Tattoo Q&A: Arrows and Embers’ Sean Ambrose

What is your background experience as a tattoo artist?

Bikers and devil worship. (Just kidding.) I apprenticed here in New Hampshire and traveled up and down the east coast tattooing and learning until I opened Arrows and Embers 10 years ago this April!

How did you decide to pursue this profession?

When I found tattooing, it was kismet. I was always drawing even as a child and as soon as I learned what a tattoo artist was, I knew. I’ve never considered doing anything else.

What is the process for the customer? Can they walk in off the street and walk out with a tattoo or do they have to meet with you sometime before? Do you institute a waiting period if someone comes in a little tipsy?

Good questions. We are normally by appointment only because we tend to book out a couple months ahead of time. Occasionally we have the availability for walk-ins and when we do we’ll post those to our social media pages. Normally though it’s by appointment only (a deposit is required to schedule an appointment) and our clients know to be sober, as per the deposit slip they sign and initial.

What sort of research should a customer get in advance?

Do all kinds of research! If you’re speaking generally in terms of before to get a tattoo, look at a TON of shops. Friend and family recommendations are great, but always look first for yourself, too. Read reviews, make a consultation appointment to speak with the artist(s) and ask as many questions as you need to. Look carefully at portfolios-check out the line work. Is on line the same thickness all the way through? Or does it get really thin in some spots and really fat in others? Always research first.

What other recommendations do you have for a customer before they get a tattoo?

We always encourage our clients to eat-you do not want to get tattooed on an empty stomach! Don’t stuff yourself, but eat enough that you’ll be sustained for a few hours. Having some Gatorade or something drink is good too, but we always provide bottled water and a little sugar kick if a client needs it. (Showering and brushing your teeth-those should go without saying…)

What seems to be the most popular tattoo art?

Everything comes in waves, fads, and trends. I tend to shy away from those and stick to solid tattoos that I know will age well. I’m not interested in tattooing something super tiny and detailed that looks incredible when its fresh but in three years it’s indistinguishable.

Is there a tattoo location that is more popular?

I think arms and legs are obviously the most common, they’re easy access and easy to display. That, and backs. I love a good back piece!

Is there a common type of tattoo you’ve been asked to cover up or alter?

Old trends/fads. (Tribal more than anything.)

How have times changed? What’s popular now that wasn’t 20 years ago? What was popular before that is now out of fashion?

Realism is a much more popular style now than 20 years ago. So much has changed in the last couple decades, though-the quality of the ink (and the colors/options), the machines, and what the artists and machines are capable of. The advances that have been made allow artists to do more now than they could have 20 years ago. Traditional was obviously more popular back in the day, because that’s what tattooing was-that’s why today it’s called ‘Traditional.’ (Though, I’d argue that it’s still a pretty popular style in its own right.)

What creative control do you have over what you draw? Do you advise people against getting something you think they’ll regret? Or what about if they want something explicit, gang-related or racist?

At my shop we don’t entertain racist/gang affiliated tattoos except to cover them. I absolutely try to talk clients out of a ‘bad tattoo.’ I’ve been doing this for a long, long time-I know what makes a good tattoo, and what sets up a tattoo to become bad, like way too many ideas trying to fit into one tattoo, or trying to copy another tattoo you’ve seen elsewhere. Its going on you-be original and use your artist’s skill and experience as guidance. We’ve studied anatomy and composition and we know what will work, and where. Tattoos should fit the body as much as they should fit the person, if that makes sense.

Can you describe a tattoo that you’ve done that you’re most proud of or that was particularly cool or complicated? Why is that one special to you?

There have been so many over the years it’s impossible to choose! Outer space always gets me because there are so many colors and textures and so much depth. It’s always a challenge, and therefore always rewarding.

What is the weirdest tattoo you’ve done?

As much as I’d love to share this one, I don’t believe it would be appropriate for my local paper… I’d like to be included again in the next tattoo issue so for now I plead the Fifth!

Author: Sarah Pearson

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1 Comment

  1. Sean is an incredible artist and his work is stunning. I get more questions about his work on me than any other pieces I have.

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