2018 Tattoo Awards Winners


The point (pun intended) of Motif’s tattoo contest isn’t so much to pick winners – it’s to find an entertaining way to celebrate all the great tattooing that’s happening around the arts mecca of Rhode Island. Over 700 locals took time to ogle all the amazing artwork that was submitted, and here are the artists who got the most online-lovin’. Thanks to all who voted and all the astoundingly talented artists who participated!

Overall Color: Jay Blackburn, Powerline Tattoo
What drove you to pursue tattooing?
I liked the amount of dedication it took (for the client as well as the artist), and the amount of skill involved in the craft. Tattooing seemed like a great challenge to experience.

What do you love about your job? I love the creative freedom, as well as the personal interpretation. The mental challenges make it a fun (but stressful) profession. I would have to say the best part is making people’s ideas come to life.

What professional challenges have you faced? I try to figure out a way to make a tattoo stand out from others. Doing that can be stressful. The pressure and forced creativity can weigh heavy on your mind. As an artist, you’re always thinking about how to improve, it is a constant learning curve.

Who or what inspires your designs? I try to create interesting images by taking a simple yet structured approach to the designs. I want to do something that impresses people and also that impresses myself. Inspiration comes in many shapes and forms. Having an open mind to create something interesting and something new is the inspiration.

Black and Grey: Rob Young, Altered Images Tattoo
What drove you to pursue tattooing?
I [was] an artist since childhood. I found out early that I have the skill set for tattooing when it was first recognized by another tattoo artist who had been applying designs that I drew for my friends. This got me intrigued by the art and led to some accomplished local tattoo artists taking me under their wings.

What do you love about your job? I really love the craft and [I] get to meet different people from all walks of life every day, who trust me with leaving a permanent piece of art on them.

What professional challenges have you faced? The biggest challenges to being an artist is keeping it fresh and not getting burned out. Trends in the art change all the time, but keeping true to art that will stand the test of time is key to a long career. Knowing what will look good years down the road comes from seeing your work over time. I also believe in good customer service; if you treat your clients well and give them a great experience, they will feel comfortable and recommend friends and family.

Who or what inspires your designs? Having tattooed for more than 20 years and operating two locations, I pride myself on keeping an excellent staff of artists and giving people the best possible art we can offer. If you love what you do, it’s less like work and more of passion.

Linework and Tribute/Memorial: Misshell Carter, 1001 Troubles Tattoo
What drove you to pursue tattooing?
I was about to graduate with a bachelor’s in illustration and was searching for avenues to start my life. I realized that the most lucrative and professional art was digital. I couldn’t stand the thought of being trapped in front of a computer or in a cubicle. There are not many jobs as hands-on as tattooing, and it remains one of the craziest and most challenging things I’ve done. Not a day goes by where I don’t think, “This is unbelievable, I would never have seen myself accomplishing this.” The originality and permanency of the art interested me, and the freedom and hands-on approach lured me in from there on out.

What do you love about your job? I love the freedom. At the shop I joke about how I would never be able to go back to the world of real jobs, we have checked our child-safe filter at the door and get to joke and laugh all day. Honestly, it is amazing that we can work alongside the same four or five people and not kill each other, we actually like each other, and that’s hard to find. Each day feels like a new challenge, and I love that, too. New clients, different ideas and I have to figure out how to make them creative and original!

What professional challenges have you faced? Lately it has been a challenge to maintain social media without it compromising my self worth. There is so much emphasis on likes and shares that it becomes difficult not to weight your worth on that. But as an independent artist and a business owner these are necessary to success.

Who or what inspires your designs? I have always loved stories, from Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter to Grimms’ Fairy Tales, and lately that has been an inspiration. There’s so much rich culture and imagery in folk tales and fantasy novels it is hard not to get creative … as you’re buried in a book. I love nature, creatures and botanicals, of course! But sometimes real life is dull and overwhelming and I would prefer to draw up a fantastic creature or surreal entity!

American Traditional, Calligraphy/Typography, Geometric, and Blackwork: Imani Ailese, Urban Artifacts Tattoo
What drove you to pursue tattooing?
I always loved art. I grew up in a family of artists. I got my first tattoo when I was 16 and I’ve been hooked ever since.

What do you love about your job? Meeting new people from different backgrounds and different walks of life who I wouldn’t normally meet in any other setting.

What professional challenges have you faced? Maintaining my artistic freedom with clients, competing with scratchers and scratcher prices and balancing time between tattoo work and my personal art work.

Who or what inspires your designs? There are so many things that inspire me. Afrocentricity, urban culture and pop culture, just to name a few.

Best Character and Best Cover Up: Rhiannon Spaziano, Phoenix Tattoo
What drove you to pursue tattooing?
I had always had an interest in art. I got my first tattoo at 18, and since no one in my family had tattoos, it intrigued me immensely. I asked a LOT of questions and thankfully the woman who would end up being my mentor was open to answering them. She and I really became close, and that is when I started my apprenticeship. There weren’t very many female tattoo artists in the area at the time. This was back in late ‘95 /early ‘96, so it was very different than it is now, and I love that it’s progressed so much. Once I started in the industry, I loved everything about it.

What do you love about your job? I do not consider tattooing a “job;” it is my passion. I rarely feel as if I am actually working. The creative process is another aspect I love about tattooing. Granted, there are a lot of flash pieces that I have done, and still will do since I feel this is a core part of tattooing. Meeting awesome people and seeing the reactions when their tattoos are exactly right or far exceed their expectations really is what makes it all worthwhile to me.

What professional challenges have you faced? Most of the challenges I have faced were the first few years of my career. Being a female in a male-dominated industry at the time, many people would not take us seriously. Though, I had never had any issues with fellow tattoo artists, it was mostly the public. Finding the right shop to work at so you can grow as an artist is important as well; that can be a challenge for any artist. Once you find those core people and are open to learning new techniques and open to critique of your work, that is how you grow.

Who or what inspires your designs? I am more of a fine line artist, so artists such as Ed Beard Jr,, Brom, Brian Froud, Frank Frazetta, Julie Bell, Julie Dillion, Olivia De Berardinis, etc. I really enjoy high detail fine line tattooing; fantasy work really makes me happy to do. Of course, my clients and working with them on their ideas are an inspiration as well. I really enjoy the consultation process of tattooing, talking with a client and getting a feel for the ideas they have, and going from there.

Honorable Mentions: Gregory Arpin: Unicorn Ink, Cathy Johnson: Noblehand Tattoo, CJ Loco: Richmond St Tattoo, Audrey Mello: Hailey Jeans Tattoo

Designers’ Picks: Bruce Campinha: East Providence Tattoo, Ron Wells: Torchbearer, Chelsea Shoneck: Torchbearer