The Skinny on Breaking Skin at Pogue Mahone Tattoo Company
By Matt Chrystal (WNJ correspondent)
Throughout the summer of 2016, I will be spotlighting a DIY brand that is raising hell, going wild or otherwise “Breaking Bad” in the good ol’ Garden State. This weekly series will explore the who’s, how’s, why’s and what’s happenin’ behind several of New Jersey’s most unique and interesting DIY brands. Armed with a set of ten questions, I’ll check in on tattoo artists, pomade purveyors, hot sauce hawkers, craft beer brewers, emerging bands, classic barbers, b-movie makers, burlesque dancers, beard growers, music bloggers and record company reps as they as strive to find a release from the typical constraints of normal society and follow their transformation from hopeful upstarts into badass entrepreneurs.
I am flying high over Tupelo, Mississippi with America’s hottest band… and we are all about to die! Yeah… No, I am not. I am laying on a table in a tattoo shop on Route 35 in Red Bank, NJ and I’m going back and forth in my mind from checking out the artwork and pop culture memorabilia on the walls for the 1000th time and trying to meditate to find my “happy place.” Jersey Jay Wymbs is taking another pass on my calf with his tattoo machine (don’t you dare call it a tattoo “gun”) and assure me we are almost finished. Sure, the man has a gentle hand but after hours of line work, coloring and shading, I’m starting to crack. Yeah, I know I’m just being a big baby and I remind myself that Jay is a master at his craft and this tattoo is gonna amazing like all of his work, so I just have to suffer to be beautiful.
Each time I get a tattoo, I wonder if I’m supposed to just blurt out my reasons, back-story or justifications for getting this particular image inked onto my skin for all eternity. Does the artist want to concentrate on his task which is literally at hand, and just do his thing or does he want to hear me blather on and tell my story?
“Matty, don’t nobody here wanna hear your story, bro,” Jay jokes and the room erupts with laughter. Okay, okay, nobody wants to hear from me but I want to hear Jay’s story…. So I ask him the ten questions…
WNJ: Let’s get goin’ by talking about when you first got goin’…everyone loves an origin story… soooo…
1. Why did you name your shop “Pogue Mahone”?
JAY: Pogue Mahone means “Kiss my Arse” in Gaelic. I chose this name for a variety of reasons. When I started tattooing in 1991, tattoos were not as acceptable as they are today. I had plenty of doubters telling me that tattoos were trashy and that they were only for bikers, sailors and criminals and that I would never amount to anything in life. My drawing teacher told me that my art was garbage and I would never make a living drawing this trash. I heard all kinds of intolerant, closed minded comments and still would not back down. With years of hard work and dedication to the craft, I opened Pogue Mahone Tattoo Company and figured everyone that doubted me, my art or says tattoos are trashy can kiss my arse! Hence the name.
2. Why did you did you want to get into tattooing and how did you get your start in the biz?
As a child I was always intrigued by tattoos and the people that wore them. Their tattoos seemed to be like armor worn by battle hardened individuals that wouldn’t take crap from anyone. One of my first exposures to tattoos was my grandparents hanging out at the VFW where I would get to see these great American war heroes wearing their badges of war, love and life in their skin. They always had great stories to go with their tattoos. These WW2 & Vietnam vets were tough as nails and to me, their tattoos were plenty proof of that.
My mother was also friends with the Asbury Park musicians scene of the 1960’s and friends with a bunch of party-hard bikers. Tattoos were common place in my household as long as they were on the guests. Growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s, I was musically influenced by punk rock and heavy metal and all my music heroes had tattoos and at an early age, I knew I wanted in on the action.
As long as I can remember, I was always drawing something, cartoons, comics, band logos or some other nonsense. Tattooing just felt right and seemed to be the only place that made me feel like I was a part of something greater. On my 18th birthday I received my first professional tattoo and knew immediately that this was the life for me.
After many turn downs, I was finally able to get the instruction that I was looking for from Tony “The Pirate” Cambria and his son Little Tony. I was frequenting their shop in Keansburg a lot and kept insisting they teach me. The Old Man insisted on telling me to get lost. After about 6 months of hearing “NO”, Little Tony called out of work one day and the Old Man told me to grab a broom and get to work. That was how it all started and I’ve never looked back.
3. What does your process look like when going about tattooing a customer?
My process for tattooing starts with the client. My job is to apply it cleanly, correctly and to the very best of my ability. Other than that, it’s all about the client’s desire to adorn themselves. We start by doing a formal consultation where the client is able to explain what they want done and how they like to see themselves. During this stage, I sketch a bit and we talk about all the details (size, placement, price, appointment, etc.) It’s at this point that I get to have a good feel for the client’s emotions that the tattoo is representing. It’s all about developing that level of personal connection that directs the design composition. I’ll talk to the client for hours to make sure we are on the same page. Plus, I like to talk a lot; I’ve got a big mouth!
4. How big a role does the area/community of New Jersey that you operate out of play into your business? (i.e. does it provide inspiration? motivation? support? resources?)
We are located on the north side of Red Bank. Our community plays a big role in who and what we tattoo. Red Bank has a great sensibility for art, music, theater and film. We are close to the residents of the area and have a great family based clientele as well. I believe our clients want more than just another generic, run of the mill tattoo shop. We do walk-in based tattoos, as well as book appointments for more custom-based artwork. We love being able to find out what type of art is popular in different circles and Red Bank has a wide variety of influence.
You bring up popular, different and variety of influences … in addition to describing “tattooing” in today’s society, those words can also be applied to all the ways tattoos, artists and clients are showcasing their “ink.” There’s plenty of mainstream exposure through regular media outlets such as the numerous TV shows and print magazines and of course, the Internet is virtual “flash-art book” with a near infinite number of websites and social media pages dedicated to the art form of the tattoo. Now, it’s no secret that online communities play a big role in the success and expansion of DIY businesses and with any relationship, there seems to be periods of love and hate as opinions and reviews flow freely on open forums and message boards… So, with that being said…
5. I have often thought that tattoo artists are similar to the Jedi and Sith of Star Wars, there are masters and apprentices and it’s pretty damn tough to become either… and neither go around telling secrets of their trade to just anyone . Does being part of a real life community of tattoo artists and being involved with an online community that is just as quick to offer suggestions, advice and feedback as they are to offer up a pic or video of their latest ink, make it difficult to “please the people” and still “stay true” to the “ancient order of tattoo artistes”?
There tends to be a lot of opinions and criticism in today’s tattoo world about its growth and obvious expansion. I’m all for it. It’s human nature to fear change and a lot of tattooers are intimidated by these changes. I embrace change and the growth that follows. I hate being stagnant and the media forces us to see what other guys are doing. In a sense, it’s gotten so big that it’s time to shit or get off the pot.
The TV shows have removed so much taboo from a beautiful art form and brought it back to the people where it belonged in the first place. I personally don’t watch them, but I’m glad that my clients do. There’s an entire generation that watched tattooing on TV in their living rooms as kids. (When I was a kid) I had to peek through the window of shady tattoo parlor only to be chased off by scary bikers. Everyone now wants to get better quality work and have much cooler ideas than they used to.
I wish these TV shows would have disclaimers not to do it from home. It’ very irresponsible on their part not to mention that untrained tattooing is a public health concern and comes with very dangerous consequences. Other than that, I’m glad that the world has allowed such a beautiful and ancient art form to have a revival and acceptance within today’s society.
6. What phase of the love/hate relationship would describe your current state of mind when dealing with the online community? It’s cool, I’m your friend, you can tell me!
I’m way okay with the ol’ interwebs. Online marketing/advertising is an absolute must if you want to stay busy. We use the standard social media sites and can easily be found by any search engine.
7. Your brand has taking you to many places, not only in the Garden State but also around the United States? What is one of your favorite adventures or experiences?
I am a member of the Ink-Fusion Empire which is the World’s leading professional tattoo program at comic cons and entertainment shows. Ink-Fusion Empire is licensed by LucasFilms & endorsed by Stan Lee. We travel the globe tattooing fans of all walks of life. It’s such an amazing experience to be part of such a prestigious group and get to work with such talented artists.
Marc Draven created the group by bringing his two true loves of tattooing and the pop culture worlds together. It was only a matter of time before us other tattoo nerds got wind of is brilliant plan and joined his band of misfit tattoo artists. He has created a group that has become more like family and we constantly look forward to seeing and working with each other at every event.
With Ink-Fusion Empire, I had the amazing honor and privilege to be licensed by LucasFilms and work at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim CA 2015. This was like a childhood dream come true. I will forever be grateful.
Sounds like a really interesting and amazing experience, let’s talk about future experiences…
8. What should we know about what you have got going on?
As fate would have it, I was chosen once again to work this year’s Star Wars Celebration, London UK, July 15-17th 2016. I am also super excited that I have the honor of tattooing at many of the Walker Stalker Conventions. I’m a big Walking Dead fan, so it’s really fun to get to work side by side with many of my favorite celebrities.
It’s an incredible opportunity to get the chance to do something a little different with my career other than just sit in the shop and draw all day. I love to travel so getting the chance to see new places and leave my mark wherever I may land has been such a moving experience in my life. With the support of both my home and road families, the past few years have been beyond compare.
9. What can we look forward to in the future from Jersey Jay & Pogue Mahone Tattoo Company?
I’d like to think that I’ll be continuing on the same course going forward. I’m forever grateful and dedicated to all the staff of Pogue Mahone Tattoo Company for being a guiding force in my day to day life. We all drive each other to be better and all carry a positive, progressive attitude. We all love what we do, so we’ll stay the course. It’s been an amazing ride to this point so the future has no limits.
10. Where can folks find you to keep up with you?
Check out all the amazing artists at:
Pogue Mahone Tattoo Company, 275 Hwy 35 Red Bank, NJ 07701
(732) 383-TAT0 (8280)
Instagram: @poguemahonetattoocompany and @jerseyjaywymbs
Thanks for the info and the time, Mr. Wymbs! I’ve gotten a ton of compliments on both my Stan Lee and JarJar Binks tattoos that you graced me with (yes folks, meesa has a badass JarJar tattoo) and I’m looking forward to keeping up with your stories and pics from the conventions! Annnnd to our faithful readers, Stay Up, Stay Tuned and Tune In Next Time as WEIRDNJ “Breaks Cool ” with The Coolest of Music Bloggers, James Appio of CoolDadMusic.com.