Lessons from Ink Smith and Rogers: Week 1

image copyBy Deb Yarian

As a young tattooer I didn’t have a formal apprenticeship. Like many of my contemporaries, I went to work too early, as the means for another’s source of income. Through fortunate circumstances though, I formed a lifelong friendship with Eric Inksmith, and was blessed to have Paul Rogers, as a dear friend and mentor.

So it was with great pleasure, and some nostalgia that I sent my second son, Nick to Inksmith and Rogers in Jacksonville, FL for a month long visit and learning experience after he finished his apprenticeship with me, his father and brother at our family shop in Alaska.

I couldn’t help but to think, what a great opportunity for any young tattooer and it made me wish I was a 20 year old new tattooer again!

I spoke to Crash about somehow chronicling Nick’s experience there and I spoke to my son about that prospect. The conversation went like this-

Me: Nick, keep a journal.

Nick: What do you mean, like a diary?

Me: Yeah, like a diary, a daily record of what you do, lessons you learn, places you go and people that you meet.

What I got back was more of a timeline though.

Of my five children, Nick is the most introspective and quiet. He’s rarely articulate or communicative regarding his thoughts and feelings. But his love of tattooing is apparent in his choice of livelihood and his passion for getting tattooed and collecting tattoo related artwork.


So, through a series of questions and answers between Nick and me, his timeline, photos and sketches, I’ll attempt to chronicle my son, Nick, the apprentice’s, month long stay at World Famous Inksmith and Roger’s Tattoo.

Inksmith and Rogers was established by and founded on the friendship of the late – legendary tattooer and machine builder, Paul Rogers and tattooer, Eric Inksmith.

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What started as a single shop of Eric’s, his former partner, Ms. Sofia, and a place for Paul to work and host visiting tattooers has grown to one of the world ‘s most respected tattoo shops. It’s home to 21 tattooers in five shops, spread across Jacksonville, Florida.

Known for traditional American tattooing, bold lines and bright colors, Inksmith and Rogers is now just synonomous with great tattooing!

Since it ‘s inception in 1984, world-class artists have journeyed there from around the globe to visit, to get tattooed, to tattoo there, to be inspired!

Since Paul passed away and Eric now splits his time between his New Mexico retreat and traveling the world visiting and tattooing- the shops are now managed by Mike Wilson and Angelo Miller. The list of tattooers working there, are many of tattooing’s best. Beside Mike and Angelo, there’s Jesse Gordon, Lars Lundquist, Jeremy Swed, Mike Bruce, James Buie, Pete Raizis, Paul Granger,  Mike Woods, Gordie Jones, Clark Seiger,Jeff Jibran, Ryne Samson, Jordan Moore, Tim Shafer, Mike Cronin, Kane Gordon, Kenny Rice, and Bryan Dewberry.

While tattooing is always the main focus, I have always been impressed by the level of creativity and the dedication of the artists that Inksmith and Rogers attracts. The common thread seems to be their devotion to tattooing. Their creative accomplishments are many.

This year, Mike’s paintings and artwork were the focus of a one man show at Florida State College at Jacksonville, and his collaborative book effort with Bert Krak is fast becoming a tattoo shop classic.

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Jesse Gordon’s newly released -Elevenfourteen Flash Collection, includes the work of his fellow I & R tattooers, as well as the paintings and drawings of many of the tattoo world’s greats.

Angelo Miller, started mixing ink during his apprenticeship, over 20 years ago and his Time Tells Pigments are a result of his dedication and respect for those that laid the ground work in making pigment and tattooing.


They are always tattooing, always drawing, always painting, always creating!

So, it was my hope that some of this creative passion and dedication would rub off on my son

Me: What were your expectations about going to I & R?

N: I knew it was a world renowned shop, with so many talented artists that I knew only through social media.

Me: You’ve been working with your parents for over 4 years, what did you do there?

N: I first started doing janitorial work. Then I worked my way up to floor man. Then in November 2012 I began my apprenticeship in accordance with Alaska state law.

Me: So, when you went to I & R, had you spent any time at other tattoo shops beside your family’s?

N: Only on a trip to NY to get tattooed at Smith St. By Eli Quinters, Steve Boltz, Bert Krak and Daniel Santoro.

Me: Were you nervous going there?

N: Yeah, I didn’t know any of the guys. I didn’t know what they expected of me- if I was prepared.

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Arrived in Jacksonville.

Angelo picked me up at the airport.

Visited Bch Blvd shop.

Met tattooers Mike Woods, Gordie Jones and Clark Seiger.


Visited 3rd Street shop.

Met tattooers Lars Lunquist and Jesse Gordon. 3rd Street is where Angelo and Mike Wilson work.

I was instructed on how to clean and maintain the shop.

Looked through their vast reference library.

Drew in my sketchbook.

**Lesson 1

Since my Alaskan shop uses disposable tubes and I & R autoclaves their stainless tubes, DON’T THROW AWAY tubes!!!

**Lesson 2

Stop sketching and start tracing

Repetition, repetition, repetition.


At 3rd Street shop again.

Started a painting,with help from Jesse Gordon

Met Mike Wilson

Went to Atlantic Blvd shop and met artists.

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Worked 3rd St again.

Started homework of drawing roses.

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Went to Atlantic Blvd Shop.

Given some drawing tips by Mike Bruce, Jeremy Swed and Paulie Granger.

Learned that my drawings have no “foundation” and that often, in traditional American tattooing, there are formulas to drawing classic designs.

Met tattooer, Dave Wulff. Dave is co-owner and tattoos at Tattoo Faction in North Olmstead, Ohio.

Went to dinner with guys from the shop and Dave and his family.

I really enjoyed the camaraderie between all the tattooers.

**Lesson 3

Being surrounded by a group of like-minded, creative and artistic people- encourages you to be more creative and artistic.


Went to work at Atlantic Blvd again.

Jeremy Swed helped me work on roses again.

Mike Bruce and Paulie Granger helped me with lettering.


At Atlantic Blvd shop again.

Got tattooed by Dave Wulff

Got tattooed by Mike Bruce.

Went to pick up pizza for dinner with the guys and Dave and his family.

Blacked out in pizza joint.

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 **Lesson 5-

Be well rested and well nourished BEFORE getting tattooed all day!

End of week one.

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