“I wear gloves all day long, which keep my hands fairly soft,” says Miller.
For the most part, we use tattoo machines anywhere from an ounce to six ounces apiece. We use pigments. Most of the tattoos we do, we use surgical skin markers to draw under the skin, then tattoo over it. And we use a surgical prep scrub before, during and after to make sure nothing gets infected.
How did you learn your craft?
I’ve been tattooing for 16 years, mostly self-taught. I loved art, and didn’t like school; I needed to find a way to support myself with art in a way that didn’t require a degree, and tattooing was the most viable way.
There was a young girl, about 12 years ago, who wanted a heart with her mother’s initials in it. The initials were “A.M.” but I ended up writing “M.A.” But it still worked, because it said “Ma.” So she wasn’t that upset. I gave her the tattoo for free.
Carpal tunnel is inevitable. One hand you’re holding and moving the machine back and forth all day, and the other hand you’re using to stretch the skin. So the non-tattooing hand is doing more work than the tattooing hand. I’ve learned a few stretches and things like that to stave off injury, but anyone who works with their hands over a long period, doing repetitive motion, has it coming.
What do you do to unwind after work?
I paint. It’s just peaceful. I put on classical music, my wife has gone to bed, the dogs are sleeping on the couch. It’s my quiet time.
I’ve swung a golf club with both hands, swung a bat with both hands, but that’s the extent of it. For the most part, I’m a righty. That being said, the two other artists I work with are lefties.
What are the challenges of working with a living medium, that is, skin?
Honestly, if you start taking into consideration every little thing that you do, you’ll lose the art in the process. The best thing is to sit back, relax and create the art with confidence in your ability to do it.