This interview originally appeared on Ink Latino.
Tiffany Tattooz has come a long way to get to where she is today — from switching career goals from art teacher to tattoo artist, to taking her talents from New Jersey to Miami, Florida, to losing one of her biggest supporters, her aunt, in a fatal incident that almost made Tiffany put down the tattoo machine forever. Yes, the Puerto Rican ink slinger has definitely been through some rough terrain on her road to victory.
However, determined to turn tragedy into triumph, and with her aunt in her heart, Tiffany continued to pursue her dream of becoming a successful tattoo artist and one of the biggest names in the industry. Along the way, the New Jersey-based artist even landed a spot on Oxygen Network’s tattoo competition show, Best Ink, which helped boost her growing brand and extend her already long list of clients.
Today, the talented and savvy Latina is the proud owner of Ink Gallery in Woodland Park, New Jersey, which attracts a clientele that stretches across the map. Although Tiffany does stay busy — currently she’s booked a year in advance — she did find some time to answer some questions for Ink Latino about her preferred tattooing styles, the inspiration behind her art, her shop and staff, her upcoming projects, and she even let us in on what fellow — and world-renowned — Boricua artist she goes to when she’s looking to get tattooed.
Ink Latino: For the most part, your preferred style of tattooing seems to be black and grey. What was it about this style that first caught your attention?
Tiffany Tattooz: Before I became a tattoo artist, I was a pencil artist. Every single thing I drew was with a #2 pencil, so I had a lot of knowledge when working with black and gray tones and gradients. When I started tattooing, I felt most comfortable and excited to work with black and grey because I have the most experience with it and I found it to be much easier to work with and to understand.
Then, is it safe to say that this was the style you always wanted to focus on, or did that sort of happen naturally as your career progressed?
It happened naturally as my career progressed. As a beginner, I can’t even tell you how many names, stars and butterflies I did. I was not able to determine where my style of tattooing was going to go. But, as the years passed, and I was exposed to different types of tattoos, I noticed that I fell in love more with the black and grey pieces that I was pushing out. And, because I enjoyed it so much, I believe it showed in my work—and soon enough, it became a popular style for me.
What other style of tattooing would you like to master one day?
I would like to master dot work tattooing — where the whole tattoo is created with tiny little gradations of black and grey dots. I think it looks awesome. It takes a lot of patience, but looks beautiful on skin.
What inspires your art?
Looking at other tattoo artists’ work and/or art in general.
Does your Latino background ever inspire your artwork in any way?
Yes, when I am working on a Latino-based tattoo design or when someone wants something tropical tattooed on them such as a palm tree, beach scene, tropical animals, flowers, etc. That’s when my memories of what I have experienced, learned or seen come to light. The memories of visiting my island, Puerto Rico, pop in my head — the history and views of the island life inspire me to create something relatable for my clients.
Do you prefer clients that know exactly what they want to get tattooed or clients who give you a loose idea leaving you room for artistic interpretation?
I do prefer to have my client know at least the concept of what they want tattooed and I can take it from there. When a client has no clue what they want and say, “Just do anything,” it actually makes it really difficult for me. Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin. I don’t know what type of style they want or what to get even inspired by in order to start creating.
Can you tell us a bit about the environment at your shop, Ink Gallery, and your current staff?
Ink Gallery has a relaxing and spa sonique ambience. The colors, interior and layout of the tattoo shop are simple, minimalistic and clean. I am very big on positivity and good energy that people and places hold, so when you come into the shop you will see incense burning, crystals and aromatherapy fragrances filling up the area and atmosphere. To me, this gives off good energy and good vibes and, therefore, makes clients feel more comfortable and relaxed. Upon entering the shop you will also see a wall full of large artwork with spot lights above — so, Ink Gallery does have an “art gallery” appeal as well. I have three other tattoo artists currently at the shop. My artists are well-trained and highly experienced — each having their own style of tattoo work, which makes us very versatile. We, also, currently have three apprentices in training.
So, who does Tiffany Tattooz go to when she wants to get a tattoo?
The famous Juan Salgado in Puerto Rico!
Very good choice! What advice would you give a client who is looking to get a tattoo but doesn’t know where to go or where to even begin?
Do your research: Always look at an artist’s tattoo portfolio before setting an appointment. If you are a first timer, make sure you eat because we wouldn’t want you to faint in the middle of a tattoo session [laughs]. And try to give the artist free range to be creative with your custom tattoo design. If you are just way too anal with every detail of the design we spent hours drawing on, then it doesn’t make it fun for us and we feel limited. Oh, and never bargain a tattoo price or ask for a discount. It’s slightly disrespectful to do so. Tattoos are permanent. Anything permanent shouldn’t be bargained like its temporary.
What advice would you give an up-and-coming artist trying to get into tattooing?
Look for an apprenticeship so that you can learn the ins and outs of working professionally at a tattoo shop. Make sure your portfolio is extremely versatile and on point! We want to see all the different styles you have potential in doing. And, most importantly, stay loyal, have passion and great work ethics. It’ll show us that you are serious about making tattooing a lifestyle and will give you a bigger opportunity in making us want to keep you around as an apprentice or, possibly, a future tattoo artist.
Do you have any plans to travel either working conventions or doing guest spots in the near future?
I would like to do a couple of conventions in the [New York] Tri State area a little more. Traveling can get a tad stressful, so if I can be able to drive there with all of my equipment, then it is easier to handle. I haven’t had the chance to do a guest spot yet, but if I do, I will most definitely post it all over social media.
Are there any special projects — tattoo or non-tattoo-related — that you have coming up that you would like our readers to know about?
My next project is to open up a holistic and metaphysical store, since as stated before, I am very interested in positive energy and the holistic approach to things for the mind and body. Hopefully, after that, I will be able to open up one more tattoo shop, and then I can relax a little and kick up my feet.
To check out more of Tiffany’s work or to stay updated on her, click on the following: