Hi! I’m the owner of Body Branding Tattoo Emporium in Naples, Florida. Established in 1994, I have been affiliated with the National Tattoo Association since 1997 and am also a member of the Association of Professional Piercers since 1999.
I would say my interest in tattoos all began in 1976. It was in Stamford, CT. where I was friends with Tony Esposito, who was just getting started with tattooing. I decided to volunteer my arm and so wound up with my first tattoo. I watched him tattoo lots of people, well into the 80's, paying close attention the whole time. In 1977 I also wandered into Big Joe’s Tattoo Parlor in Mount Vernon, NY. Although I had no real thoughts of being a tattoo artist then, “The Experience” I had there had always made me say to myself, “I’d like to have a place like this someday. Chicks, Tats, bikes, and everything I liked, what can I say?
In the late 70's to the early 80's, I was collecting tats and paying attention to the artist. In those years, I studied several people's tattoo. “Shorty” from Port Chester, NY., a woman known as Lee Kutamsh in Bedford, NY., and of course, my friend Tony Esposito in Stamford, CT.
As the years went on, I had gotten lost in life. I had been riding with a club back then. I got married in the mid-80's and had two kids. At that point,I realized my kids would be in school soon, and the schools were not very good in that area. I was also working for the city of Stamford as an Incinerator Operator breathing in dust every day. I wanted something different as far as a job. So, in 87, we loaded up and moved to Naples, FL., sunshine, and palm trees.
Soon after arriving here, I started a bike shop called “Jimbos Hog Parts.”Little did I know the divorce was right around the corner, which had forced me to close my bike shop. However, sometimes a bad thing is really a good thing in disguise. I had to move out of the beautiful house I just had bought a year and a half earlier. The ex got it. Meanwhile,I met a girl who I became good friends with, Suzy, who was a person you could just talk to. Well,one day Suzy said, “Jimbo, you’ve talked about the experience you had with tattooing in the past, do you think you could teach me what you know about it if I buy the proper equipment?” So naturally,I said sure. She went out and bought the Spaulding & Rogers deluxe set-up with tattooing A-Z, Sterilizer, and all, we even got the Revolution Machine. Thank God we had an orange tree in the backyard. We tattooed 500 times more oranges than we actually ate off the tree.
As time went on, friends that seen the oranges all over the house started asking for us to ink them up. We followed Hucks Spaulding’s Book (Tattooing A-Z) like it was a bible. Local artists we studied like A.J. Johnson, now the owner of Looking Glass Tattoo in Bonita Springs, FL. And Ed “Cash” Coventry would come to Naples and do tats at Mickey’s Place. It was always a treat to watch him tat. He was definitely one of my inspirations, to aspire, to truly commit myself to this trade. Along the way, I also met Deano. At this point, Suzy wasn’t keeping up or being serious about tattooing, so I palled around with Deano for a while. I had set up a studio in my house and got a few machines from Big Joe. While Deano did the party scene, I didn’t like to move around as my set up was all in my house studio and sterilization in one of my biggest concerns.
During the day, I had a pressure cleaning business, andnights were spent in the studio tattooing. We were doing lots of work, but one night, out at the bar Deano said to me, “I bet you a dollar you couldn’t open up a legitimate tattoo parlor in Naples.” It was widely believed tattooing was illegal in Naples, butI took the bet. It took me almost two years of researching State tattoo laws as well as a localordinance on tattoos and fighting the county commission, but eventually, I got the call saying my license had been issued and I could open the first Tattoo parlor in Naples. That was in 1994.
Then the ball really got rolling, and I was open for business legally and still operating the pressure cleaning business. After four months, I realized I couldn’t be out all morning doing the cleaning thing and then coming to the parlor. I sold the cleaning business in 95 and strictly did tattoos from then on. A year or two later, I met Todd Vargas. He needed to work a little while he was visiting a relative in Naples. So I gave him a chair to work in. We got talking about National ne day. I wanted to become a member, so he put the call in for me while he was here. One of the other challenges I was up against was the growing demand for body piercing. So as fate would have it, Nemesis, a piercing shop owner from Seattle, WA. wandered into my shop and wanted a place to start out. So we made a deal. I would learn piercing from him while he got established in the area. After a year or so,I felt comfortable with the body piercing, and a shop came open in Ft. Myers Beach, so Nemises moved on.
Shortly thereafter, I heard about the Association of Professional Piercers and the strict criteria they have. I always like to be atthe forefront of the field, especiallywhen it has to do with sanitary issues of this trade. I forgot to mention we got the name for the shop because I was doing a little research on Branding. It wasn’t really popular in the early 90’s so I thought what a great name of the shop as I suspected the trendiness might catch on the East Coast. I have done quite a bit of it, but to this day, it is not a mainstay of our operation. And by the way, Deano finally ended up back in Florida and paid me the dollar bet made in 1992 in 2015 and now has a chair in the shop that came about all on a dollar bet.
Me llamo Yandriel Vega, soy cubano, descubrí el mundo del arte a muy temprana edad; recuerdo que esta pasión empezó el día que vi un dibujo que tenía mi papá en su mano, desde ese momento empecé a crear mis propios garabatos, con el tiempo fui perfeccionando mis pinturas, gracias a mi capricho de querer hacer el dibujo perfecto tomé la decisión de ir a cursos de pinturas, en esa pequeño curso pero intenso descubrí que el mundo del arte es inmenso, aprendí escultura y la pintura al óleo, años más tarde sin darme cuenta lo qué pasó de un pasa tiempo se convirtió en mi estilo de vida, por muchos años estuve viviendo de lo que yo podía hacer con mis manos. Hasta que un día tomé la decisión junto a mi esposa de salir de nuestro país a los Estados Unidos, nunca pensé que por tres largos años tuve que abandonar mi pació, fue una etapa muy difícil para mi porque como todo emigrante tuve que dejar a un lado lo que más amaba para poder sustentar mi familia, hasta que un buen día vi que lo que yo hacía en el lienzo podía hacerlo en la piel, compre las herramientas necesaria para hacer mi primer tattoo y así empezó todo una nueva etapa en mi vida, me esforcé mucho, busque videos, diferentes artistas del tattoo para poder absorber todo sobre diferentes técnicas de este arte, cuando me tuve la suficiente confianza vine a body branding en busca de empleo y me acogieron como una familia aun si saber hablar su idioma, solo llevo un año en este mundo, sigo aprendiendo, sigo estudiando, sigo esforzándome para poder mejorar mis técnicas, para que el cliente salga satisfecho con mi trabajo.
Hi, my name is Yandriel Vega and I’m Cuban. I discovered the art world at a very young age. I remember that my passion began the day I saw a drawing my dad did. Ever since that moment I started making my own drawings and over time I began perfecting my paintings. Thanks to my will to perfect my art I made the decision to start taking art classes. In that small but very intense class, I learned that the art world is gigantic. I learned how to make sculptures and oil paintings. Years later without me even noticing, what was something to just pass time, turned my entire life around. For many years I was just seeing what I could do with my hands. Until one day I decided with my wife to leave our country to immigrate to the United States, I never thought after three long years I’d have to abandon my path, it was a difficult chapter for me because as an immigrant I had to put what I loved most to the side to support my family, until one day I realized what I can do on canvas I could also do on skin. I bought supplies and tools necessary to do my first tattoo and that’s how a new chapter of my life started. I pushed myself, searched videos of different tattoo artists and tried to absorb everything about different techniques, and when I had enough confidence I came to Body Branding and they welcomed me as family even without knowing the language. I only have one year of experience in the tattoo world, I continue learning and studying and pushing myself to better my techniques so that my clients are satisfied with my work.
Hi, my name is Blake.
I started working in shops at 16 years old back in 2007. I had always had an interest in art growing up, as did most of my family. I was lucky enough to have an uncle who tattooed and pierced growing up in Wisconsin and he taught me a lot about piercing and cover up tattoos, as well as portrait tattoos, and those are the main areas I have followed suit in, although I enjoy working with all styles. I have worked in Wisconsin, Colorado, and Florida. I was running a shop up on Fort Myers Beach until Hurricane Ian came thru. But luckily Jimbo was kind enough to take me in here at Body Branding, and everything worked out for the best and has been great ever since. I’ve been piercing professionally for about 13 years, and tattooing professionally for about 11 years now. Lately, I have been focusing more on realism and portraits with my tattooing.
My name is Chano AKA Epi Age 44 I was Raised in Collier County since the age of 3. I began my art journey at the early age of 6 watching my older brother drawing comics and painting, and from that point I had a fascination with comics and how they were made. All throughout school I took art classes very seriously and during my free time I also took art courses in fine arts, graphic design, and animation. In my early teens I was introduced to the world of tattoos and by the age of 18 I began my Tattoo Career, which opened up a whole new area in the art industry. I began learning black and gray, traditional and a host of other styles working at the different street shops. My passion for Art and Tattoos has grown over the years and I've come to love and appreciate the centuries old trade. In my mid 20's I discovered the Art of "Tebori irezumi" or Japanese Tattooing and from then till now, I have been studying in the Japanese style of tattooing. One thing that I can take away from my journey in tattooing is patience, hard work, working as a team, and that Art is in everything as long as you take time and look with an open heart.
Hi my name is Eric Von Dar, I grew up in Allentown Pennsylvania and started my apprenticeship for Tattooing in 1980 with a well-known tattoo artist peter eagle. I had a full extensive apprenticeship for two years, from 1982 to 1984 I worked with Peter eagle in Allentown Pennsylvania.in September 1984 I moved to Chambersburg Pennsylvania where I opened up my own tattoo studio Elite Tattoo LLC I owned and operated that establishment until 2017 My experience starting my apprenticeship WHAT MAKES ME DIFFERENT FROM OTHER TATTOO ARTISTS, over 40 years of experience. when I first started my apprenticeship in 1981 learning or getting into tattooing was a secret society. Getting a tattoo by a good artist was a shot in the dark in that time. I just happen to go to the right place at the right time in Allentown PA,the artist name was Peter Eagle (God rest his soul) After receiving a couple tattoos from him he saw some talent in me. And asked if I could help out on the weekends in the shop. He then proceeded to tell me if I wanted to learn this trade I would have to devote all my time and be in the studio all the hours he is open. So we came to an agreement I would work in the studio 12 to 6 monday through Saturday and work at night bartending 630 till 3 AM . Monday through Saturday. Apprenticeships back in that time you did not get paid while you were in the process of learning. You paid him to learn. The first year your duties were signing people up cleaning the studio making errands talking to customers. Six months into this process you would start to learn how to check needles with an eye loop we used number 12 sewing needles (later on we found and used stainless steel bug pins) and we had to make sure there were no burs or hooks on them, before we would solder them in groups of ones,threes, fives, and six flat for shading . That was the art and skill of making and soldering needle groups ,and soldering them on needle bars. Then you would clean them packed them and then autoclave them (sterilize) After about nine months you would learn how to cut stencils with a pin vice scribe onto acetate (plastic) there was no paper stencils back in that time, we would rub graphite on the grooves on the stencil to apply to the skin. (Cutting stencils was I high skill job) you would also learn how to color flash and shade on flash like you would on skin (flash back then had no color ) Next I would learn how to mix color tattoo dye it was all in powder form except black. Back then you mixed it with Listerine and a little bit of glycerin.(except violet you used rubbing alcohol ) At about the year point you would learn how to take apart tattoo machines ( they are not called tattoo guns ) put them back together wrap coils, cut front and back springs, solder on capacitors, and then finally fine tune your machine. It would be over a year before you would pick up the machine and actually start tattooing and the first person that you Tattoo is yourself. My total apprenticeship was 2 years and the total price that I paid to learn how to tattoo was four times more than what an apprenticeship goes for today. But today it's saturated with all types of people tattooing ,some good and a lot bad. Remember today anybody can buy a tattoo kit everything is all pre made but most don't put the time in or the skill of learning how to really make a good tattoo . if you are price shopping you are going to get the value of your price For your tattoo ,And you have to wear that forever. Eric Von Dar,
Growing up I spent a lot of time watching my mom paint and watching Bob Ross episodes. This heavily influenced my love for art, to the point where I spent more time drawing in class then paying attention to the lessons.
I went straight to work after graduating high school, only to feel unfulfilled with each job I had. After some time people started encouraging me to pursue a career in tattooing.
I originally came to Body Branding for an apprenticeship in 2014. After 6 months I was unfortunately unable to continue, but felt lucky enough to have been accepted once. Five years later, a chance encounter with a good friend of mine led me back to the doors of Body Branding where I was finally able to finish what I started.
I'm still on this journey of learning about the tattoo world and I'm incredibly glad that life worked out the way it has. I have the opportunity of a lifetime working with such a talented team who help me in every way possible. From breaking down machines, to putting them back together, to techniques for packing in color + shading, and learning all the different needles and their uses.
This second chance has given me more knowledge than I know what to do with. And there's still so much more to learn. I absolutely love what I do, and look forward to sharing this amazing experience with each and every one of my customers.