Cincinnati top tattoo artists: An interview with Mason Williams

for some, getting a tattoo is a huuuuge deal. actually, for a few people, it isn't even a thought worth exploring. the idea of an ink soaked needle coming near their skin is enough to make them run the other way. (my parents, for an example) but to others, it is a rite a passage. a way to celebrate someone that was influential in their life, a place to keep song lyrics that are important or just a way to show off the ever classic Chinese symbol for "love". for me, at the ripe old age of 14, it meant whining and begging my parents to sign a waiver to allow my best friend and myself to get our first tattoos. luckily, as my tattoo has faded, my friendship with said tattoo buddy has not. but looking back, it probably wasn't the smartest of choices. i got a silly little outline of a star on my right foot. purple. for no reason at all. my friend got one of those hawaiian hibiscus flowers on her lower back (she shall remain nameless, though i know she's damn proud of that tattoo since i'm pretty sure i remember her drawing the "design" on the way to the shop!) so for the past 13 years, since that first addicting tattoo, i've gotten several more. i forget about some of them and there are a few i would prefer didn't exist- like the heart i got on my butt that might as well just read "because i'm 18 and i can" that i had done in the scariest tattoo shop ever. but, as time goes on, and i've learned that those babies are here to stay, i've embraced them. each tattoo holds a memory and a reason why its there. my last tattoo came after a few too many margaritas when a friend decided she wanted to get her first tattoo and didn't want to go alone. i decided in the middle of our mexican lunch that a cactus tattoo seemed appropriate. because "we're women, damn it! and like cacti, we don't need a lot of attention or maintenance and we don't like to be messed with too much!" (these were my explanations of getting that particular tattoo. it made sense to me at the time. did i mention those drinks were strong?) prior to the cactus, i let a girlfriend of mine try her hand at "Stick n Poke" tattooing… on my hands. a few dots and the symbol for "happiness" on my ring finger. they're fun and silly and pointless and i love them.

so case and point, i love tattoos. even the worst tattoos out there, i can have some respect for. the guy with the barbed wire tattoo and the girl with the butterfly tramp stamp. they saved their money and got up the courage and sat through the pain (i don't care what anyone says. tattoos hurt, you guys) and snaps to them! i hope they love their tattoos forever! and while there are some tattoos out there that you kind of tilt your head one way and wonder "what were you thinking?" there are more BEAUTIFUL works of art out there, too. pieces that you can't help but stop and stare and want to touch (please don't touch stranger's tattoos. it's weird) and wonder where it was done. in those situations, you cross your fingers that they respond with somewhere local and not somewhere far far away. that's where my new series is going to help!

in Cincinnati, we have a lot of very talented artists running around that create some of the most beautiful pieces (barbed wire need not apply) i decided to start doing a series of some of my favorite artists i've found around the city. some of these artists are people i've wanted to interview and learn about for a while and some of them i've just now heard about through people telling me "you have GOT to interview _____" it's been awesome. i have a few more interviews lined up for the next few weeks and am excited to learn about some new talent around the city.

Ssoooo with all of that being said, here's my first featured artist for Cincinnati's Top Tattoo Artists:

Mason Williams 
of ArcLight Tattoo 
Mason was brought to my attention from several of his fans out there that love his ability to create the most beautiful portraits. seriously. this guy has magic hands. read on!

1. First the basics: How long have you been tattooing and when did you know this was what you Wanted to do?  
 I started tattooing full time around 2002 but I knew that I wanted to tattoo well before then. I did my first sheet of tattoo flash when I was around 11 years old. 

2. What style do you tattoo in? Do you think the artist chooses their style or the style chooses the artist?   
I don't know what my style is. Primarily I tattoo in black and grey and my work has a lot of realistic images throughout but that is really just the way that I tattoo. I think when you see a tattoo and you instantly know who did it, then that is really seeing someone's style. Hopefully I have that to some degree. Style is a word with a very vague meaning for most people so it is always changing definitions depending on who you talk with. 

3.  Of all the tattoos you've created on people, do any stick out as being your favorites?  Do you remember any tattoos that you hated doing? 
I have tattoos that I remember fondly and one's that I think back on negatively. I do my best to avoid all negative situations
4. If you hadn't become a tattoo artist, what do you think you would be doing now?  
If I wasn't tattooing I would still like to do something creative with my hands.  

5. Of all the work that you have on yourself, what are your favorite pieces? Do you have any that you regret? 
The tattoos that I wear on my body just feel like they were always there to me. I suppose I would do things differently if I had a time machine, but not all that different
6.  Do you prefer when someone comes in and gives you the freedom to create their piece Or when someone is very specific of what they want? 
 I get many different requests for tattoos and they are all over the place. Some people have very vague ideas and some people have extremely specific ideas. If I agree to a project then I truly want to give that person what they are after. However, everything that I tattoo, paint, draw, etc. goes through my hand and looks the way that I make it and when a customer tries to force my hand too much, things go off the rails.
7. And finally, my most important question: What are some do's and don'ts to not pissing off your tattoo artist? Like, What are some of your biggest pet peeves?    
 Personally, I like people that want to collect tattoos from me, keep their appointments, show up on time and tip big! If they do all that, then I will take care of everything else.

Thank you so much, Mason! if you would like more information or would like to check out more of his work, link to his shop HERE. and check back in a few weeks for more interviews with local tattoo artists. 

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