For those who don’t know you, could you please introduce yourself?
My name is Mike Shea, I make tattoos at Redemption Tattoo in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A. I have been tattooing professionally for 13 years.
You co-own Redemption Tattoo with Erick Lynch. How did you both come to the decision to open your own place?
Well tattooing was illegal in the state of Massachusetts until 2002, and up until that point Erick and I had been working in New Hampshire at different shops. When it finally got legalized in Boston, we got together and decided it would be good timing and a good idea to try and make a move and open something up, so we went for it.
Can you tell us a little about the shop and the artists working there?
Our shop is a custom tattoo shop that does walk-ins whenever there is time to do one (most people these days want something custom to some extent). As for artists at the shop, we have Josh McAlear who’s been with us for about 5 years now, Ben McClellan who’s been with us for almost two years, Salty Dave who was our apprentice and pretty much now does his own thing and is starting to tattoo full time, Joe Bastek who has worked with us for a few years but now does one day a week with us, Jeff the shop guy who makes our lives easier, and myself and Erick.
Can you talk us through a typical day in Redemption Tattoo?
Hmmm, a typical day at the shop… it’s kinda boring haha. Usually get the there around 11, get ready for a noon appointment and tattoo until 3 or 4.Then go get a quick bite to eat and a coffee, and back to work to tattoo ‘til close! That’s pretty much a typical day… everyone stays busy so its pretty much tattooing all day and maybe go out for beers on a Saturday night with the shop. We do have this old dude named Rex who comes in everyday to harass us, haha, that’s entertaining at times.
How did you find the transition from tattooer to tattooer/business owner? Were there any major challenges?
Our shop is small and close-knit so there really aren’t any real problems or drama we have to deal with. As for owner stuff, again it’s a small shop so it’s not too bad or too stressful. We’re lucky that our guys make it pretty easy for us and it’s a real “mom and pop” style of operation.
How did you go about picking the artists you wanted working in the shop?
We have always picked people we already know, we most likely wouldn’t just hire someone based on their work… basically if you’re a pain in the ass, we don’t want you. Grez was the only guy we didn’t know at all before we hired him, but we had a lot of mutual friends who recommended we give it a shot and it worked out great. He’s at Kings Ave in New York now.
Have you had many guest artists at the shop? Is this something you enjoy?
We have had a few - Adam Barton, Todd Noble, Seth Ciferri, Bryan Randolph… I think that’s it. Our shop is pretty small so it can be hard to have guest artists sometimes. Usually if we bring in a guest, one of the regular artists at Redemption will be out of town for it to work out. If we had the room I’d love to have people coming through all the time, it’s great for a shop to have guest artists as it keeps things fresh, you know?
You seem to have gained a lot of recognition from the local press and media. How did these come about?
We honestly just sit in our shop and tattoo, so I guess all of the recognition has come from just making good tattoos and letting the work and our clients speak for us. We’ve had a good run so far in Boston; we’ve won multiple ‘Best of Boston’ awards and things of that nature every year, which helps a lot.
There seems to be a focus on traditional American and Japanese styles in your artists portfolios. Are these the styles you wish to advocate or are you happy to do anything?
I love doing both! These days the Japanese style is the most in-demand in our shop which is great but I’ve gotta admit… I’d love more of an equal balance between the two styles. It seems like a treat these days when I get to do a traditional piece. I’m dying to do a skull/snake/rose tattoo…
Are your appointments only shop or can you take walk-ins?
Mostly appointment but we will do a walk-in if we have time. We try and do what we can to help out everyone that comes in, but all of the artists in the shop have waiting lists ranging from a couple of weeks to a few months, which is great, but you hate to see anyone walk out the door.
Who’s flash do you have on the walls? Do you do much work from it or are you a more custom focused shop ?
Almost all of our flash is old traditional Americana flash. Erick is a big collector of old flash so we have a lot of his stuff in the shop.
Do you guys work many conventions? Is this something you enjoy?
For years we were doing a decent amount of conventions and traveling, but I think we just got a little burnt out on it. The last couple of years have been mellow as far as a traveling schedule goes, definitely more non-tattoo related traveling over the last year especially. Lately though I’ve been getting the itch again to get back out there.
You guys have shirts on shirts&destroy, how did this come about? Can we expect more in the way of Redemption merchandise?
Well the guys at Shirts and Destroy are friends of ours. Ryan, who is one of the owners, was my roommate for a while and he did one of our shirts on their store for us. We have gotten our shirts done through them since they started and I just did a new one that should be available really soon. They are actually opening a Shirts and Destroy storefront any week now in Brooklyn, NY.
What’s in the future for Redemption?
There some plans we keep talking about, but I’ll keep those a secret for now. Mostly for now just more tattoos and more beer!
Any last words?
I hope this wasn’t too boring, haha…
Mike Shea’s work can be seen via http://www.myspace.com/mikesheatattoo