An Interview with Unlce Tim

Unlce Tim - Studio 13 Tattoo

Donald Timothy Heitkotter /
Uncle Tim


Shop & Location:
Studio 13 Tattoo & Piercing
115 John St.
Salinas, CA 93901

Web Address:
Studio 13 Tattoo & Piercing

A Few From Tim's Own

Click here for a touch of Uncle Tim - Don't forget to come back and read his interview!

The Interview

BAW: What made you want to become a Tattoo Artist?
UT: I was fascinated by the art form, but I did not know it was possible for me because the shops were being so secretive. I have been a sign artist for 40 years (since age 5 with dad), and airbrushing and pinstriping artist for 25 years and witnessed the re-emergence of the Kustom Kulture (Ed Roth kinda stuff) in tattooing. This is the stuff I have been doing off and on since the 60’s. I thought, "hey, I can do this!" and sought after an apprenticeship. I met a local (TAT-2) artist who wanted to learn pinstriping so we agreed to trade lesson for lesson. But the shop manager shut it down and that was that. It did not stop me, however from moving forward. I was already hooked! When I saw my artwork in his book I understood!

BAW: Who are your influences?
UT: Oh man… Greg Irons and Sailor Jerry. It sounds like a oxymoron, but, I have others like Vyvyn Lazonga that make the mixture even more complicated.

BAW: What is your favorite style of work?
UT: It is hard to say. I love old school. I also like black and grey, but not that prison crap! Abstracts are a BLAST! Japanese is high on my list. I also have my own style that I am still developing that is half old school and half Kustom Kulture and part abstract thrown in.

BAW: Tell us about your first Tattoo Inkspierence?
UT: I got my first tattoo by Pinky Yun in Hong Kong in 1972 after coming back from NAM when I was in the Navy. I was drunk and very nervous. It’s a row of roses with the word "gunner" on top. I was a gunners mate on the destroyer John R. Craig.DD885. I had him cover up the name 15 years later with more roses and an eagle. When he was doing it, I had no idea it was him. He moved to San Jose, California and I just went into this shop to get it done and when he asked me who did it I said "Pinky". He said " it looks like one of mine" and I said "NO WAY". Then he showed me his I.D. Kind of a strange story.

BAW: What is your favorite piece you own?
A flaming skull cover up done by Iggy (everlasting, San Francisco) inside my left arm and modified HORIYOSHI III design on my right lower sleeve done by Adam Roach at Gold Coast Tattoo in Monterey, California.

BAW: What is your most memorable Tattoo given and why?
UT: I once did a tattoo designed by the client’s son who had killed himself with his father’s gun on his father’s bed. The poor guy had tried everything to let the incident go. Counseling, Religion, etc. He took his kid to Modesto (Good Time Charlie’s I think) to get the design put in, (His first tattoo). He brought me a blurry photo of the piece to duplicate on himself. It was a goofy design of a man changing into a dragon but I duplicated it perfectly and it was only by this that he can get some closure to his son’s suicide. I cried like a baby when he left. I have another one like that coming in soon. This time I new the kid who killed himself.

BAW: What is your most outrageous tattoo given and why?
UT:  I have a lot of those. I put flaming sleeves with skulls on a cop. I put a flaming skull (my favorite subject) on the back of a guy’s head. I have a project I’m finishing up tonight on this gal that has taken the first guy 40 hours and myself 56 to complete. You will see her at the Ink Slinger’s Ball this year. So be there! I put two horses on this woman’s pussy while her husband was saying " Why would anyone do something as stupid as piercing their tongue?" WHILE I AM TATTOOING HORSES ON HER CROTCH! The nerve of this guy! The list goes on and on.

BAW: Is there a part of the body you won't Tattoo and why?
UT: Yes, I don’t do faces, I don’t do minors, and I don’t do gang stuff. PERIOD!

BAW: How do you feel about female Tattoo Artists?
UT: I think female artists have contributed HUMUNGOUSLY to the trade.
I absolutely love Vyvyn Lazonga, Kari Barba, Judy Parker, and Gail Somers. Another friend of mine Andrea B. is opening a shop in New Orleans soon. So watch out for her…She is doing some really cool stuff. Hell, I apprenticed under a woman named Sherry Cisneros. I think women can kick ass just like the rest of us.

BAW: Do you support Supply co. that sell to the public?
UT: No.

BAW: Do you feel there now should be mandatory schooling
for soon to be tattoo artists?

UT: Yes. It is the proper way to learn about the trade. I am against schools, but, I am for an apprenticeship under an accomplished tattoo artist who can pass on tradition, history, technical, medical, and people skills to those who are worthy of their time and experience.

BAW: Do you feel Tattooing has changed over the years, and if so why?
UT: It has changed immensely! There are so many really great artists around now that it forces everyone to put in their best efforts to improve. It’s like there aren’t any rules anymore. Anything goes. The technical side has improved, too! The application techniques have improved as well. I am seeing stuff by guys like Joe Copabianco that make my eyes wobble it’s so good. Just think what his stuff is going to look like when I reach his level! WOW!

On the down side, there are way too many untrained artists opening up shops. And they are in it for all the wrong reasons. You can pick them out like turds in a bowl of bananas. It’s all the same, scratchy, single needle, jailhouse garbage. " I am going to get rich" they think. It all makes me sick when I see the damage they do to the trade, not to mention what they do to their own victims.

BAW: Do you think it is important to do as many conventions
and shows as possible?

I don’t think conventions are very sanitary at all. Don’t need to explain that part, either. But I don’t do conventions to work…Only to visit my friends and party. But I have had a few pieces done there. To be honest … it can be very intimidating from an artist’s standpoint. With my luck I would be assigned to the space next to Paul Booth and I would feel like a flea next to guys like that. I learned a lot just watching him, but, I would be too busy bowing and saying " I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy!" to get any work done.

BAW: What advise can you give to someone who is starting or
looking to get into the tattoo business?

UT: Draw, Draw, Draw, and when you are sick of drawing… draw some more. Draw everything you can think of. Rocks, people, cars, flowers, birds, hands, feet, faces, hats, dragons, mice, rats…EVERYTHING! Then take a 4" thick portfolio of this stuff and make the rounds. Keep asking for an apprenticeship at reputable shops until someone takes you in. Don’t give up until this happens. If you give up…you do not have the heart for the business and should seek employment elsewhere.

BAW: What could you say to someone who has had a bad first Inkspierence?
UT: Find reputable shop to have it repaired or cover up. If you love tattooing as much as I do…don’t give up looking until you find the artist who gives you exactly what you want. This business is loaded with phonies that only want your money. You just have to sift through the riff-raff to get to the real thing. Conventions are perfect for this. Also the Internet will allow you to travel with out leaving the comfort of your home.

BAW: Please share any other comments or views or questions to
the public you might have.

UT: There is always going to be artists that are better or worse than somebody else. Usually artists that tell everybody how great they are… aren’t worth a shit. The best artists for you is the one who will listen to your ideas and draw up something special that you will treasure for the rest of your life. Someone who you will feel very comfortable with and won’t rush you into something you don’t want.

Build a relationship with the artist of your choice it can be a very rewarding experience once you have established trust.

Most of my repeat customers tell me horror stories about other shops. I listen to them and that is why we get along. Most of my friends in the business feel the same way. And that is the way it should be.

There is an old saying…"anything worth doing is worth doing well" and with this in mind, I always try to do what’s right for TATTOOING. To improve on a daily basis, and to know when to say no to anything that will hurt the craft.

I will probable never be a Don Ed Hardy, Paul Booth or a Joe Copabianco, but, I will always respect those before me, and I will always give respect to the clients simply because they

Uncle Tim


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