For the second year in a row, we brought a pop-up tattoo shop to Dr. Martens Presents at SXSW. Local tattoo artist Michael Williams and crew returned with fresh flash sheets to ink party-goers with colorful roses, swallows, anchors, and of course, 1460 boots. The first-come-first-serve shop sold out of free tattoo appointments within a few minutes each day. Michael and fellow tattoo artist Stacey Martin Smith cranked out around 16 tattoos a day for three days straight, while Elisa Williams wrangled the crowd and kept it moving. We caught up with Michael in the SX aftermath for highlights from the shop.
This is your second year tattooing at Dr. Martens Presents at SXSW, what do you like about working an event like this versus working in your shop?
First off, there are live bands playing! The Container Bar is a really great spot for the event. The area chosen for tattooing really offers all the benefits of being outside: fresh air, cool breeze, and natural light, while still being in an enclosed space. I feel like this creates a very unique experience both for myself and the clients being tattooed, it’s a total blend of everything that is SXSW and tattooing.
How do you decide on what flash to put on your sheet each year?
All of the designs are inspired by classic tattoo artwork from the early 1900s. Traditional tattoos are my favorite, so I’m always drawing from that history when deciding on what to put on the flash sheet.
What was your favorite tattoo this year?
I’ve really enjoyed tattooing the Dr. Martens boot. While it isn’t a design everyone is ready to get tattooed, the ones who do get it have a history with the brand. It’s cool that I get to see them display their love for Dr. Martens permanently!
Any good stories from people getting tattoos at the booth?
Almost everyone who got the boot tattoo had stories about still having their first pair and how it really defined a special time in their life. It seemed to really be more of a lifestyle than just a fashion choice.
Any repeat customers from last year?
There were a lot of familiar faces from last year and quite a few new ones. It’s always fun to see individuals, couples, and friends sharing the experience with one another. There were even a few people getting their first tattoo! I really loved giving them that experience and starting them off on their tattoo journey. Hopefully, we’ll see them next year!
How many years of working Dr. Martens events before you get a boot tattoo?
It’s funny, I mentioned just before this event that I would have to seriously consider getting one done. It’s been a truly fun experience, I’m lucky to have been a part of it.
Any favorite moments from this year?
The whole event is a good time! Starting the first tattoo has to be a favorite because we are off and running. I met and tattooed people from all over the world and that’s always cool. I loved working with Stacey, Elisa and all the familiar faces at Dr. Martens.
How do you recover from SXSW?
I’d like to say I have a solid plan, but unfortunately my plan this year was to just keep going! We got packed up Friday and I was back in the shop Saturday and Sunday to finish my work week. Then off to Chicago for a tattoo convention. My wife and I are enjoying Chicago for the next few days and RELAXING!