While a lot of us spend our teenage years drinking cheap beers, listening to heavy metal and watching horror movies, not many of us translate those experiences into being high-quality tattoo artists. Tom Taylor did.
Text by Tyson Mitman
Photograph by Michael Francis
Tom is a talented tattoo artist working at Deep Six Laboratory Tattoo in Northeast Philadelphia. Deep Six is a great shop full of gifted artists. And even though the shop isn’t that far from where Tom grew up, he didn’t start there. Not by a long shot. He had to work in shitty shops in crappy neighborhoods and less than ideal conditions to acquire the skills he now has. He’s definitely paid his dues to be where
he is now.
He’s a local kid who grew up in the Bridesburg section of Philadelphia, and has spent most of his 26 years in the area. He caught the tattooing itch at 17 after watching some of his friends get tattooed in a living room. He practiced on those friends and by 19 he landed an apprenticeship. “It was pretty much him hiring me and throwing me to the wolves,” Tom says. But with tough times often come good stories, and this is no exception. He says, “One of the first tattoos I ever did was at this shop in the ‘hood. This big lesbian comes in and says ‘I want a little dude pushing a lawn mower across the top of my bush.’ It was like my first week tattooing at the shop, and she comes in and drops her pants, and I’m sweating bullets, but I’m going at it, and the stencil is rubbing off. It took a while, but I got through it. It was ridiculous. Wild… I still have the pictures of it, too.”
Growing up in Bridesburg, Tom was surrounded by graffiti and he had a bunch of friends that used to go out and write. He says that while he likes graffiti a lot, he never got into it himself. While friends were bombing, Tom was practicing his craft, drawing and painting canvases. Once he started tattooing it didn’t take long for him to master the art and move on to better, more reputable shops. He’s been at Deep Six for about a year and is now doing the work that he is the most proud of and has the most fun doing. “What are some of your favorite tattoos that you’ve done?” I asked him. Without missing a beat he says, “I just did a werewolf on a girl’s arm that came out really cool. I did a zombie Kim Jong Il that came out really nice.” And best of all, “there’s a zombie Wolverine that I did and love.” Horror movies and comic books strike again.
Being a tattoo artist, you see a lot of people make mistakes in how they go about deciding what’s going to adorn their bodies, and spend a lot of time covering it up. Tom’s advice is to avoid these issues. “Don’t get names,” he says. “That tattoo is going to last a lot longer than the relationship. Also, don’t rush into it head first. A lot of times people are just too spontaneous about it. I think people should put more thought and research into what they’re going to get done, and they also need to put a lot of research into the artist that’s going to do it and the shop, too. You gotta weed through the bullshit. There are so many great artists and shops out there, there should be no reason why you go and pay $30 to get a tattoo in someone’s basement.” Damn right, those things are permanent.
If you want to know Tom’s favorite metal bands, stop in to Deep Six Laboratory and ask him yourself. Make an appointment and get some ink while you’re there, too – unless it’s tribal. Tom’s sick of that shit. But at this point, who isn’t?
Influenced by Classic Horror Movies – Tom’s top three horror flicks:
1.) “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”
2.) “Evil Dead” (Not “Evil Dead 2,” where they had enough money to actually finish the thing.)
3.) “The Shining” (“One of the only movies ever to scare the shit out of me as a kid.”)