Adam Potts Talks American Traditional Tattoos
Hi Adam Potts! So tell us, what’s your short story?
I do tattoos at Acme Ink in Louisville, KY. I do them as clean and nice as I can and I do them very fast. I also paint a little.
How long, and with whom, did you apprentice before coming into your own?
I apprenticed under Tattoo Charlie Wheeler for around fourteen months before I started tattooing for money in November of 2001. I don’t feel like I came into my own until a year or two ago, but that’s not to say I’m finished learning or moving forward. That’s one of the things I love about my job, there’s is ALWAYS more to learn and room to improve. If I ever feel like I can’t learn any more I’m going to quit.
What was it like apprenticing under 30-year veteran “Tattoo Charlie Wheeler”?
Charlie was a real character. I was always a little intimidated by him. When I first started tattooing friends during my apprenticeship and he was watching over my shoulder I would sweat a ton. I would literally have to change shirts afterward. It got so bad he made me go to a doctor to make sure nothing was wrong with me. There wasn’t I was just very nervous. My fear was actually pretty unfounded though, I think he had mellowed out a lot as he got older. He never once hit me with his “apprentice stick”, which was a two fought long double ended black dildo. When it comes down to it, though, I couldn’t be more grateful to him for giving me a chance and I wish I had told him that before he passed.
How do you feel about Tattooing?
It ain’t always blow jobs and roses.
Ha! I think you just summed up life along with tattooing. Who would you say are your biggest influences as an artist?
Hands down, my biggest influence as an artist was Richard Corben. He did the cover of
Meatloaf”s Bat Out of Hell album, you know the one, with the guy on a motorcycle bursting out of the ground of a cemetery, while a giant bat with wings spread on top of a tombstone watches on. I’ve never seen another piece of art by the man, but as a kid I would pull out my mom’s copy of the album and just stare at the cover. I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen and when I was five it may very well have been.
What is your favorite Tattoo style?
I’m a sucker for American traditional. I think it’s what tattoos should look like. Charlie told me once, if you can’t tell what a tattoo is from across the room than it isn’t a good tattoo.
What is the most memorable piece you’ve created? Describe it? Who was it done for?
I’ve done a lot of pieces that I am very proud of on a lot of really great people, but the one that I will probably always remember was a Taz. Years ago, a guy came into the shop and wanted Taz with some words arched above and below. I sat down and drew, well traced, the Taz and then I draw a circle around it to use as a guide for the lettering. When I showed him the drawing I had not erased the circle but explained that it would not be part of the tattoo. He liked the circle and wanted it instead of the letters. I tried to explain to him that a Taz with a big circle around it might not look the best, but he insisted, so I did it. When I finished he looked at his circled Taz in the mirror and said,”I think you were right. This does look kinda stupid.” I said,” It sure does,” then I bandaged him up and sent him on his way.
Tell us about your experience getting your first Tattoo? What did you have done?
I got my first tattoo when I was eighteen, for my mother, who died when I was fifteen. I drew it myself and its a traditional mom heart with a dagger through it.
Is that your favorite Tattoo that you own?
I’ve never thought about “owning” tattoos, but I like all my tattoos. I guess, if I had to pick, it would be my first one or the anchor and heart I got on my wedding day.
Well, there is this one adult film star, maybe you’ve heard of her, Misti Dawn? I’ve done all her work and I’m such a professional/gentleman I’ve never had her take off her clothes to do any of them.
I do know Misti Dawn, and if you weren’t married…I’d think you missed an amazing opportunity haha. Tell us the funniest experience you’ve had as a Tattoo Artist?
One of the guys I used to work with at Tattoo Charlie’s was a bit of a mentor to me. He had been tattooing for awhile and had lived a very “eventful” life, he had since turned his life around and was now a great father, good friend, pacifist, teetotaler, vegatarian, NA sponsor, the biggest Ramones fan I’ve ever seen and gave talks at prisons about drug abuse. We were eating lunch at the shop one day and he turns to me and says, “I’ve been through and seen a lot in my life and there is only one thing I would have done different.” I knew what he was about to tell me was going to be golden. The kind of thing you can only learn from going through hell and coming out on the other side. “If I had it all to do over again,” he continued, “I’d have had sex with more fat ugly girls.”
Wouldn’t we all? Do you feel that Tattooing has changed over the years? Why? Is it better or worse?
Of course tattooing has changed. The oldest human remains ever founded had tattoos and the modern tattoo machine was only invented around one hundred years ago. I’d guess that its changed in almost every way at one time or another. As far as it being better or worse, I don’t think its my place to say.
Do you prefer any specific kinds of ink? Why?
I do. They are better than the other ones I have used.
Fair enough lol. What’s your machine and Gun of choice? Why?
My favorite tattoo machines are a pair that my buddy Boda with built for me. I’ve been using them as my day to day machines for six plus years now. He sells them through Kingpin Supply, so check them out. My favorite firearm is a knock off Derringer. It’s a side by side breach loader that shoots either .45 long colts or 410 shotgun shell. It’s got a three inch barrel and a tiny handle with no trigger guard. It’s ridiculous.
Nice armory. Who is your favorite Tattoo Artist? Why?
Well, me, of course.
Yeah, duh right? Do you have any friendly rivalries with other Tattoo Artists? Is there anyone in the
community who makes you push yourself?
I have a rivalry with every other tattooer I’ve ever met or seen. I want to be better than everyone, I never will be, but I want to be and that’s what pushes me.
Words to live by man. Who is your favorite band at the moment?
For the past few months now I’ve been listen to nothing but the Boss or The Drive-by Truckers, with a little Lucero thrown in there every now and then.
I have seen some of your paintings and they are awesome! How often do you paint compared to Tattooing? Do you have a favorite painting?
Thanks! Generally, if I’m at the shop, and not tattooing, I try and paint. I do go through lazy periods though, where I don’t do a lot of painting, but they are usually followed by very productive periods.
What are your top 3 favorite movies of all time?
Good question. The Jerk, Mad Max (the first one, not Road Warrior or that Thunder-dome turd), and Jaws. I also really liked The Dark Knight, but those other three are classics.
If you hadn’t become a Tattoo Artist, what do you think you would be doing today?
I’d love to say something really cool and sexy, but in all honesty, I think I’d probably be an accountant or some other boring office type worker.
Shout out time! Feel free to list any events you will be attending, things you want to promote, people you want to throw some love to.
There are really too many people I like to mention, so I think I’ll just make this about me. That way I can’t hurt anyone’s feeling if I forget them.
My website should be up soon:
tattoosalvation.com, until then you can keep up with me on facebook or twitter and myspace, if anyone still uses it.
I’m working on putting together a fun little art book soon and I’ve got some ideas for some art auctions I’d like to do in the near future. I can’t give to many details now, but I’ve also got something really BIG in the works, but you’ll have to
wait to hear more about it.
Interview by Tim Bonner