Photos by Kelli Miller
Toledo has more than 30 tattoo shops in the metro area, so you’re sure to find a professional who can make your ink dreams a reality. Here, five artists explain their entry into the industry, give advice to tattoo newbies, and tell us why tattooing is their dream job.
Infinite Art Tattoo Studio
3930 Secor Rd. | 419-292-1990
Years of experience: 17
540 (real name: Shannon Metzinger) is an avid horror film fan and animal lover with years of experience in the field.
How did you get into tattooing? In high school, I decided that I wanted to do something with art. A lot of my friends were getting tattoos, they were older than me. and they’d have me draw them. I now have a bachelor’s degree in art, and a minor in psychology, which definitely comes in handy! I’m going on 17 years of tattooing, and I love my job.
What’s the best part of your job? Tattooing is a great way to be an artist and make a living doing it. You’re a moment in somebody’s life. I love my job; I’m always training, always growing.
What has changed since you started? Now you have, maybe, 50 tattoo artists in each county. So the competition is out there, the artwork is growing, and people are always applying new techniques. With social media, you can now see tattoo work from all over the world. You have to constantly be on your game.
What advice can you give to someone looking for their first tat? Talk to people who have good tattoos. Get referrals from people, do your research. Make sure the artist has available portfolios; go into the shop and ask questions. The artist you choose should be friendly, up-front, and willing to work with you.
Describe your style. Styles change, and I’m sort of a jack of all trades. However, I lean more toward realism, whether that’s black or gray, or color; I like both. I love doing pet portraits, that’s my new favorite thing. I do them in pencil for people who don’t want a tattoo.
Specialty Styles: Realism, Black and Gray.
(South): 527 S. Reynolds Rd.,
(North): 5801 Telegraph Rd., #10
Moch is a long-time artist and jack of all trades.
How did it all begin?
I got into tattooing after my little brother passed away. I liked tattoos, and drawing, ever since I was very young. We had always talked about me tattooing, so I decided to go through with it. I came in Needlemasters, and it just took off. I’ve been here since 2009. I started my apprenticeship here and have been here ever since.
Can you describe your style?
I like a little bit of everything, but I’ve recently been focusing on Chicano style. I also love black and gray, and realism.
What sets your shop apart?
We have two locations. We’ve been here going on 18 years with no violations. We have so many different types of artists; anything or any style you’re looking for, we’ll have an artist for you; nine artists and six piercers between both shops.
What’s something you’re proud of?
I generally enjoy doing memorial pieces, it gives you a chance to bond with the client a little more than you would normally. Because I lost my brother, too, it gives me a chance to tell them how I dealt with my own grief. You learn a lot doing that type of work.
What else should readers know?
The best thing is to make sure the artist and the tattoo is exactly what you want. Check portfolios. It’s gonna be on you for the rest of your life. I do coverups for a lot of people who got tattoos from someone without doing their research.
Lake Erie Studio
4909 Summit St. | 419-725-0199
Years of Experience: 9
For Toledoans of all ages and professions, Pat McDonagh is a go-to artist for realistic portraiture.
Tell me about a recent client. I did both arms, full sleeves, for an 82-year-old man recently. He and his grandson had tattoos done together. When he got them, he said he wished he would have had them when he was much younger.
How did you get into tattooing? The person who influenced me the most wasn’t even a tattoo artist, it was Diana Attie, my art teacher at the University of Toledo. I was always interested in drawing, and at a young age I wanted to tattoo. [Attie] didn’t care for most tattoos in general, but she was enthused that people would treat them as serious artwork, like portraits for memorials. When I showed interest in tattoos, she really encouraged me to go for it.
Describe your approach. I do black and gray realism, and surrealism. I’m into portraits and anything found in nature—flowers, animals, faces, roses, skulls. That’s my ideal subject matter. I love traditional, as well.
Who is your ideal client? My ideal client is dedicated to the quality of their tattoo; they’re really into the work they’re getting. Sometimes people come in and don’t know say what they want, and that’s fine with me. If they have an idea, that’s great, if they surprise me, that’s great too.
Specialty Styles: Portraiture, Traditional, Black and Gray.
Infinite Art Tattoo Studio
3930 Secor Rd. | 419-292-1990
Years of experience: 23
Brian Taylor, aka Monk, is one of the city’s most recognized tattooists, and has trained countless other artists over the years, including several featured in this story.
Tell us how your business got started. When I started this place in ‘94, there were only two other shops in town. When we first started, it was just me and another part-time artist [Dave Ziegler, who still works there!].
What drew you to tattooing? I was 13 when I was first attracted to tattoos. My brother was in the marines and had tattoos, and I saw those and thought they were so cool. I don’t know if it’s some sort of primal thing or what, but I was always attracted to tattoos. As soon as I turned 18, I went and got a Japanese-style dragon.
Describe your approach. My approach is a painterly style. Whereas some artists use thick bold black outlines, and lots of black shading (traditional), I employ tricks that oil painters use, light and color gradation (also known as neotraditional).
What has changed in the industry? The biggest change since I started tattooing is the color palette available to artists. When I first started, you had eight colors to play with, and that was it. The color range now lets me push my artwork forward.
What’s the best part of your job? People will say “I want this image through your eyes,” which is my favorite. That’s when I give the best tattoos to my client. And our shop, we’re not pushy about stuff, we definitely consider the client’s health and safety over anything else.
Specialty Style: Neotraditional, Traditional.
707 N. Reynolds Rd. | 419-531-8282
Years of Experience: 14
Toledo native Josh Miller started Thriller Ink in 2013.
How did you get started? I opened up four years ago on my birthday, January 7, 2013. Years ago, my friends saw that I was going down the wrong path, and tricked me into going into this tattoo shop. Until then, I had the wrong impression, that bikers were the only ones who got tattoos. Plus, I was always into drawing. I was kind of a bad kid, but a good artist.
What’s the best part of your job? I run a sturdy ship here; I work with people who have passion, who love what they do.
Describe your style. I enjoy colorbomb, new skool, black and gray, or neotraditional. I consider myself to be pretty well-rounded. The longer you work in the industry, the more you see how different styles heal, and how they look on different parts of the body. Tattooing is a constant learning process. I’m well-rounded, but if the client asks for something I can’t do, I’ll send them to an artist who can.Toledo has so many amazing, talented artists and we network with each other to get the customer to the best artist, and to get them the tattoo they really want.
Specialty Styles: Traditional, New Skool, Colorbomb and Black and Gray.