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Stay Humble with Dave Wah: The Exclusive Tattoo Snob Interview

By Kevin Miller
www.tattoosnob.com
I generally excited about everything that’s posted on Tattoo Snob, but I’m really excited about my interview with Dave Wah. Dave has been killing it for a long time, and he recently opened Stay Humble Tattoo Company in Baltimore, Maryland. I shot Dave a handful of questions about his tattooing, opening up a new shop, who inspires him, and what else he has lined up for 2014.
This interview is a must read. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be checking flight prices and planning a tattoo getaway to Baltimore by the end of the interview.
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Tattoo Snob: For those who aren’t familiar with your work, can you give them the basics?
Dave Wah: I guess I would consider myself to be an artist who likes to do a little bit of everything. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some great veteran artists over the years, including Uncle Pauly and Eric Gregory, who really stressed the importance of being versatile. My work ranges from realism to traditional, however I do try to incorporate my own style into everything. I think the range of styles I use keeps me motivated to keep creating. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or bad thing that I don’t have a particular style, all I know is I love going to work everyday.
TSdave-wah-1-214x300: Let’s talk about Stay Humble Tattoo. Tell us a little about the shop, and what led you to this path.
DW: I opened Stay Humble Tattoo Company in Baltimore, Maryland last october and things have been amazing ever since. The time just seemed right to head out on my own, I’ve developed a large clientele base and I’ve always wanted to work closer to the city. My father has owned his own business for over 35 years and he always taught me the benefits of working for yourself. I also had the benefit of working under Vinnie Myers for the past 5 years, and he is easily one of the most successful people in tattooing.
It’s a second floor shop, and I set it up to be a semi-private studio. There’s limited signage outside and you kind of have to know I’m there to even know it’s a tattoo shop. I tattoo by appointment only and it’s a super laid back environment. It’s kind of nice having a little hidden place to do my work.
TS: Your work ranges from black and grey, to traditional, to neo-traditional, to realistic. How did this come about? Do you have a preferred style?
DW: I think there’s a few factors that led to me doing so many different styles. I think the number one reason is I truly love almost every style of tattooing. I never understood artists who only liked one style and hated everything else. There’s value in so many different styles of tattooing. Another thing that led to me being diverse is my background in realism. As a kid growing up my focus in drawing was realism, so when I got into tattooing I was able to incorporate realistic techniques into traditional tattoo designs. The last reason is that it took me a long time to figure out how to do a solid tattoo, I worked at street shops and I kind of jumped around trying different things to find what was right for me. Tattooing is hard.
My favorite style tends to be illustrated realism, not even sure if that’s an actual style haha.
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TS: With being comfortable in so many different styles, do you suggest different styles based on the subject matter or what the client asks for?
DW: I’m very fortunate that most of my clients tend to let me do whatever style I want. Once they give me the subject of their tattoo I consider what style I think it would look best in, and what style would look best on them. I’m also very aware of my limitations as a tattooer, so I think about how I can utilize my strengths to make the tattoo work.
TS: I see your website states that you no longer do coverups. Why is that? Does this include lasered pieces?
DW: The short answer is that coverups are a pain in the ass and they stress me out. I will cover lasered pieces if they are light enough, I’ll also cover up small tattoos if it’s fairly easy. It’s such a shame that so many people are looking for cover ups these days, unfortunately I think the problem is only going to get worse over time.
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TS: Outside of tattooing, what do you do in your spare time?
DW: Spare time is pretty hard to come by these days, tattooing is pretty much my whole life. When I’m not working or drawing tattoos I spend a lot of time looking at tattoos online, good ones and bad ones. Other than tattoo related stuff I spend a lot of time in my basement studio recording and writing music. I’m really lucky to have a wife that gives me a good amount of freedom.
TS: Which tattoo artists inspire you? What about outside of the tattoo world?
DW: My favorite tattoo artist is Seth Wood. I don’t think I’ve seen a tattoo of his that I didn’t love. Some other artists who constantly amaze me are Jim Sylvia, Stefan Johnsson, Peter Lagergren, Mike Stockings, Emily Rose Murray, and Mike Moses, just to name a handful. I think we’re very fortunate to live in a time when everyone’s work is so readily available to see. I’ve only been tattooing a little over eleven years but I still remember having to wait for new magazines to come out see new work.
TS: Who was the last tattoo artist that tattooed you?
DW: The last two tattoos I got were from Steve Wimmer in Delaware and from Seth Wood when he was still in Brooklyn. Both were really great experiences, it’s really cool to see how every shop has it’s own unique vibe.
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TS: Who do you want to get tattooed by?
DW: I’d love to get tattooed by Jim Sylvia, Grime, and of course Seth Wood again. There’s a bunch of artists in Maryland who I want to get work from, Jason Reeder, Gary Gerhardt, Thomas Kenney, and John Rippey, all those guys are killing it.
TS: Any travel plans for 2014?
DW: I think most of my traveling is done for 2014, my wife and I just had our first baby so I’m gonna hold off on traveling till the end of the year or the beginning of 2015. Between the baby, a new shop, and the new house we just built my plate is pretty full. I usually do about 5-6 conventions a year but I’d like to do a lot more conventions and guest spots in the future. I also need to get back out to see my friends at Memento Tattoo in Columbus, Ohio. Those guys are on another level.
TS: Any last words?
DW: I’m currently looking to set up a steady rotation of guest artists at my shop in Baltimore. Working by myself has been great, but you can learn so much more by working with other artists. If anyone wants to set up a guest spot send me an email to dave@davewah.com with a link to your portfolio. Thanks so much for supporting me and putting my work on your website, it really means the world to me.

New Seattle Shop To Check Out

Dark Age Tattoo is now open!!

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Artists: 

Derek Noble

Jesse Roberts

Jason Calvert

Hanna Sandstrom

Eric Eye

Heidi Sandhorst

Check out the shop located at: 

1407 E. Madison St

Seattle, WA

www.darkagetattoo.com

IG: @darkagetattooseattle

FB: https://www.facebook.com/Darkageseattle

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Great Lakes Tattoo: Open Now

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GREAT LAKES TATTOO…
“Carrying on an old tradition in a new location.”
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Spider Murphy’s New Tattoo Flash Book

A unique collection of pages of flash signed Spider Murphy’s, designed by the finest tattoo artists who over the years worked in the famous California studio. The contains 110 sheets (mostly unpublished) dedicated to the most authentic and at the same time original American tattoo, designed by Theo Mindell, Matt Howse, Stuart Cripwell, Paul Anthony Dobleman and Heather Bailey.

A tribute to the early tattoo flash used in the West that decorated the first tattoo shops with vessels, ships, Cadillac cars, sports cars, women with feathers and jewels and the world of the circus that in the 20s became the most curious and unique American fashion. Dreams for the dreamers that captured the fantasy of customers, taking them on journeys to faraway worlds, rearranged by Spider Murphy’s tattoo shop and published in this book. [Ordering instructions and photos on expanded page]

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Shop Profile: Black Heart Tattoo (VIDEO)

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True Tattoo: The Grand Re-Opening! (VIDEO)

May 4, 2011 marked another milestone in the tattooing world with True Tattoo’s Grand Re-opening in Hollywood, Ca.  Oliver Peck bought True Tattoo from long time friend Clay Decker January 1st this year, and in true Pecker fashion decided it was time for a party!!!  [Video on expanded page] (more…)