Artist Profile: Cliff White
On New York's Long Island, there's a treasure trove of tattoo history: flash that dates back to the Civil War era, vintage machines, sideshow memorabilia, a file cabinet filled with acetate stencils from the 1930s and so much more. The real treasure is the collector himself, Cliff White of Cliff's Tattoo in Centereach, LI.
When Skin & Ink Magazine asked me to interview Cliff, I jumped at the chance to hear his stories of a time when tattooing was raw and rough but a respect for the craft prevailed. I also spoke with Cliff's son Rob White who carries on the tattoo traditional and is a collector himself. [He's also a comedian.] Part 1 of the article in the February issue is on newsstands now. Here's a taste:
When Cliff began to tattoo in the early eighties, he had to learn to make his own needles, mix his own pigment from powder, tune his own machines, and search to find the right supplies. As an apprentice to William Averso, he scrubbed toilets and mopped floors. He spent hours cutting acetate stencils, a time-honored tradition that built up the muscle in artists' hands. Cliff's apprenticeship also included throwing out unruly clients--of which there were many. He says that guys who walked into the shop would puff out their chests and felt they had to be the toughest guy on the block. "If you worked in a shop back then, no matter how big and bad this guy was--and the biggest and the baddest were your clients--you couldn't let anyone get over on you in your shop," he explains. "That is your territory. If one person gets over on you, then everyone gets over on you. Nowadays, it's like dealing with the boy scouts."Read more in the article, which includes gorgeous shots by Steve Prue.
With almost thirty-years of tattooing behind him, Cliff just recently traded in his tattoo machines for paintbrushes, and has been creating sought-after signage, furniture and decoration--all with an old school tattoo flavor much like his needled portfolio. See more of his work, like the one below, on his Facebook page, or go to Cliff's Tattoo in person, like many do, for an immersion in Americana.
As an added bonus:
Check this video of how Rob White handles crack heads when they come to Cliff's.