Michelle Myles Interview: “The tattoo scene in the early ’90s was very small and much more connected.”

Michelle Myles, co-owner of Daredevil Tattoo, has been tattooing since 1991 when tattooing was forbidden by law and she’s one of the most genuinely versatile tattoo artists we’ve seen.

In 1997, Michelle and Brad Fink opened Daredevil Tattoo shop, which now hosts a museum tattoo collection focused on the history of tattooing in New York City, called The Daredevil Tattoo Museum.

Michelle Myles tattooing a man
Michelle Myles tattooing at the first NYC Tattoo Convention
  • How did you get started and what inspired you to become a tattoo artist?

I got my first tattoo when I was in high school in about 1988. I kept getting tattooed whenever I could. I started tattooing in 1991 I was inspired by a roommate I had who was getting into it.

I didn’t have a proper apprenticeship because tattooing was illegal in New York back then so I kind of fumbled along eventually getting a job at a legal street shop in New Jersey. The shop was very busy I really learned to tattoo there. 

  • How many tattoos do you have and what is your favorite one?

I haven’t counted how many I have. I don’t really have a favorite they all have nice memories for me it’s impossible to pick one over the others. 

  • What are your main sources of inspiration and how would you describe your aesthetics?

I am inspired by traditional American tattoos. We have a tattoo museum as part of our shop and it’s a huge inspiration to work next to so much important history.

My style is a blend of traditional American tattoo style but I also enjoy Japanese tattoo style and black and grey tattoos. 

Man wearing a dragon tattoo on his chest
  • What are your favorite subjects to tattoo and what is your process when designing a piece?

I like tattooing a lot of the traditional iconic themes; they’re very timeless to me and are kind of made for tattooing. My process is sitting down with the customer to go over their idea then working on a drawing often accessing references from my reference library I’ve collected over the years. 

  • What’s been your favorite moment in your career, so far?

Moving our shop to a space that we own instead of renting is probably my favorite achievement. New York real estate is brutal so to have a space that we won’t get priced out of is huge. It’s given me more peace of mind for the business and it’s allowed us to display the museum collection and offer that to the public.

Tattoo Saloon
  • What do you like to do when you’re not tattooing? 

I love to travel but more often than my travel has to do with tattooing. I feel fortunate for all the places tattooing has taken me. We just did a week-long tattoo history seminar/conference in Mexico City that was amazing. 

  • What advice can you give to artists who are just starting out?

Draw a lot and learn to be versatile because trends change and what might be all the rage right now you might not be able to give away in a couple of years. 

Man wearing a tattoo on his shoulder
  • In the old days, tattooing used to be regarded as a sub-cultural activity, but now with all the social media apps, it seems to be more mainstream. What are your thoughts about that? 

Yes, tattooing has taken off in ways we never would have imagined. Mostly I’m just glad I got to be a part of tattooing going back to when it was illegal in New York to now.

I’m glad I got to see so many changes but also got to be around when it wasn’t so mainstream and popular. 

Woman wearing a tattoo on his ribs
  • You began tattooing when was still illegal in New York. Can you talk a bit about that period and maybe share with us some memorable stories about that time? 

The tattoo scene in the early ’90s was very small and much more connected. You pretty much knew or knew of every tattooer who was working in the city. There used to be Tattoo Society meetings put on by Clayton Patterson at the old CBGB’s gallery.

Mike Wilson, the Coney Island Tattooed man worked the door and it was completely wild to see someone with their face tattooed back then. He was the only person like that. The ban wasn’t enforced though so cops would get tattooed and New York City was more seedy and dangerous back then so tattooing fit right in. 

Gypsy Woman Tattoo
  • What are your thoughts regarding tattoo trends like watercolor tattoos, embroidery tattoos, etc.? We as tattoo aficionados, when we’re thinking about getting a new tattoo, should we follow the trends or should we stick to the established ones?

You should just get whatever you like to look at. Although some of the hyperfine line work or the watercolor work that’s being done isn’t going to hold up so great, which just means future work for us when we have to re-do them or cover them up. 

  • A few tips on tattoo aftercare?

I really am sold on the Hustle Butter CBD luxe product. I can’t believe how much the Hustle Butter helps with inflammation and how quickly things heal with that stuff. 

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