Editor’s Note: Kicks presents 20Q, a feature that introduces readers to people involved in the area’s arts and entertainment community. Compiled by kicks Editor Greg Little, each piece will include a short bio, photo and answers to questions that provide insight into not only that person’s artistic interests but also his or her unique personality.
“Captain” Mike Hall
Evidence of the first tattoos shows they’ve been around for more than 5,000 years.
Mike Hall’s exposure to the art form doesn’t go back quite that far. His personal history dates back to the 1980s, when he was an elementary school student armed with only a Sharpie marker and some trusting friends.
Since then, however, the Beloit native has advanced his tat game exponentially. That is something to which the customers of his Janesville-based tattoo shop—Affliction Ink—can attest.
After graduating from Beloit Memorial High School in 1993, Hall undertook a tattoo apprenticeship while simultaneously studying small-business management at Blackhawk Technical College. In 2011, he launched his career as a professional tattoo artist and, three years later, he opened his own shop.
On top of the hours spent creating designs on his iPad and still putting needles to skin, Hall has been working to craft a new style of tattoo machine that incorporates a 3D printer. He admits the project has taken extensive research and development but thinks the final product will be worth the effort.
While some would say Hall’s determination and his pairing of imagination and innovation is to be lauded, he knows there will be others unwilling to see past his dermal alterations.
“I’m heavily tattooed and ride a Harley, so people generally assume that I’m a thug or some type of outlaw,” he admits. “Truth is, I spend a lot of time snuggling on the couch with my wife and cat, watching chick flicks. And I tend to tear up during romantic movies.”
Hall’s wife, Breck, also is an artist in his shop. He also has two daughters, ages 18 and 15, and he said his youngest has shown a deep interest in eventually pursuing a career in tattoo.
“It looks like I’ll have a new apprentice in three more years,” he said.
The brood rounds out with Odin, a chubby tomcat Hall notes “will answer to any name as long as you have something to eat.”
Affliction Ink is located in Suite 105 at Northgate Plaza, 3000 Milton Ave., Janesville. Hours and contact information can be found online at AfflictionInk.com.
1. Is there a trendy tattoo design you wish would just go away already? Yes, white-ink tattoos. Instagram filters and heavily-edited Pinterest pictures make white tattoos look amazing, but in real life, they end up barely visible over time.
2. What are the greatest misconceptions people have about tattoo studios and tattoo artists? That tattoo shops are full of shady characters, and that your tattoo artist is a partier and could care less that you’re intoxicated.
3. How did you get your start in tattoo artistry? I sought out the most reputable tattoo shop owner in the area and went through an apprenticeship.
4. There are four artists in your shop. How many tattoos and piercings do you have collectively? I lost track counting all of our tattoos. Piercings are a little easier to add up. Collectively, we have 28 piercings.
5. Have you ever had a customer overcome with emotion after seeing what you’ve created for him or her? Yes. I tattooed a portrait of a client’s dad who recently had passed away. When the client looked at it in the mirror for the first time, that person began crying, smiled and said, “How do you do it? It looks just like the photo. It’s even better than I could have imagined!”
6. What word do you always struggle to spell correctly? Regerts, LOL.
7. Have you ever tried to talk anyone out of getting a tattoo? Yes. Whenever a person “wants a tattoo but doesn’t know what they want.” Being a reputable tattoo artist, I feel an obligation to give people the best tattoos possible. I recommend they start compiling tattoo ideas, revisit those ideas in a week and bring back their favorite one to discuss.
8. What would you say is the most involved tattoo you have ever created? A Greek mythology-themed tattoo sleeve done in a style called black and gray. It’s a style that typically would not be used to cover up three large tattoos, but I love a good challenge.
9. If you could get the absolute and total truth to one question, what would it be? What are the winning Powerball numbers? I think we all want to know that one.
10. What was your first tattoo, and what was the story behind it? A small, blurry dragon. I had just turned 18 and only had $150 to spend at the time, so the tattooist shrunk a large $400 dragon tattoo design down so I could afford it. But it just ended up looking like a blurry mess. I learned a valuable lesson that day to shop by tattoo portfolio, not by price.
11. Is it ever a good idea to get your wife/girlfriend/significant other’s name tattooed on your body? Admittedly, there are a lot of other ways to show your love and devotion to your significant other.
12. People would be surprised to know that I: Trained my cat to use the toilet.
13. Are there any tattoos you refuse to do? Genital tattoos. I did it once early in my career, but it was pretty awkward. I simply refuse to do it again.
14. I’m a newbie. What should I ask about a studio/artist before I let him or her put that band of barbed wire on my bicep? “Can I see your tattoo portfolio?” No matter what location or tattoo design you decide to get, shop by portfolio, not by price.
15. My mom had her eyebrows tattooed on because her natural brows wouldn’t stay even. Are there other functional tattoos people don’t often consider? Wedding rings. Some people can’t wear one at work, so they get them tattooed on their finger.
16. What is the worst/best thing about owning a tattoo studio? The worst thing is finding a balance between work and my personal time. I love my career, but work tends to spill over into my “free time.” I find myself working on tattoo designs all night at home. The best thing is having created an environment that people really enjoy and hearing clients talk about the great tattoo experience they had at the studio.
17. Can you name a popular television show you have never seen an episode of or that you don’t understand why it is popular? I’ve never watched “The Masked Singer.” Whenever I see the commercial for it, I feel like they are way too excited about discovering who sang a song. It seems kind of ridiculous, honestly.
18. Have you ever given blood, or are you afraid of needles? I’ve given blood, and I’m not necessarily afraid of needles, but hypodermic needles give me anxiety.
19. What was your favorite childhood toy? Tyco Cliff Hangers racing tracks. I asked for a new race track every birthday and Christmas for three years. By the time I was 10, the floor and walls in my bedroom were covered in a labyrinth of six different race tracks all connected to form one giant race track.
20. I’m a writer; you’re a tattoo artist. We’re both creative, and we both work with ink. Want to switch jobs for a day? Absolutely. I have worked an array of different jobs, and I learned something new at each one. I love learning new skills and trying new things.