When it comes to black and gray tattoos there are thousands of practitioners but only a handful who could ever be considered teachers--let alone masters of the art. In the same breath, the hype of television has given a false sense of award to those who might be great at their craft, but nothing comes close to the pioneers who helped construct the industry that has given them their fame. While the aforementioned statement doesn't take away or discredit those who have cashed in on the fame, the bottom line is that behind any industry, great powerhouse, or large corporation, is the minence grise who has put forth the money, the dedication, and the sweat to help create a brand or industry that is now bejeweled in the eyes of mainstream America.
When it comes to black and gray tattoos using a single needle, many consider prison its origin, but in terms of business practitioners on the street, no names garnish the respect and admiration like that of Jack Rudy, Good Time Charlie Cartwright, Freddy Negrete, and our featured artist Mark Mahoney. Mark is considered one of the founding fathers of the art. He's not only mentored some of today's newest artists but he's also played a vital role in the growth and popularity of tattoos. His name is one that's respected both on the streets and in the industry, and he was one of the first tattoo artists to gain fame and notoriety for inking Hollywood's finest. From Mickey Rourke to Brad and Angelina, Johnny Depp, and the late Notorious B.I.G., Mark has been inking his way to stardom far before many could even draw a straight line.
Ask the slick-dressing man who's inked everyone from A-list celebs to local block stars and he'll be the first to let you know that he treats them no differently. Every tattoo to Mark is an opportunity to become a permanent part of someone's life, and he respects the craft just as much for the art as he does for the physical ritual. For Mark, a tattoo is a partnership between a client and himself, and while other tattoo artists take all the credit for their work, Mark will be the first to say that it has to be shared with the customer because without their idea and donation of skin there would be no canvas for any work to be done.
With raw beginnings from the Pike in Long Beach, California, he's now made Hollywood his new home. Unlike other tattoo establishments that are cold and uninviting, Mark Mahoney's Shamrock Social Club is far different. Cold treatment and hard looks are exchanged for an inviting encounter, and from young to old, gangster to professional, anyone who steps foot into this ink and artistic utopia are in for the experience of a lifetime. Inside, newcomers will find an eclectic mix of individuals from varying ethnicities and social backgrounds, but the one thing they all have in common is a genuine love and respect for tattoos.
While we could go on for days, no words could ever describe what is best experienced by paying him a visit. We sit down with a man who is considered a living legend and pick his brain for advice while also discussing the evolution of an art that was once considered taboo.
Give us a brief history of Mark Mahoney.I grew up in Boston where tattooing was illegal. I would hang around with this little greaser gang, and I remember going to a tattoo shop for the first time. It was Buddy Mott's Tattoo Spot in Newport, Rhode Island. As soon as I stepped foot in the shop I knew what I wanted to do. I was only 14 years old.
What is it about tattooing that has kept you in it?What has kept me in this game is that tattooing to me is an art for the people, regular people like you and me. It isn't this far away gallery or some mystifying thing that nobody can relate to. I was always looking for a way to make a living with my art. Ever since I could remember I could draw. I also remember thinking that the guys in my neighborhood with the motorcycles and tattoos were cool. It was inescapable; I knew I was born to tattoo.