more into the abstract, shapes depth and motion, I grew very attached to shapes that seemed to flow in a natural way, that in return has lead me more into organic objects and textures. When I pass a tree that has gnarly roots all growing and flowing into the ground I can't help but stop and stare and study how beautifully they intertwine within themselves and into the ground. The same goes for natural caverns, I want to take a trip to some and just sit in and marvel at how perfect nature's own art really is. 

Crucial Ink: If you could tattoo anyone in the world who would it be and what would you tattoo on them?

Ozz: That would be my dad. He has never supported me in this industry and I am doubtful he ever will. He has never had a problem with me painting or any other medium, just when the word tattoo comes up. I know it would never happen but if I could one day tattoo him and bring him to see how tattooing can be as artistic as canvas if not more artistic by having a flat design become a living extension of someone's skin and soul flowing with there natural curves to extend there look instead of hindering it, that would be a dream come true.

Crucial Ink: We see that you do a lot of guest spots, we assume you like to travel, what was your favorite shop to work at and why?

Ozz: They have all been great to work at, most have been kind and treated me with a lot of hospitality, I remember the 1st guest spot I did was while driving cross country one year, I was heading from Texas back home to California and about the half way point (El Paso) I had some major car problems. I quickly headed to an area of town that had a few shops before my car stopped completely and went into renegade tattoo where I met Orlando, He was kind enough to let me work at his studio for a couple of days to make the money to repair my car, Chezzer who at the time was piercing there helped me find a place to stay as well. They were all more than kind and went out of the way to help me get back on the road. 
I plan on doing some more traveling in the future as fall comes around, Aaron bell has invited me up to Seattle and I have never been that far north so I am anxious to check it out soon. I also might be going to Tyler Texas to work with firing line tattoo in the next few months if we can get the details squared away soon.
I find traveling and working with other artist is a great way not only to meet people but to improve your skills, it seems when you are a doing a guest spot you end up talking and sharing techniques with each other even more then when you are at your home base. So every time I travel it is another great learning experience under my belt and I have always said when I feel there is nothing I can learn, then it's time for me to quit. I hope I never stop learning because I want to stay in this industry for a long long time.


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