I did not know Jon Larson’s works until a few months ago, when on Instagram I saw one of his splendid tattoos with strong neon colors, so vivid! It immediately caught my attention. Since then, I follow him and I always wait with curiosity which other subjects will come to life from his mind and his hands. Full lines and bright colors, with a style that for me is really recognizable and that I’m sure it will not leave you indifferent. I hope so much that one day he will decide to visit Italy, but in the meantime we can find him in his studio in Michigan, at Depot Town Tattoo.
What made you want to get tattooed?
I just remember being enthralled by them when I was real young, seeing them gave me this crazy exciting feeling… I still get that feeling when I see amazing tattoos. I remember seeing old punk rockers in the 80’s with tattoos on there heads walking through a mall and being hypnotized with curiosity and envy.
Can you tell me a bit about your journey in becoming a tattoo artist? At what point did you feel confident in yourself as a tattoo artist?
I’ve wanted to be a tattoo artist from the age of 8 I believe, my mom worked at a flea market where I became friends with the guys at the shop in there. I think I’ve been working at becoming a tattoo artist ever since. I’ve always drawn and gravitated towards the macabre, tattooing just seemed to be for me. I was working odd and end jobs, and going to college for art when I got my apprenticeship. After I finished that I worked at a couple shops around metro Detroit with great people and ended up at depot town where I have been for almost 10 years. I keep waiting for the confidence to come along.
Can you tell me about the studio you work in and its atmosphere?
It’s a tattoo shop where we are all bouncing around like non business people trying to conduct business… none of us take ourselves too seriously and we try to have as much fun while attempting a sort of progression. I want it to be an “our” tattoo shop type of experience where everyone is glad to be a part of it.
I would like the customers to feel like they get a glimpse of the camaraderie and that perhaps they are a part of something that is special.
What were some of the things you experienced or saw that inspired your creativity?
I try to take inspiration from everything, certain things spark me all the time, and I’m trying to translate whatever sparks me into ideas. I was just looking at a Kleenex box and liking the patterns on it (laughs)… I love art history and Tattoo history so I try to take snippets from the past and put them into my work. That feeling of being struck with overwhelming inspiration is so fun to find that I feel like I’m on the hunt for it everywhere and anywhere.
What is your favourite thing about being a tattoo artist?
I think the amount of desire I have towards being a good tattoo artist one day, the push that I give myself every time I get ready to make a tattoo, that thirst that I have to make tattoos for people to carry around with them.
Do you see a common theme running between your own tattoos?
I hope the common theme is fun to look at…
Do your tattoos reflect your personality?
I’m not sure, I know I got into a formula of how I like to do things so maybe that is from myself or my personality. I suppose how I would like things to look is also a part of me but rarely does something turn out with the expectations I had in mind, and I guess it is from my hands and my eyes so that’s got to reflect me somewhat.
How important is the relationship between you and the customer?
To me it is just as important as the tattoo itself, I think there can be a sacred bond between the client and myself and with that the mark you are putting on them becomes even more sacred.
A well done Tattoo can leave just as meaningful of a mark as a great experience.
What has been the most emotional experience you’ve had as a tattoo artist?
This question just made all of these memories pop up, I can’t pinpoint any single event that I’ve been the most emotional for but it’s definitely been a rollercoaster ride all these years. Times like leaving shops, people leaving shops I’m at, actually getting my foot in the door, getting to become the owner of a shop I’ve worked at for almost a decade, people passing away that I’ve tattooed and built friendships with, building the relationships with people. I guess the most emotional experience is being a tattoo artist.
If you could spend a month tattooing anywhere in the world where would you go?
Oh, wow! Are you buying me a trip to anywhere I’d like?! (laughs) I think if I could tattoo anywhere it would be somewhere remote, trying to get away from the hustle and bustle, making friends with locals and seeing if they would want a small mark from me. It could be anywhere really, Morocco, Nepal, Thailand… I think going to learn about ancient Tattoo methods from an old lineage would be such a great experience somewhere.
Do you have other passions / interests outside of tattoing?
I love trying to do bonsai, painting, I’ve been studying post-traditional Buddhism along with Buddhist practices and Tibetan Buddhist iconography. I have been trying to not drown myself in work lately but it’s a fault of mine to be emerged in work almost to the point of obsession.
What do you think is the greatest challenge in tattooing today?
Ooooh so many challenges, if I had to pick one I think it would be to try and make your own way in tattooing, so much exposure out there to tattooing, it’s a sea of great work and inspiration and It’s so hard to be noticed with an identity.
How would you like to see society evolve?
Ideally I would like to see everyone content and collaborative, working with each other and balancing out one another.
Any upcoming guest spots and conventions?
Til Death Tattoo in September, Bay Area tattoo convention in October, hopefully adventure tattoo after that… that’s as far as I’ve planned out.