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Frank Tran

00:02 all right so Frank Tran so happy to have 00:05 you on the everyday enthusiast 00:06 you are a tattoo artist and event 00:09 organizer you're the event organizer for 00:11 the LA tattoo convention which is an 00:13 amazing event we went last year 00:15 honestly I've never been to an event 00:17 like that so is such a unique experience 00:19 and such a bummer that it's canceled 00:22 this year so what inspired you to create 00:26 that event like what like what drew you 00:28 to being like you know what there's 00:30 needs to be an event for LA tattoo 00:32 artists well like with my background in 00:37 tattooing that's an apprentice when I 00:39 first started out it was more or less 00:41 trying to get people to come together 00:43 that's always been the basis of the 00:45 convention you know part of me was like 00:48 hey I really would love to like travel 00:49 the world and all these amazing artists 00:51 and learn from all these artists but at 00:53 the same time it just didn't seem like 00:55 it was possible to do that and do it in 00:58 a timely manner so I was like you know 00:59 I'm still trying to put it together a 01:01 tattoo convention bringing all these 01:02 great artists uh can network with and 01:05 learn from and hopefully and what can 01:06 network with each other and learn from 01:07 each other 01:08 that was the basis and always has been 01:11 the basis of the convention and yeah it 01:14 does suck that you know with everything 01:15 going on fortunately the shows I 01:18 cancelled this year but we're hoping to 01:20 come back next year better you know and 01:23 and of course with everything going on 01:24 so it's not just us but we hope everyone 01:27 else you know that are reputable will be 01:29 coming back as well meaning other 01:31 conventions that will be coming back as 01:32 well absolutely and also it's very 01:36 unique that you hold this event in Long 01:39 Beach you know a city with a long 01:41 history of tattoo artists tree you know 01:43 goes back to the sailors on the docks 01:45 and stuff was that purposeful when he 01:48 did that to set it in Long Beach because 01:50 of the history there yes definitely so I 01:55 mean you know long just like one of the 01:57 home it's the home of the West Coast 01:59 tattooing and to me like I felt like 02:01 Long Beach had to be the spot putting on 02:04 this convention just because I feel like 02:06 you know people kind of need to know 02:07 where were the home or home of tattooing 02:10 for the most part and so the 02:13 the reason why I did it there it was an 02:16 honor you know it's always been an honor 02:17 for me to do there and and and to live 02:20 in the city of Long Beach as well I 02:21 literally live across the street so I 02:23 said I know I died and so there's a 02:25 conviction nice and now you know what's 02:31 really nice and what cloud and it shows 02:35 and what's really interesting is you 02:37 know when I attended that event I didn't 02:39 know that impact that the Internet has 02:42 had on the tattoo industry people were 02:44 traveling across the country to you know 02:47 get a tattoo from a tattoo artist they 02:49 saw on Instagram you know that's the 02:50 first time they're meeting them like how 02:52 would you say like the Internet has 02:55 impacted the tattoo industry I mean it 02:57 seems like because I know people will 02:59 just follow hashtags on Instagram and 03:01 that's how they find their new tattoo 03:02 artists yeah yeah I mean they didn't it 03:07 crazy it's almost like you know it's 03:10 like a newer Gold Rush you know when 03:12 when a mob got a new you know wave of 03:17 people coming into the tattoo community 03:20 and then now I feel like you know it's 03:23 been coming in less and less of a 03:24 community and more of a an industry you 03:27 know they're just different different 03:29 sections are popping up in terms of like 03:31 what's new what's able to come of 03:33 tattooing so the Internet has definitely 03:36 played a major role and streamlining try 03:40 streamlining everything 03:42 also it's brought a broader array of 03:45 artists that you would never have would 03:47 have found if it wasn't for the internet 03:49 so it's definitely opened up the the 03:51 floodgates I don't want to sound like 03:54 negative but you know there's a pro and 03:56 con to to it all however you know it 04:00 does help you know a bring tattooing to 04:03 to a bigger light you know for for the 04:07 overall community for an overall 04:09 industry as a whole so I think there is 04:11 you know more positive than there are 04:14 negatives but the internet it's it's 04:17 been amazing in terms of like bringing 04:19 all these great artists to to our phone 04:23 you know not just at your homes 04:26 and it seems like tattoo as a form of 04:30 self-expression and body art is becoming 04:33 less stigmatized than maybe a decade ago 04:36 you know I imagine you a lot have been 04:38 it a lot harder for people a techie to 04:39 go with this full sleeve to get a job 04:41 you know 04:41 you know working-class business job but 04:43 now I think it's becoming less it's 04:46 becoming a lot more mainstream and 04:48 accepted wouldn't you say oh yeah 04:51 definitely I mean I think you know today 04:53 I went to I just came in to like Lowe's 04:54 or like an hour ago and this guy's got 04:57 full-on sleeve it's pretty cool you know 04:58 and he's the Manager at Lowe's down the 05:00 street you know and you know see like a 05:03 doctor and I'll see nurses with full-on 05:06 sleeves and it's pretty cool you know 05:08 it's so it's definitely a lot more 05:09 acceptable at more mainstream but there 05:11 are some traditional jobs you know that 05:13 you know even in the medical field 05:15 they're like kind of like frowned upon 05:16 but I think you know the next may be 05:18 another generation or so I mean it'll 05:20 definitely be more and more acceptable 05:22 you know I think as people age out and 05:25 get older in terms of like certain 05:27 professional careers the younger 05:30 generation comes in and you know they're 05:31 become more and more acceptable it's 05:33 they come in the norm 05:34 you see soccer moms now it's leaves so 05:36 it's pretty cool it is and so for 05:41 getting into the industry as a you know 05:43 an aspiring tattoo artist there's a lot 05:45 of work you know I was doing a little 05:47 bit of research you know there's 05:48 apprentice apprenticeships somebody 05:50 really have still you know work your way 05:51 up the ladder to get you know get your 05:53 own spot at a studio when you first 05:56 started as an apprentice like how many 05:59 years did it take you to you know 06:00 finally get your own I guess you know 06:02 chair if you will like how long does it 06:04 take for an ax you know going to go from 06:06 an apprentice to professional well I 06:10 mean I think every apprenticeship is 06:11 gonna be slightly different you know 06:13 there's been vary from person to person 06:15 you know I was I did it in the year but 06:19 even at that you know I felt I to be 06:21 honest I didn't really earn it sort of 06:23 the situation that I was in my pressure 06:26 kind of ended at one year my mentor had 06:29 left his shop and the owner was like hey 06:32 you know there's really no spot for here 06:35 for you and so I was kind of like 06:36 alright let go and then I went and 06:39 kind of worked at much different street 06:41 shops in the Bay Area and after like two 06:44 years I decided probably come down so 06:46 the cornea and gotten another you know 06:48 the position down here and I was able to 06:50 work and kind of earn my chair that 06:52 through that way but you know every 06:55 everyone's gonna be different you know 06:56 sometimes it takes a year two years 06:58 three years it's a case-by-case thing 06:59 you know some people learn faster than 07:01 others you know I I felt you know I was 07:04 very lucky and just things kind of just 07:07 thoughts basically connected for me and 07:10 it made me to where I am today but 07:12 overall I said you know it's gonna be a 07:14 case-by-case thing but typically it 07:16 probably take about two to three years I 07:17 would say and so how does one exactly 07:22 practice tattoo artists I mean my part 07:24 artistry I should say do you practice on 07:26 being like a human subject is art do you 07:29 have friends that are like alright go 07:31 ahead try oh I think what it is is it's 07:35 constant repetition you know nowadays 07:37 it's a constant repetition I we're lucky 07:40 enough to have like these fake skin you 07:42 can buy from different huh some hires 07:44 prep rural manufacture 07:46 well you can definitely do that you know 07:48 go that route I practice on fake skin 07:50 it's nothing's ever gonna replace human 07:51 skin and then I hear people trying 07:53 different things practicing on like 07:55 through oranges pigskin so it's just 08:01 different variations of things you can 08:03 try but the reality is that you can 08:05 never replace human skin and I think as 08:07 as anyone who's a tattoo or apprentice 08:11 become a tattoo or wants to go that 08:14 route you know I think eventually they 08:17 need to practice on themselves that's 08:19 what their bias for you know and they 08:21 should do that and then if they're gonna 08:23 scar anybody they should sky themselves 08:24 first before they start an actual client 08:26 whether it's a client that they just 08:29 happen to get to friends family or 08:33 whoever may be you know hopefully they 08:36 don't scar anybody yeah but if they're 08:38 gonna scar new buddy things just be able 08:39 to willingly scar themselves first 08:41 that's that's how I see I mean that's 08:43 part of me like the old school mentality 08:45 as well or I guess go through the fruit 08:48 bowl and find some oranges 08:52 that day you know those are always good 08:55 you know you can never force them you 08:57 can never replace human skin and that's 08:59 you know that's that's something you 09:01 can't ever replicate it's just it has to 09:04 be human skin to get to that point and 09:08 so what sparked this interest for you 09:11 was there a family member with tattoos 09:13 or was there a friend of yours like what 09:14 sparked your interest in this industry 09:16 in debt-to-income yes I never thought 09:19 I'd be a tattooer I'd never like really 09:21 why it it was and I was going to school 09:23 working at the bank no try and you know 09:27 I was going become like working like 09:29 International Business and Finance that 09:31 was my goal 09:33 and hopefully one day be a restaurant 09:35 tour that was like that actual dream I 09:37 had but I was working out and at the 09:39 bank and then also as in the I dine 09:42 apprenticeship as a piercer that's what 09:44 I really wanted to do as well and I was 09:46 like you know what you know after like a 09:48 year of apprenticeship 09:50 year and a half I left apprenticeship 09:53 completing my friendship left and then 09:55 open up a like a project Pearson studio 09:58 inside a tattoo shop and there that's 10:01 where I met my mentor on Tran and a 10:05 tattoo in San Jose he apprenticed to me 10:08 for a year 10:09 offered me in a friendship he's like hey 10:11 man like you're not really making any 10:13 money as a piercer so I need a bitch 10:15 basically things like clean up after me 10:17 and I was like all right well you know 10:22 he's like and he's like if you don't 10:24 like it if you don't want to like tattoo 10:26 then you don't have to you're learning a 10:28 new trade and if you don't want to 10:30 tattoo it's all good you could you know 10:31 quit at any time and at the time you 10:34 know he was doing a lot of Japanese 10:35 style artwork Asian art work and and I 10:38 was really into like Japanese like 10:39 culture are going through in high school 10:43 and even after in college so I was like 10:46 you know I really want to be a part of 10:47 this as I was an apprentice thing and I 10:51 was like you know it three or four 10:53 months I was like you know what I 10:54 dropped out of school said screw it I'm 10:55 this is what I really want to do I just 10:57 fall in love with that doing I fell in 10:59 love with Japanese culture even more so 11:02 and that's what led me to 11:04 you know focused in and basically all in 11:08 in terms of becoming a to artist and 11:11 they almost bring about keep that way 11:15 well that takes a lot of bravery to you 11:18 know say I'm gonna follow this passion 11:20 I'm gonna drop out of school and this is 11:21 what I'm gonna do with my life and 11:22 follow it and also just as somebody who 11:26 gets tattoos like I mean I could I mean 11:29 I in my mind I'm like oh I will get a 11:31 tattoo one day but I can't do it I can't 11:33 dedicate myself to something and that's 11:35 what makes me different anything from 11:37 people who get tattoos they could made 11:39 when they find something when they know 11:41 they like it they dedicate themselves to 11:43 it they can they are willing to stamp 11:45 that on their body you know and that's 11:47 just so I find that so I respect that so 11:50 much it's such a unique quality among 11:52 tattoo artists and that also the people 11:54 who get tattoos it's it's definitely a 11:58 commitment you know and yeah honestly 12:00 like I would be if I can said I've never 12:02 thought I was gonna be a tattooer 12:04 but I felt like Tex we kind of picked me 12:06 and I fell in love with it and I have it 12:09 effects you know I I don't regret it at 12:11 all you know and with tattooing it you 12:14 know it's it's yeah we are different 12:17 breed in some senses because we are able 12:19 to fully commit you know knowing that it 12:22 is permanent and even nowadays like you 12:24 can get laser treatment but laser 12:26 treatment is like 13 times more 12:28 expensive and 20 times more painful you 12:31 know and then so it's not that easy just 12:33 to simply remove the tattoo it's it's 12:35 not that easy I mean I've gone through 12:37 the tattoo removal process I've seen it 12:40 I you know that way I could tell my 12:41 clients how the process works and it's 12:44 not fun at all 12:45 you know so it's definitely it's 12:47 definitely a full-on commitment when 12:49 someone's getting tattooed nowadays and 12:51 gosh you sure my torture with my hand or 12:56 no I'm sorry go ahead go ahead 12:57 oh yeah I'll gosh the zoom were 13:05 interested oh I have to go ahead go 13:06 ahead go finish your thought oh no 13:09 you're gonna find yeah I just 13:11 you're good okay come on bright I was 13:15 gonna say you know it's funny is when 13:17 you bring up tattoo removal 13:18 it reminds me I know if you know this 13:20 one of my favorite wrestlers I'm a pro 13:21 wrestling fan is the Undertaker and he 13:23 had a huge tattoo of his wife's wife's 13:26 name on his neck and then he had to get 13:29 it removed as obviously they got 13:30 divorced and I was like that had to be 13:32 the most painful experience like oh gosh 13:36 but also getting your wife's name 13:37 tattooed on your neck is probably pretty 13:39 painful too but like geez just like 13:42 that's just crazy I have so much respect 13:45 for tattoo artisan and so as you're 13:48 evolving from apprentice to tattoo shop 13:50 owner you you open up your own shop 13:52 eight element tattoo and see I'm 13:54 assuming you open that up in 2009 so 13:56 it's been up and running for more than a 13:57 decade now so what was that like 14:00 you know were you recruiting your 14:01 favorite tattoo artists like how did you 14:03 find you know the people you want to 14:04 bring in well at the time I was trying 14:08 to recruit you know one of my favorite 14:10 artists and you know a friend of mine 14:12 that was like really looking up to and I 14:15 was like hey man like I'd love for you 14:18 to come work for me if I open a shop and 14:20 he's like a wall I play a little bit 14:21 NESHAP so at the time we decided screw 14:23 it let's just go into business together 14:25 and so we became business partners we 14:27 open the shop there were a few years and 14:30 then I like started on the fourth year 14:32 he had a family he had a kid so he moved 14:34 on and I decided to move on as well so 14:36 we just parted ways and I continued on 14:39 with the shop and basically he left and 14:41 when he left basically I kind of had to 14:43 like start over because the whole crew 14:45 kind of left with him but you know in 14:47 the beginning when I was opening in 14:48 shopping it's never easy because you 14:52 know you when you are looking you're not 14:54 gonna find it so people came as when we 14:57 were stuck with kind of like stopped 14:59 looking we started focusing on what we 15:00 need to do which was our clientele and 15:03 you know people came through our doors 15:04 try to focus on them and then it slowly 15:08 reputation built and then people started 15:10 coming and trying to apply and were 15:11 clearing and it worked out you know tell 15:14 at the three-year mark where were they 15:17 decided to split ways that's when pretty 15:19 much you know I'd start all over again 15:21 because almost pretty much sure about 15:23 myself starting all over again but you 15:26 know I wasn't afraid because I already 15:27 experienced it the first time with him 15:29 as a partner 15:30 they're going where as trying to find 15:33 more artists to come in so I was in a 15:36 friend you know you know eventually we 15:37 will go get artists come back in if you 15:40 treat you treat your customers right and 15:42 focus on your customers people will 15:46 eventually come and and and there's such 15:50 a unique culture at tattoo shop so I 15:53 mean what like you know there's such a 15:55 camaraderie in everything there it's 15:57 it's you know it's kind of most like the 15:58 barbershop it's like everybody's talking 15:59 while they're working it's like you know 16:01 it's like there's this real bonding that 16:04 happens between the artists like when 16:06 you're recruiting you know tattoo 16:07 artists does it feel like you're 16:08 recruiting almost like a family member 16:11 um no it doesn't actually a to be honest 16:15 it's almost like we know when you're 16:18 talking to people you talk to everyone 16:19 if we're normally kind people because 16:21 you're always looking for good quality 16:23 artists but Johnson looking for good 16:24 quality people you know who won't ask 16:27 three customers right you know and then 16:29 as you get to know them you know they 16:31 become like family and that's how it is 16:33 with any other job it's a tune oozing 16:36 isn't that much different you know it's 16:39 just basically you know everyone's been 16:41 into the doubt you know until they 16:43 it up they don't tell they bring in a 16:44 portfolio and you we realize that olio 16:47 is it's not theirs or so much that you 16:51 know something Shady who knows but along 16:54 along the way you know it relationship 16:56 builds and the bonding bills it takes 16:58 time 17:03 like joining fraternity I guess there's 17:07 a little bit of hazing to maybe involved 17:14 and I'm seeing that your work is 17:16 recognized internationally you're an 17:18 award-winning studio how do how do these 17:21 contests worker I guess I should say you 17:22 know like how just one get involved like 17:25 like when your studio is recognized as 17:27 their particular artist do they 17:28 recognize a whole studios body of work 17:32 um 17:33 it's I think it's it's more or less the 17:35 artist you know like I like definitely 17:38 like depending on the shop some some 17:41 more shop as a whole so I'm more the 17:43 artist you know 17:44 because the reputation of the artist is 17:46 very important 17:47 having the integrity of their work the 17:49 work ethics and things like that like 17:51 that's still that's how it's always been 17:52 from the old school days you know like 17:56 customers would travel the collector 17:58 would travel and you know me like uh 18:02 like when artists would tattoo a 18:04 collector that collector would go to 18:06 somewhere else like get tattooed by 18:08 Sailor Jerry and they'd come to 18:09 California and get attention but in 18:11 other artists and you know you would see 18:12 someone's working you go oh I recognize 18:14 that work that workers from Sailor Jerry 18:16 or that workers from poor Yoshi from 18:18 Japan and so those things you know you 18:21 recognizing you it's it's almost like an 18:23 onion almost like a um said thing you 18:26 know like it's it's almost like I don't 18:29 know how to say it or explain it but 18:32 like it's you just know that that's a 18:34 reputable like tattoo a reputable artist 18:37 you know and and I think a lot of times 18:39 like you don't aim to be that way it's 18:42 just it just so happens to be that you 18:44 just recognize someone's work over and 18:46 over again and you see it over and over 18:48 again you know and this is of course 18:50 before internet before like you know 18:53 social media you know where it's become 18:55 such a like a crazy massive like beast 18:57 in its own yeah I think it depends not 19:02 on the shop or on the August now what 19:06 would you say is your or do you have a 19:09 particularly favorite genre of tattoo 19:11 like what is your favorite or do you 19:13 specialize in one as an artist I was 19:16 specializing in Japanese artwork but 19:18 nowadays like I do pretty much 19:20 everything and it's being in Orange 19:22 County it allows you to do that you know 19:24 we were around like so many different 19:26 cities it's so saturated in terms of 19:29 like artists and shops that you could 19:32 pretty much have to do have a diverse 19:35 portfolio in order to make it in Orange 19:37 County or Southern California but for me 19:39 like I still I mean every everyday I do 19:42 some perform gaffney style tattooing 19:44 whether it be new school or traditional 19:47 even though tradition traditional 19:49 Japanese has always been the basis of my 19:51 work ventured often to new school as 19:55 well past like two years 19:58 so it's a very diverse for sure what are 20:01 the biggest differences between Japanese 20:04 tattoo artistry and maybe like the more 20:06 popular American genres like what is the 20:08 what is the biggest difference as an 20:10 artist doing that genre um the biggest 20:15 difference I mean it's just the the 20:17 themes like the designs I would say like 20:23 the mythology you know if for instance 20:26 if someone's to do like broke stuff 20:28 actually they would do that more Roman 20:30 Greek mythology in their verses like say 20:33 the ancient Chinese or Japanese style of 20:37 tattoo like tattooing the mythology it's 20:40 in there but in terms of like American 20:43 traditional tattooing and Japanese 20:45 tattooing they intertwine nowadays I I 20:48 see because what people are doing is 20:51 they're taking the layout of like a 20:53 sleeve a traditional Japanese sleeve or 20:56 traditional Japanese bodysuit and 20:59 they're using it as a layout of alka 21:02 blueprint to layout the body work but in 21:05 terms of like Americana tattooing and 21:08 and Japanese tattooing the the styles I 21:11 think there's more similarities than 21:13 they're arguing differences just because 21:16 over the years I think we've kind of 21:19 come back to traditional I've noticed 21:21 now now that I'm actually thinking about 21:24 a people are doing the bold right go 21:27 like bold colors simplicity in terms of 21:31 design those those things to hold 21:35 there's a saying bold will hold you know 21:38 I think that's very true because of 21:41 Japanese and in traditional Americana I 21:45 don't know if I answered your question 21:47 sorry here no I think you did perfectly 21:49 and also bold will hold I think I'm 21:52 gonna put that in my pocket that's a 21:53 good phrase just to keep key for later 21:56 all right just to start wrapping up I've 21:58 got two very basic questions for you but 22:01 I love them I got to ask them do you 22:03 have any tattoo regrets is there is 22:05 there a tattoo really oh well I guess he 22:08 said you've done touch of you removed 22:09 any of your tattoos 22:11 yeah so I've had a tattoo removal on my 22:15 on my wrist just because I had to like 22:17 try to take space get it removed to that 22:21 it would make my sleeve seamless you 22:24 know looks like heels cleaner because of 22:26 the length of the the sleeve and then my 22:29 thigh tattoo so I when I was an 22:31 apprentice I did like a Borneo rosette 22:33 outline and then had a bunch of 22:35 different designs inside of it and I 22:36 felt it did not lack but I recently had 22:39 tattooed tattooed by grime up in San 22:41 Francisco who was working on me like a 22:43 year and half ago started working I mean 22:44 so you know I I was like man that 22:47 thing's like stuck right there so I got 22:50 it lasered so that it would make his 22:51 design that he was doing on me 22:53 brighter and more vibrant and it 22:56 wouldn't stick out too much you know be 22:57 less of a cut it was then she became a 23:00 cover-up but I actually like him to dab 23:02 a little it was nice to do that but in 23:04 terms of recreating I definitely don't 23:06 regret it at all it was just simply I 23:08 was trying to lighten it up so that 23:09 friend was able to do the tattoo and 23:12 make the touches look nicer it evolved 23:16 it became a much better piece yes 23:18 exactly 23:19 yeah it's no bear but it's covered it's 23:22 you know being covered up so I don't 23:25 regret it at all all right and then just 23:28 last question here what do you see for 23:30 the future a tattoo and you know five to 23:32 ten years how do you see the industry 23:33 changing what I see or what I hope to 23:38 see we'll see what let's we'll be here 23:40 with you oh man I hope I hope that that 23:48 doing continues to be you know which 23:52 respected but at the same time not to be 23:56 cheapened um I think a lot of times 23:59 people think it's so easy become a 24:01 tattoo artist you know they might have a 24:04 hobby and they go hey man I would love 24:05 to be a Tetris that would be a great 24:07 hobby you know that that to me is a 24:10 little disheartening just because um 24:11 this isn't a hobby this is a lifestyle 24:13 this is my career this is my livelihood 24:16 you know and then and this isn't my 24:19 hobby and I take some offense to that 24:21 when people say yeah you know I want to 24:23 do that I'm aside for fun 24:25 there's more to it you know it's not 24:28 just fun thing to do I guess it's nice 24:30 to come to Woking and enjoy what I do 24:33 for a living it's fun what being here 24:35 great but there's also you know the bad 24:37 side of it too that a lot of people 24:38 don't think about like any other job any 24:41 other career and in any you know part of 24:43 their lives that's the that's the thing 24:47 at the end of it all I hope that you 24:49 know it's it's becoming you will become 24:52 more respected and those who are tattoo 24:55 or there's more respect or craft a 24:58 little bit more you know and not cheap 25:00 valuable perfect perfect couldn't agree 25:04 more 25:04 thank you so much right this is a great 25:06 conversation I appreciate the time

theTUNDRA sits down with tattoo artist Frank Tran, owner of Eighth Element Tattoo in Fountain Valley, California. In addition to being a lifetime Tattoo Enthusiast, Frank is also the organizer for the Los Angeles Tattoo Convention, a must-see event featuring dozens of artists that is “for the people, by the people.” Check out this link to learn more about Eight Element Tattoo: http://www.8thelementtattoo.com/

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