As I was going through September’s Annual Tattoo issue, I noticed an ad that really caught my eye. The artwork in the ad was unbelievable, so I had to investigate further. The name of the shop is Blackwork Tattoo and it’s located at 69-B Route 23 South in Little Falls, NJ, right down the street from the Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, NJ. Anyway, I went to the shop’s website at blackworktattoo.com to see more. I was already impressed with the artwork from this shop, but then I noticed in their “about us” section of their site, they advertise themselves as having an “urban approach to tattooing.” This was something that was new to me. I thought tattooing was tattooing, but after talking to Ses, the owner of Blackwork Tattoo, I get it now. He explained that it’s pretty much just the attitude, but the attitude comes out in the artwork. After looking at more of his artwork, as well as the rest of his crew’s artwork, you can totally get the sense of that urban attitude. But here’s the best part… They’re located in Lilttle Falls, NJ, and you can’t get anymore suburban than that.
So, after checking out their website, I went down to the shop for a visit. Just my luck, the health department showed up for their inspection, so unfortunately I had to wait two hours just to talk to Ses. By the way, you’ll notice just like I did, that everyone in the shop only has one name ala Madonna, Cher, McLovin’, etc. Anyway, while I waited for Ses, I got to hang with Blackwork’s super friendly staff of artists—Caesar, Cisco, Ease, Chino “the piercer”, and apprentice Nickle. (See what I mean? No last names.) As I got to know the staff, I noticed that urban attitude that I later learned about, but I also learned that all of the artists come from different backgrounds, making them very diverse as artists. For instance, Caesar comes from a background in animation and excels in that when tattooing. Cisco, on the other hand, learned to tattoo in the streets of Newark by tattooing himself and friends at a very young age. Cisco likes to tattoo “old school” stuff. So as far as seeking a friendly environment in a tattoo shop goes, these guys get a thumbs up.
Now it was time to talk to the boss, Ses. First, a little background—Ses was always an artist. His artwork can be seen on various walls around NYC, as he used to paint murals and yes, graffiti. He got his start in tattooing when his friends started asking him to draw their tattoos for them, and he would take them to his tattoo artist to get them done. Eventually, that artist would notice Ses’ artwork and ask him to start tattooing. At first, Ses didn’t think that it was for him because he felt that doing art on a wall was way different than doing art on a person, but when that artist passed away, Ses decided to take on some of the artist’s unfinished business. This was when he realized his calling in life. He’s been tattooing since 1992 and opened Blackwork Tattoo in May of 1998. Ses told me that he had owned shops in Belleville and Wayne, NJ, but decided to close them down because he felt that instead of being surrounded by mediocre tattoo artists, he wanted to surround himself by the best team possible in one shop.
Since being in Little Falls for almost 10 years, Ses told me that what draws the customers into his shop is the black and gray work and their portrait work. In fact, he’s been getting more portrait work lately. Portrait tattoos are mainly used in memoriam of a loved one who has passed on. Ses also said that a lot of Blackwork’s clientele are repeat customers or referrals from customers. He says that it’s almost like a beauty salon, in that you go to a specific place because you know you’re in good hands when you get there. His tattoo shop is the same way. It’s a friendly environment surrounded by tattoo professionals who actually know what they’re doing. There was a point when Ses used to make his staff all go to the hospital to take a training class on how to clean and disinfect wounds when bleeding. There they would also learn how to sterilize their equipment and other universal precautions. Unfortunately, the hospital doesn’t offer that class anymore, but Ses and his crew go down to a local Red Cross to pretty much learn the same thing. Would I trust these guys with my blood? After learning about their training, I absolutely would!
Ses told me that the average person coming into his shop is between 17 and 28, with the occasional older person coming in to get some ink work done. Blackwork Tattoo’s prices are on the average compared to most shops in the $150 to $160 an hour range, but he likes to keep the prices reasonable. All of his artists will also take the time to consult their customers to accommodate their needs, as they too know how hard it is to make a decision on what one would want for a tattoo. They pride themselves on being honest to their customers because they don’t want to compromise their integrity for financial gain. The shop is mainly a flash shop, but they do custom work too. Ses feels that the internet has helped the tattoo industry immensely. Not only has it been good for advertising to give people an idea of the shop, but it also helps the customers become more prepared when they come in and say, “This is what I want tattooed! I found it on the internet!” As far as tv shows like “Miami Ink” or “L.A. Ink” helping the industry goes, he thinks that it has helped, but occasionally you’ll get a customer who will come in and expect a three-hour piece to be done in a half hour like it’s done on those shows. Come on, you got to laugh at that!
Blackwork Tattoo’s doesn’t just stop at ink! When you walk into the shop, you might be greeted by Chino, who is the resident piercer at the shop. There’s a ton of body jewelry to choose from as well as tattoo accessories. Ses told me that when he started tattooing, it was mostly rockers and bikers getting the tattoos. Now, you’ll always see rap and hip hop artists with tattoos too and that’s the urban crowd that he seems to cater to. Hey, rockers have Paul Booth, and the urban rap and hip hop world has Ses and his crew at Blackwork Tattoo.
You have to check this place out! They do great work. Their artists are great, the place is clean, and the environment is super-friendly. Oh, one last thing, if you get pierced at another shop and get infected, don’t come into Blackwork and ask Chino for advice. Just let him pierce you in the first place! He’s not the piercer who got you infected now, is he?
Check out Blackwork Tattoo online at blackworktattoo.com or myspace.com/blackworktattoo, or simply go down and just visit the shop. They do accept walk-ins. If you want to call the shop and make an appointment, just call 973-812-9500.
Well, I’m off to check out my next tattoo place!