Big Mike 33
Ever since I can remember, I have been drawn towards art. When I was a kid, my dad, my hero, would do these freehand drawings for me when I was in elementary school to help out with science projects or school assignments/reports. My first memories of seeing an actual tattoo were...
My first memories of seeing an actual tattoo were my dad’s tattoo on his chest, then still as a little kid, when I saw my late uncle’s back tattoo. I thought that was the biggest, baddest tattoo ever. It covered a great portion of his back.
The first time I ever opened up a Tattoo Magazine, I saw all these different images and they had names by each photo with the name of the shop they worked in. The names and images that caught my eye and left a lasting impression on me were tattooers like: Bugs, Mario Barth, Gil Montie, Larry Garcia, Brian Everette, Big Ed, Jack Rudy, Corey Miller, Catfish Carl, Lyle Tuttle, Ed Hardy, Juan Puente, Judy Parker, Kari Barba, Tom Renshaw, Ed Hardy, Aaron Cain, the Kern brothers. Wait, did I mention JACK RUDY & BIG ED?!? LOL… those guys work/talent is AMAZING!
Even thought it has been over 16 years, they stood out from the crowd. It wasn’t until by chance, I got to meet BIG ED from Tattoo Image in Victorville, CA. My friend was going from tattoo shop to tattoo shop selling care products, when I looked in Ed’s portfolio and saw all of his tattoo awards. I was like, “THIS IS THE GUY!” From there, he pretty much became my tattoo artist and mentor. I remember times when he would tell me, “YOU WANT TO BE A TATTOOER, RIGHT!?” I nodded “yes,” while getting tattooed by him; looking the other way, because I’m afraid of needles. LOL. He would then say, “PAY ATTENTION!” I learned a lot by PAYING attention.
I worked at a lot of different tattoo shops. The first two shops were local shops that I really didn’t care too much for. There was no artistic inspiration. It was as if they were at work! They were just doing whatever was on the walls, with very basic approaches to completing a tattoo; no creativity whatsoever. So, I moved on to another shop, then another, always looking for that fire, that artistic inspiration that my mentor’s work would always leave me in after looking at his portfolios.
I landed a position at: MIKE BARBA’S TWILIGHT FANTASY TATTOO in Riverside, CA. This is where I met my future business partner and friend, BEN CORN. I remember BEN asking me one day, “how do I cut my black inks?” I told him, “Witch hazel and distilled water.” He thought I was kidding. LOL. My, have we grown. Due to personal differences at that shop (there were 6 tattooers, all hungry; it was bound to happen), Ben and I left that shop. Ben went to work at INK FEVER TATTOO, owned by BILL CARLSON & ED SHAEFFER of BIG BEAR TATTOO. I started looking to open my own shop, so I could employ tattooers that were artistically inspired daily and that brought creativity to each tattoo. Shortly thereafter, BEN calls me up and asks me to come check out INK FEVER TATTOO.
A week or two later, he tells me the owners were going to shut it down because of the drive back and forth from Big Bear. Or, we could take it over. As a favor to my friend, I put my search on hold and went in as partners. Three months later, he moved on to other shops, and I was left to pick up the pieces. It wasn’t until about nine years later that Ben told me he never forgot what I did for him.
Throughout the twelve years of working here at INK FEVER TATTOO, I have seen a lot and learned a lot. I remember the first time my mentor, BIG ED and his wife came into the shop. Til’ this day, we still laugh about that incident.
I have been going to tattoo conventions pretty much my whole professional career. I have pictures of Jack Rudy and I back in 1999 at INKSLINGERS BALL, pics of Corey Miller and I and the conversations we had about: The Original INK FEVER TATTOO, the OLDEST running tattoo shop in the INLAND EMPIRE, est. 1976, 5576 Mission Blvd., Riverside, CA. Yup, the same shop I’m at right now!
I use to walk into a tattoo convention, just sight-seeing, looking at all these amazing tattooers work… and get anxiety attacks. LOL. It wasn’t until 2010 that I got the courage up to enter one of my tattoo projects into a competition at a tattoo convention, ROCK THE INK in Ontario, CA.
I took home my first tattoo award in BEST FULL LEG SLEEVE.
It wasn’t until January, 2011, that I was able to have a new tattoo ready for competition. My “BIG” lil’ brother and I went to Tempe, Arizona and took home first place in BEST RELIGIOUS TATTOO. In October, 2011, my new road crew and I, still new to this whole competition thing, went to RENO, NEVADA for the Immersed In Ink Tattoo Convention, and took home four tattoo awards in four different categories. I even got to place over a tattoo artist whose work I admire and respect. He’s a big name in this industry, and afterwards he came up to me, shook my hand, and asked me, “HOW COME I HAVENT HEARD OF YOU BEFORE?” I told him, “I’m new, I’m no one.” He looked at my work (in person) and said, “that’s bad ass.”
I have gone on to do a 2012 tattoo convention tour, where I have done what I only dreamt of doing in my whole career, but I did it in one year’s time. I won 34 different tattoo awards, in different tattoo conventions and categories, in different states! I made it to the front cover of PAIN MAGAZING (February 2012 issue) with a three page interview, and was interviewed by a very big acclaimed newspaper, PRESS ENTERPRISE (January 12, 2012 edition; two page interview), and a two page interview in my local city’s newspaper, HIGHLAND COMMUNITY NEWS, as well. I really haven’t heard of anyone doing that yet.
I’m just honored and very humbled to be able to not only achieve that many awards, but to be an inspiration to others that may think that these conventions are run by politics. Sure, there are some that are out there, unfortunately. I say: SUPPORT THOSE THAT SUPPORT YOU. My favorite tattoo convention, OUT OF THE OVER 30(?) I’ve done so far, is the INK LIFE TOUR. They truly know how an event should be done.
Remember to never give up on your dreams, I didn’t. It’s what will lead you to reaching your personal goals in the long run.
I’m a single parent, meaning both mom and dad, for five years now. Nothing came easy for me. Even with my personal hardships, I never let that control my dreams. I’m very blessed to have such an amazing road crew by my side: NICOLE & REUBEN. I have my dad MIKE SR., and my mother in law, ROSIE, helping me with what’s mine while I’m away on these road trips working and competing so that I may achieve my dreams, one goal at a time.
Please be on the look out for my 2013 tattoo convention tour and the achievements I plan to accomplish in the path ahead.
I have AMAZING SPONSORSHIPS by: INK-EEZE TATTOO CARE PRODUCTS, LITHUANIAN IRONS TATTOO MACHINES, CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN TATTOO MACHINES, STORM & DIABLO ROTARIES, and a proud member of the INK-EEZE TATTOO LIFESTYLE FAMILY.
Thank you for your continued support and curiosities about me.
- Big Mike 33