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First, Last name: Carmelo (MELO) Rodriguez
Shop Name & Location:
Melos Tattoo Studio
1699 Pitkin Ave
New York 11212
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When did you start tattooing: I started in Summer of 1999. I saved up $1600 from my job working for the Department of Education. I was planning to buy a motorcycle but, a friend and tattoo artist, Angel told me to get a tattoo set instead because I would have an opportunity to get more than one motorcycle in time. So, I took the money and bought a complete set from Unimax; I will never forget a lady named Vanessa putting all the supplies together and speaking with me and telling me that I was really going “for the gusto.” That’s when Unimax was located on Broadway in a 2nd 3rd floor small office. I bought a lot of tools so I wouldn’t have to be dependent on a shop for tools. Then I got home and my sister was pissing me off, cracking jokes saying I was dumb for wasting my money on a tattoo set, and I would never get anywhere with this shit.
Who was your first client, what type of tattoo did you do: My first practice tattoo was on my volunteering and loving father. He got a big gargoyle on his back. After 40 minutes of tattooing, he threw up. He was drinking his favorite Jack Daniels that night and I actually, surprisingly, finished the outline and he was happy with the outcome.
Do you have any tattoos & how many: Yes, I have a whole lot of tattoos, but they are concealed. I’m that awkward client that you get that gets tats but doesn’t want anybody to see them. All of my tats are representative of my family.
How long have you been doing tattoos: From 1999 to date! Off Sundays and Tuesdays. Open 3:00 to 9:00. 1699 Pitkin Ave., Brownsville Brooklyn, NY 11212 corner of Rockaway and Pitkin Ave.
Back of the nail salon
Describe your style of tattooing: I don’t have a style because I never went to school for art. I grew up mimicking comic books, what I see on the Internet. Doing basic tattoo shop flashes. I feel I have just raw talent that is refined.
What inspired you to start: A tattoo artist named Bear from Bushwick. He did my first tattoo and at that time tattooed 75% of my family. We were having conversations about art, and he told me he wanted to see my artwork. I ended up showing up to see him a week later with my art work, and he told me I have the ability to get into this. So I thought it was a dope trade to have. I got my first tattoo from him when I was 18 or 19 years old.
Favorite Tattoo: I don’t really have a favorite, but the ones I like the most are challenging me to get to the next level, whatever that may be. Tattoos are not about making a sale, it’s about rocking that tattoo to the best of my ability and I’m gonna have fun doing it. I love to see a client or family member happy when the job is done and they see the outcome.
Who or what are your influences: When I first started I had no influences, but I had a friend named Angel. I used to ride BMX bikes with him and he invested in himself and started doing tattoos. Then a guy named KC was the first person to open a shop on Pitkin Avenue in Brownsville. Angel, who was recently on the TV show Ink Master, started working at that shop. I started hanging there with him and he was the first person I knew that would do street murals for people that passed away in east New York and Brownsville with a paint brush on walls. I really started hanging out there after work. One day he challenged me to draw something to see where I was at with my skills and he pulled something from a comic book. I produced it in 30 minutes. He was the second person to confirm I should get into tattoos.
Have you done any cover ups, how many have you done: In the 17 years I’ve been in business I never did cover ups. It was only during the last five years that I’ve been doing them. That’s because for years I was the only tattoo shop/artist on Pitkin Ave., all other shops had closed. When KC went to Florida, and Angel worked on opening his own shop and ventured off, another shop opened nearby. I had to do cover ups because there was new competition. So I had to stay competitive. Cover ups are fairly easy depending on the skin texture and darkness of the tattoo. It’s really like covering a scar. You can’t do a cover up on a lady’s stomach if she just had a tummy tuck. When I first started, ink was standard, now there are new types of ink you can use to make cover ups easier. I still do turn away a customer if they have a skin issue because the cover up won’t work if the skin is damaged and it might not heal like the customer would like it. I do cover ups on a regular basis now.
What do you want the world to know, and tips for aspiring tattoo artist: I’ve always wanted to be an artist, but never wanted to be an artist that was valued after death. I’m an artist, I struggle like all others the only difference is I found a consistent artistic outlet in tattooing to make a decent salary to continue making art organically on someone’s skin. So if you want to be a tattoo artist, or any kind of artist, find your creative outlet and make a salary off of it.
What inspired you to start tattooing, who or what are your influences: Bear, Angel, Tony, Vinnie, Puppet – these are the guys I heard of when I started and I aspired to be like. One thing that resonated with me that Bear told me was, “you start your first year of tattooing after you have done your first 10 years” I never understood it at the time but that stuck with me because the guys I mentioned stayed in the neighborhood and worked in their community, they were always there, and still are, as I plan on being for years to come.
I know now why Bear told me what he said. It was to warn me. Cause the first 10 years I was tattooing it was a lot of trials and tribulations that I learned from. A lot of guys I started with fell off. Some never stepped up their skills to be better and some just weren’t built for it and quit when the going got tough. I told myself when I first started this adventure: if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.