Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Kandyman Drives A Hearse-- Moments With Joe Ware

I met up with Joe and his gorgeous wife Bridget at the Milwaukee Beer City Convention in June.  I was drawn to his prolific and profound portfolio at the Pure Imagination booth (its shiny!) and got a chuckle out of the page that read  "Yes, I drive a hearse." -- I love the down-to-earth and approachability of this man. You know I can totally appreciate an opening line that inspires conversation. A question as simple as "A hearse?" has created a hole new dynamic and now I find myself calling and catching up with Joe on occasion, asking his advice about all sorts of things (thanks for the encouragement Joe!)
Joe's is a shining example of the aspect of tattooing I admire so much. It is art but you are not alone in the matter. 
Reflected in the relationships to the colors in the tattoos he renders, this guy seems to understand human behavior.  I cannot imagine what formula his brain is working when he selects his pallet of colors--but man oh man does it look lovely.  He brings 11 years of solid tattooing into piece.  His experience radiates into an obvious warm skin-hugging  final modification.  His tattoos incorporate into his clients skin like a classy sweater.  Refined, in a word. 
As refined as this Iowa tattoo artist is, he is also super down to earth and fun. He was even obliging enough to let me shoot some photos outside with the hearse he rendered in flames with his wife. 
Never mind my babbling, I'm sure to be getting tattooed by this guy soon, as well you should.

So how long have you been tattooing? 11 years-Apprenticed under Elvis Crocker for one year.

We met at the Beer City Convention, what's the rest of your convention schedule like? The studio just finished Lefty's Cedar River Expo and Milwaukee Beer City. I'm considering adding Minneapolis and St. Louis this year, but no solid plans on those.  
Who's in your life? I'm Engaged to my lovely talented fiancee and business partner, Bridget Rose Turnmire (AKA Glmazon Huntress). We have the cutest kid on the planet (AKA minizon huntress). 
  What’s up with your work--where’s your style heading?  I find myself working mostly in a painterly style. My ultimate goal is a timeless piece, so I really enjoy watching elements with variety harmonize. To accomplish this I like to mix in some traditional bold work. Thematically speaking, I prefer art nouveau, Japanese, bio-organics, realistic and fantasy portraiture, floral, and large flowing work.
  Your favorite kind of project?Anything where I have the flexibility to cover more surface in order to accent anatomy, and to practice color theory.
Who’s the heaviest influence in your style? Do you have a shrine or anything for the person yet?  Too many to pick one! Influenced by: Mark Merchant, Bugs, Guy Aitchison, Richard Stell, Joshua Carlton, Boog, Julio Rodriguez, Joe Capobianco, Jeff Ensminger, Nick BaxterCezanne, Sean Herman, Dali, Mad Magazine, and many more. The shrine is my insane magazine collection that looks like it was attacked by a sticky note bandit.  

What do you love about tattooing?When someone bursts into tears or breaks out in goosebumps because they love the job you did. It's even sweeter when this happens and someone previously told them, "it can't be done." I'm a little competitive like that. I say, "watch me."

What do you think sucks about it  Artists cutting each others throat, fiscally speaking. To some degree, it's our own damn fault price haggling has become so rampant. Price wars set the expectation that a person can get o.k. work for next to nothing, so why go pay a fair price to a guy that actually gives a damn? I also blame certain big box stores for this mentality among the general public. 

What else do you do creatively?I enjoy oils, airbrushing, web and digital, and remodeling shops.
What’s on your bookshelf –tattoo related?My book and magazine collection is nuts. I don't think I've thrown out a magazine since I started getting them in 1992. Its so amazing to have watched this beast's evolution through the years.  
Do tattoo’s hurt?Yes. My hand, when I was using coils. You know, I catch a lot of flak from some "old-schoolers." I switched to Neumas and I luv 'em. Now my tattoos don't hurt at all, giving or getting! Well, maybe a little getting, but not like coils. Plus, I like that I can autoclave them for every client. So smooooth, I love getting tattooed with neumas. Carson Hill has saved my hand. We are eternally grateful. Yes, a bit to much Pixar lately.

I want a tattoo, how much do they cost?They cost what your artist says they cost. If you love an artist's work enough to put it on you forever, then save up. If I could tattoo free, working on clients who truly appreciate the value of lifetime investment (and never haggled price) I would. But artists have bills too. Sometimes people forget this is our job and not a fun little hobby. I price my work by the session length to keep it fair for everyone. 
How many people could fit in this room? Our old shop could hold about 250. We've had some wild anniversary parties! Being a family man now, I'm keeping the gatherings as more intimate, upscale art gallery showings. The newest show features work by artists from our convention travels. So, We've recently moved to a more efficient studio, in Fairfield Iowa. Its a town known for Maharishi University (think Beatles), a tremendous art scene, transcendental meditation, the David Lynch foundation, lots of yoga, and progressive moves toward sustainable living. We can hardly contain our excitement about this move!

Oh-kay shot out of the cannon: heavy metal, rap, or soft jazz?  Yes, yes, and yes. Depends on the time of day for me and the type of energy I need to sustain through it. I'm a softy with my clients though. I try to make the music choice about what they're into. I've learned about a lot of new tunes that way!
What excites you--How do you get your kicks (not tattooing)?Long walks on the beach, romantic dinners... Oh wait... are we pirates or on social networking? No really, Road trips, motorcycles, water parks with big slides, coasters, camping, freaking out stuffed shirts at expensive hotels we booked cheap (priceline RAWKS!) Best for last? Playing in the yard with my minizon and glamazon.
What’s a girl gotta do to get a shirt around here (merch links etc)??Take some cool photos of us with our beastly 3-ton, 23 foot long, hearse (Castalia Thriller Killface III) that we drive to conventions... Oh wait... You did that. For everyone else: on Merchandise!
Or order direct from our online apparel store:
Pure Imagination Tattoos  (NEW LOCATION!) 
103 W Broadway. 
Fairfield, IA 52556. 641-472-3977
Pure Imagination Tattoos II
912 Main St
Keokuk, IA. 52632
You can also check out more of Joe's stuff and get to know him further at

No comments:

Post a Comment