10-Q with Tattoo Phenomena Terry “WOOKIE” Hoffman
Terry “Wookie” Hoffman has been in the tattoo industry for over 15 years. Having started as a guest artist at Club Tattoo in Tempe, Arizona, he worked his way up to being the senior artist and longest running employee. The world renowned Club Tattoo currently has 5 locations, including the newest in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Specializing in portrait work, Pin-up girls, wildlife, and black and gray work, he also has a large repertoire in full color applications. This has earned him close to 40 awards over the past 10 years, including 1st place Portrait International and Best New Artist of the Millennium. In addition, Wookie has been able to transfer his love of black and gray art to the medium of charcoal on canvas, and has had his work shown in art galleries around Arizona.
Terry – ImpulseMagazine would like to thank you for taking the time to do our Interview – You’re a GREAT tattoo artist and we really have enjoyed going through your art gallery and reading your short stories.
So… Tell us….
1) What got you into doing tattoos? Like as in, what made you decide to become a Tattoo artist?
Well, the condensed version?
I’ve drawing since I could hold a crayon. We were very poor growing up and it was a good way for me to entertain myself… Upon adulthood, I found myself a member of a “Motorcycle Club” and one of the guys in the club loved the artwork I was doing and he knew how to tattoo.
He apprenticed me for a year and I then found another guy to finish teaching me the professional end of the business. After hurting my back in my vocation at the time, as a mechanic, I decided it was time to do something about it. Turned out I was pretty good at it and I’ve been doing it now for 17 years.
2) How long does an average tattoo take to design and then tattoo on to someone?
This is a tough question.
There are times when I spend weeks designing a custom piece for someone before I even set it to skin. Most of the time though, I can usually design something in a couple of days.
As far as the actual tattooing time, a lot of that depends on the customer. How well they sit, how long they can stay in the chair at a time. I worked on one guy for 10 years…. Gave him a full body suit. It was actually kinda sad when we were done, we had built a friendship of sorts of that time.
3) What is the most unique tattoo you have ever done?
There have been a few of those over the years. Usually it becomes extremely unique when the customer wants a sleeve or something large that has a whole bunch of unrelated topics set inside it.
That’s when I really have to earn my money and make it look like everything belongs together.
4) What is the ODDEST Tattoo experience you have ever had?
The oddest experience to date… Has to have been from a long time ago when this customer came in complaining that he really wanted his birthmark covered up with a tattoo.
He wouldn’t budge on the design, it had to be the thing HE drew up… a tribal dragon (of course, his version of a tribal dragon was essentially a batman logo with a dragon head and tail).
Here’s the kicker, the birthmark was the size of a quarter on his upper back thigh, right below his ass. The tattoo was solid black and 6 inches across…. You tell me which one is gonna be more noticeable now.
Oh, well, whatever the customer wants, right?
5) In the Tattoo Industry tattoo artists must maintain a very clean area – can you explain why this is so important?
Absolutely. I am a firm believer in a sterile environment for tattoos. After all, a tattoo is basically a “controlled abrasion.”
Blood borne Pathogens are rampant in this industry, so we have to be very careful to keep the situation under control for the customer’s safety, as well as ours. Ultimately, as long as I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, everyone, including me, will be safe. You don’t know if the customer before you has HIV or Hep C or any other number of issues, so a “sterile” environment with “single use” instruments, benefits us all.
6) If someone NEW came up to you and wanted to get a Tattoo – what would you say to them? (advice, etc.)
Simple, I’ll schedule you in as soon as possible…. *laughing*
First thing is first, get a decent idea of what kind of style you are looking for.
Research your artists and the shops they work for. You want to make sure you pick someone who is best going to represent the style you want to wear for the rest of your life.
Set up a consultation with that artist and bring all your reference materials with you, so you can give him/her a genuine idea of what is in your head.
Also, spend a bit of time talking with them. If you don’t get a good vibe, are you sure you want to spend potentially several hours with an artist that you don’t get along with? Check out their shop to make sure you feel comfortable with how clean it is and ask around. Do they have a good reputation on the street?
After all, word of mouth by actual customers is still the best form of advertisement.
7) I see that you’re also writing stories now – that’s really cool – Can you give the readers of ImpulseMagazine a brief outline of the stories?
Yes, I have a lot of writer friends, and one day my fingers just started on a mind of their own, chiseling out a story from my strange mind. When I conspicuously sent it to one of my writer friends, she simply looked at me with wide eyes and said, “You really should post this”….
I was shocked and excited and it kinda took off on its own.
My first story is of a Vampire tasked with protecting his race as well as the humans from an evil faction of vampires known as the “Sangue de Morte”…. You can read it at www.wookiestylestories.blogspot.com it is entitled “Rebirth”.
The other story is a short based in outerspace, where a man is trapped extra vehicular and it [sic the Story] rolls through what the human mind can grasp in this state of crisis. It is found at www.forcedsolitude.blogspot.com
Then, I also dabble in poetry, when my mind gets REALLY dark, that is at www.mindhurdles.blogspot.com
All in all, it [sic writing] has been a great release for me. Drawing doesn’t do it for me as much anymore because I do that every day. Now I can spin tales and let my readers comment and freak out over my cliff hangers… *grins*
8) Back to tattoos – would you say that the overall “perception” of what tattoos are – and what they represent has changed in recent years?
They have been getting more and more acceptable over the past 10 years, but with the onslaught of TV reality shows and such, they have rocketed into the mainstream. I think that there has been quite the benefit in that aspect, if only to show the world that we really can do actual artwork, not just the old sailor/biker stuff that your Mom warns you about.
Some of the best times have come from customers getting custom work and heading home to show their parents. Next thing I know, I have the parent in my chair just raving about what I did for their child and how they never knew some of the stuff I do was even possible… Talk about flattering.
9) What are your favorite tattoos to design and work on?
I’d have to say that I love realism. Portrait work and wildlife give a certain amount of satisfaction when the customer looks in the mirror and starts crying because they are so happy. I also absolutely love to do pin-ups. Just something about bringing the sexy female form to life in artwork… love it!!
10) If you were to give any young or new aspiring Tattoo Artists any words of encouragement and Wisdom – what would they be?
Practice your artwork!!!
There are too many good up and coming artists in this industry. If you don’t strive to be at the top of your game and continually work to break barriers, you will rot into obscurity. Also, very important, keep your ego in check. You may be a great artist, but skin is different. It’s ok for the customer to be excited about getting tattooed by you, but never forget that you need to be excited to do the work.
They can always go somewhere else, and they will.
ImpulseMagazine would like to thank Terry “Wookie” Hoffman for taking the time to do this interview.
If you’d like to see more of Terry’s work – our readers can find some of his artwork displayed at:
Interview by: Meki Cox