Inked Icon: Durb Morrison
In the April issue of Inked magazine, now out on newsstands, you'll find my interview with the tireless Durb Morrison -- long-time tattooer and owner of Red Tree Tattoo Gallery, organizer of the incomparable Hell City Tattoo Fests, manufacturer of True Tubes innovative tattoo supplies, and all-around nice guy. In this interview, Durb talks about how he went from punk to entrepreneur and stayed on top of the tattoo game over all these years.Many artists today say that that community feel is gone, with the whole gentrification of the art form. What do you think about that?
Here's a taste of our talk:
You started off as a punk teenage tattooing with a homemade machine to becoming a renowned tattooist, who also manufactures innovative tattooing supplies. A lot has changed over the years.
Definitely. I was a skate boarding punk rock kid. At that time with skateboarding, there was a lot of artwork rotating around it, and a lot of that art had a traditional tattoo foundation to it. There were also some really heavily covered skateboarders, even back then, who I looked up to. When I think back, I can see how I was naturally attracted to certain things, and how I'm supposed to be exactly where I am today. But I never really set out to be a tattoo artist. I had done a lot of art classes in school, and naturally did a lot of painting, so I had the art in my blood and on my mind. Right around when I was 14, that's when my friends and I started hand-poking little tattoos on places we could cover up, like our ankles, so we wouldn't get in trouble. When I was 17, I started getting professional tattoos, going to shops, and hanging out with heavily tattooed people. Around that time, a guy who saw that I had the art skills down taught me how to make one of those homemade machines. That was the catalyst for everything because, not only did I have a tattoo machine, but I had friends who willing to let me do my artwork on them.
Did you think tattooing was something you'd do for a living back then?
It started really as recreational. I didn't take it as seriously when I was just getting into it. It was punk. It was a rebellious art form. We're talking 24 or 25 years ago. But after I started getting going with it and tattooing more people and seeing the effect it had on them--how they really loved their tattoos--it drove me to continue tattooing and dive into it artistically. I started studying it, looking at all the magazines, driving hours to hang out at certain studios and watch the tattooing. Also, there was the inspiration of the community behind it. There was just so much personality. It made me want to be a tattoo artist and dedicate my life to it.
If people say there's no community, it's because they don't put themselves out there and be a part of it. They just sit in their shops, complain and separate themselves from it. I feel very strongly about the community, and because I've been a part of it for so long, I wanted to give back. For example, by doing the Hell City conventions, we've brought people together; we've created relationships. People have even got married at Hell City. It definitely has a community feel in a creative environment.
People really have gotten married at your conventions?
We've had three or four couples get married at the conventions. We had one couple get married on the main stage on a Sunday in the morning before the show even got started. They had met at Hell City and two years later got married here. It was a match made in hell!
Read more in Inked magazine.
The Hell City Tattoo Fest in Columbus, Ohio is April 19-21. Go there. You may just meet your true love. You'll definitely get a stellar tattoo.