Currently reading : The creative director of the jewellery brand The Sum shares with us his tattoos
The creative director of Oregon based jewellery company The Sum has shared with us photos and descriptions of his truly impressive tattoo collection. Spanning from the likes of Thomas Hooper, Stefanie Tamez, Chad Koeplinger and Liam Sparkes, David owns tattoos by some of the most innovative and important contemporary tattooers around so we decided to find out more about his journey and collection.
Arms & Feet
I got the tiger head from Craig Brown here in Portland, OR a couple years ago. Whenever I would go in his shop I’d see a painting he did of this old flash- and I loved it, but I never knew where to get it tattooed on me. So one day I decided the foot, and we put it on there. The rose is from Bailey Robinson. I’ve always loved his roses, so after I got the tiger I knew that I needed a rose on the other foot. We did that one in his private studio in Brooklyn, NYC. The toes are all stick and pokes from my friend. For a couple months last year we’d have people over at my old house and have some drinks and hand poke each other. It was always fun, and someone ended up with a pizza-skateboard tattoo one time that was real cool. I’ll have to finish the toes off one day with more stick and pokes. I’d love to have Guy Le Tattooer do the toes on the other foot.
I was in Denver, CO visiting a friend and we both decided we wanted to get tattooed, but I think it was a Monday or something so a bunch of shops were closed. She was friends with Fish who owned a shop, so after a few texts he agreed to open the shop on his day off. What a great dude- he was so nice and super cool. I decided I wanted an impossible cube on my hand and so he put it on there. I think my friend got an all-seeing eye on her arm.
Oh man. I’ve been trying to get tattooed by Hooper for years. I think it’s honestly been 4 years. It just never worked out due to traveling or scheduling or whatever, but I always knew I wanted him to do my arms. It finally worked out and we did two days in a row on my left arm a few months ago. I am so stoked on it. I had a great time hanging with him and talking about art and life and stuff. He’s cool. I’m really excited to finish this up and then start the other arm and more.
Another shot of the tattoo Thomas Hooper did in Austin, TX. It was nice because Maxime was down there at the same time and I hadn’t seen him a while and we got to catch up and kick it.
I used to travel to NYC a lot to get tattooed. I would always stay with my friends Amy and Bob. They’re a funny bunch and after I got this really beautiful detailed raven, Bob looked at it and decided that its left foot looked like a dick. I kind of like that. Stefano Alcantara did this one and he is unbelievably talented and kind.
Full chest before I started my arm with Hooper.
I think arrow tattoos are cool. Usually they’re tough or masculine or show forward progress. I thought it’d be cool to have a broken arrow instead. Craig Brown freehanded this one on me. He did a bunch of the other pieces on my chest too.
Stephanie Tamez did this one in NYC. We had done a bunch of other tattoos that day and had a good time. I forget where the reference image came from, but it’s an open book and she’s really good at tattooing.
Liam Sparkes did this one while traveling through San Francisco. I’ve always been inspired by the tattoos he has, and I love the way he makes tattoos, so it was cool to get tattooed by him. We did two tattoos that day and at the end Liam was feeling so inspired that he insisted that I take mushrooms from him. I was headed to my aunt’s 60th birthday party that night so I took the conservative route. Another time. . .
I love all of Kepler’s old drawings and found this one in a book somewhere. Craig Brown put this one on me and I dig it.
I used to travel a lot to Southern California, and on one trip I decided to get this dagger on my ribs from Tom Moser. A friend of mine was buddies with him and set up the appointment that day. It’s always great to think of a tattoo and then get it the same day.
Maxime did this one and a bunch of others in a two day session in NYC. I love this one. Unfortunately it’s really tough to photo.
After I got the dagger in one trip, I felt like I needed a hatchet on the other side, so my next trip to California resulted in Tom Moser giving me this one.
I think this is the only script tattoo I have. I was living in Vermont at the time and had a few things happen in my life that I wasn’t happy about. I wanted to leave myself a note to stick to my values. I tried to get a walk in that day, but I couldn’t. It ended up taking a day or two to book something. I forget the tattooer’s name, but he was a nice guy.
These are the Kabbalic symbols for earth, air, water, and fire. Craig Brown did these in Portland, OR.
Liam Sparkes did this and the candle tattoo on a trip to San Francisco. I love this one. The girl I was dating at the time was no good. Liam met her for 5 minutes and immediately declared her as being shitty. I was a bit surprised he just came out and said it, but deep down I knew he was right. And a few months later when she revealed her true self I thought of Liam and how he called it. Listen to your tattooer, friends. hahaha
Bert Krak did this one in NYC. We didn’t talk much, but the shop was super cool. Amazing flash all over the walls. This tattoo stands out to me though because my friends from NY insist that this bird has balls instead of feet. It makes me happy every time I see it.
I love how the photographer is so vulnerable with his head covered. I’ve always liked this about photography. There is a vulnerability, both physical and emotional in showing others how your unique view of the world. Stephanie Tamez did this one in NYC.
This one is a favorite of mine. As a kid I always drew these weird geometric shapes with holes or tunnels through them. Maxime did this one in NYC and there’s just something so cool about it. There’s a bunch of other symbols and other tattoos in this shot. Sometimes I would just find something cool or a tattooer or friend would think of something, and I’d just commit to getting it right away in order to not over think things. There’s something really powerful about surrendering to the permanence of a tattoo and the trust of your tattooer.
This is another one that to me is just so cool. Craig Brown drew this one on by hand after we thought of a couple different ideas to fill in that space. I love it, and I’m so glad it didn’t go any closer to my nipple. People that get their nipples tattooed are intense. That is painful.
This is a tattoo that if people see it, they always love it. It’s very subtle and really beautiful. Maxime did this one in NYC. We talked and thought it would be cool to do a rose with no outline and we were right.
Craig Brown drew this one on so it fit just right in place. I think this was the session where he had kava in the shop. That stuff tastes like dirty death water and it makes your throat and mouth numb, but if you drink enough of it you’ll get subtle dizzy buss and feel pretty stress free. For the record I don’t really like snakes though.
A six sided star done in Southern California during a past work trip. This was the first time that I got tattooed by Eric Jones. He is an amazing guy. This tattoo was intensely painful. It felt like he was carving into my heart. And, honestly it was like a spiritual event- my mind went on a crazy journey. He really packed the black in there and its still really dark years later. I also love the crescent moons and Fibonacci’s Golden Rectangle in this photo. Those were done later on by someone else though.
Maxime did this one in NYC and it’s one of my all-time favorite tattoos. Think of whatever meaning you like, because there are several. But visually I just love it.
Stephanie Tamez did this one in NYC. I can’t remember where this idea came from. But, I really like this one. She’s such a badass and such a nice person too. It’s always a pleasure.
Stephanie Tamez also did this one. It’s all whip-shaded and right on that weird part of your stomach that echoes when you get tattooed, so this was a fun one. The image came from an old book that my friend had and Stephanie re-interpreted it into this amazing tattoo. Very grateful to have this tattoo.
We did this one the same day as the 3 faced girl. It was intense. Maxime was in NYC getting tattooed by Hooper in the morning, then he’d get a quick break, and then tattoo me all afternoon. They were fun times, but I always wondered how he was able to keep going.
Atlas Tattoo here in Portland, OR had their 15th anniversary party and did $15 tattoos all day to celebrate. There was a line out the door early in the morning. I couldn’t believe it. Luckily my friends let me sneak in a spot with Cheyenne Sawyer. He was really cool, and blasted out this amazing girl for 15 bucks. We even popped in the 15 into her hat. I’ve kept in touch with him a bit and stopped in to the shop a few times to kick it with him. He’s a cool guy. Hopefully I’ll get tattooed by him again some time.
This was another tattoo I got at an event. Jason Kundell’s shop here in Portland had a New Year’s Eve flash special one year. I forget who tattooed me but I got this amazing girl for only $50 I think, and she’s snuggled up right near my ass. Nothing like getting your ass tattooed on New Year’s Eve.
I was back east visiting family and friends and made plans for this Dietzel girl with Bailey Robinson in NYC. We did this one and the little crooked smile Zeiss girl above it the day after we did my rose foot. We listened to sad country tunes and talked about man stuff in his private studio. Haha. These are two of my favorite girls on my leg- both for different reasons. And, I’m proud to say that of all the Dietzel girls I’ve ever seen, the one on my leg is my favorite.
A friend of Ben Rorke’s mentioned once that he was a really nice guy. I had seen his work before on instagram and I really liked it, so I hit him up and we booked a sitting during the Bay Area convention a few years ago to do this chubby girl.
I went down to Spider Murphy’s just outside of San Francisco to get this one. It was a fun trip. I got this girl from Capilli Tupuo one day and then another girl head from Paul Dobleman the next. This girl’s got strawberries in her hair. How cool is that?
I love how Paul Dobleman’s tattoos appear completely timeless. Even when this tattoo was completely fresh, it looked like it had always been there on my leg, as if it was just meant to be there. He’s one of my favorite tattooers doing traditional girl heads like this and I was so pumped to get this from him.
This was the first girl head I got. I didn’t know it would turn into a complete leg sleeve at the time. I had just quit my job and hopped in the car with my dog for what became a 3-month road trip. I was in Salt Lake City visiting some friends and woke up one day and felt like I should get a girl head tattoo. I called my friend and he said he had just the guy. We went into the shop and although Jake Miller was booked, he talked to me about the idea I had. He really liked the idea and in the end made time in his schedule to make this tattoo for me that day. Getting tattooed by Jake has become a bit of a routine every time I stop through Salt Lake.
Here’s the full leg. It’s not quite done. I’ve got a couple decent sized spots left and then a bunch of small ones.
I had wanted this Grimm queen of hearts for a long time. Craig Brown had tattooed me in Portland once before, so when I decided it was time to get this girl I hit him up. I think he nailed it- it’s the best queen of hearts I’ve ever seen.
I’m pretty sure that this was the first time that Craig Brown tattooed me. This one is high up on my inner thigh, which basically means his stretching hand was pushing on my balls for about 3 hours. We’re close friends now.
I wanted to get this Owen Jensen girl for a long long time. On one trip through Salt Lake City Jake Miller made it happen for me. I think this was the time where he opened the shop on his day just so it would work with my schedule. That’s amazing. I’m really grateful for that. He’s a great dude and always keeps a good conversation.
Getting your kneecap tattooed is not that fun. Especially after you’ve already been tattooed for 2 or 3 hours earlier in the day. I’m not sure why we didn’t do this one the first of the day, but for some reason it seemed like the way to go. Jake Miller made this one, and I love it, but I’m glad the kneecap drilling is over.
I had the idea of a girl with roses over her eyes for a while. And, I had wanted to get tattooed by Chad Koeplinger for a while as well. So, at one year’s Bay Area convention it all worked out. I had been living in Vermont for years before that and after talking a bit Chad realized that he knew of only one person in Vermont. It turns out that the one person Chad knew was a friend of mine who I had been in a full-on bar fight with (he was on my side). Fighting isn’t really my thing, but that night was weird and Eric (the mutual friend that Chad and I had) ended up going to the emergency room for stitches in his shoulder from a pint glass that missed its mark. Anyway, Chad and I had a good time laughing about that while he tattooed me.
I got this girl in the moon from Mark Cross a while back during one of his visits to Portland, OR. He’s a great dude. Mark recently went through heart surgery back in May, but I think he’s doing ok now. Still sending him good vibes though.
Seth Wood did this girl on my shin at the Bay Area convention one year. I think it was his first appointment of the show and he was still jet lagged but he knocked it out.
Jake Miller’s shop in Salt Lake City had this cool old carnival poster on the wall that said “Alexander- The Man Who Knows” with a guy wearing a head wrap. I thought it’d be cool to mix the head wrap with a snake and Jake did too. So we blasted this one out during a trip through Salt Lake City.
The old East River shop in Greenpoint NYC was the coolest. The best books, and endless amounts of weird drawings and art, and really nice people. I haven’t been to the new location, but I bet it’s cool as well. Sue Jeiven did this girl one day at East River while my dog sat on and patiently watched.
I had been tattooed by Eric Jones once before he did this one. And I had met him through a friend one other time before that. When I went in to get this tattoo in Southern California I was traveling to escape some nasty personal stuff happening in my life. Eric and I weren’t personally close at all, but he could tell something was bothering me. I eventually told him what was up and then suddenly the whole shop stopped what they were doing and chimed in giving me encouragement and telling me I’d be ok. Five or so burley tattoo guys giving me heartfelt advice. It was really nice having a bunch of dudes back me up like that. Eric got real inspired by it all and gave me a pep talk like no other I’ve ever had. And, he gave me this insane tattoo that is still so bright to this day.
All photos by Rama Images
Find out more about The Sum here.