Friday, October 1, 2010

Conception of Zaq Weaver

Zaq Weaver, owner and bad-asst tattoo artist at Conception Gallery (St. Joseph Michigan), has been tattooing just 5+ years and has already etched out a little notch in the Midwest scene. His bio and tattoos have been published in countless magazines, local and national, and his name is considered "top-shelf" amongst tattoo aficionados in his area. I live somewhat nearby, so I was able to visit his Conception Gallery and report first-hand, how he does.
I need to tell you folks that my feelings for Zaq, on a personal-level, have been back and forth. When I first started my little tattoo photography "interests," I was living in the same town as the award-winning shop Zaq used to be at, Marvel Tattoo (South Bend, IN). At the time, I was  super green and intimidated by tattooers, especially seeming "rock stars" with his skill level.

Even though I could bike to his shop in minutes, I just admired his work from a distance. Then one day, out of the blue he left an encouraging message via a Myspace (before "Facebook" was where it's at, we used to Myspace, with music, graphics and everything) about my photography. I've never told anyone this: but I did squeal in my little studio apartment on by the St. Joe River. It's cool when other artists recognize your vision, and it is always awesome to hear feedback. I may have even did a dance, I dunno. I made it a point to keep an eye out for his new stuff, and was always mind-blown by what that man can do with his machines.

4"x4" oil on masonite
Fast-forward to several years later, January 22, 2010, Zaq opens up his brain-child, Conception Gallery, with the support and love of his boss, friends and super dedicated elite clientele. Reception of the gallery has been warm, and again, I was delighted to see an invitation on Facebook to one of his gallery shows (cuz' I just know that I was specially thought about on the mass-invite-hahah).
I happened to be in a position with a magazine I was working for to do 25 artist interviews (not just the cover-girl photography!) and he was definitely on my "people to ask" list.
I called him and he was open to doing a piece, letting me photograph him etc... He was super friendly and open, but had little nice to say about the guys I was working for at the time. Which I was used to, it wasn't the first time I'd heard an earful. He was willing, and that was the point.
So with just a smidgen of hesitation I pulled into the quaint lakefront town of St.Joe, and quickly found his easy to get to spot. Conception Gallery is nestled next to charming Lake Michigan beaches, fancy grills and oddly painted dog statues... a super fun location with an uplifting artsy downtown scene.
Zaq was welcoming, and gave us the grand tour, and as we began to warm up and figure out where each other was coming from, all my hesitance vanished like the lake front fog.
We shot in his shop, a streamlined building with personality and class. The art hanging in the gallery section just inside the door is like a walk to see the wizard. The stream-lined flow works the viewer through it's theme (when I was there I believe it was "Conception of Hope") emotionally challenging one to react--to the heart of the shop, Zaq's tattooing studio.

This neat space sporting an old time Dr.Weaver sign is where Zaq and His crew make the magic happen. His machines were reverently on display, and are fascinating in their own rights. Hand made coils: a special Josh Bowers and a Seth Ceffari workhorse, nostalgic and serious: like Zaq himself. His pallet is nearly all Eternal lnk (hm, that seems to be a reoccurring theme among kick-ass tattooers)(I was not paid to say that, but wouldn't turn down a check--hahah), and a drafting area with neatly placed prisma colors and microns, papers etc... Also: TJ Lucas and Kyle Adani pretty up the place, and add to the concentrated and serious yet fun atmosphere of the place.
The place is impeccable, the town was fun, the art was moving, and the artist Zaq Weaver was reserved and grounded, but super creative and flexible.
Zaq's tattooing style is not defined in three easy words.  He is known for solid tattoos that are bright and precise; his concepts are original and well thought out.  I personally love his ability to slip traditional symbols into the sacred and use every shape and color with purpose.  While he can do a realistic portrait brilliantly, he'd rather give his clients something better, something that flows with the body's organic canvas.  And all this being said, I know that as soon as tomorrow, Zaq will come up with something outside of all of these descriptions, and continue to conceive new and more brilliant ways to make this world prettier than when he found it.
Zaq doesn't talk a whole bunch,he chooses his words carefully. He commits to nothing grandiose or bragging: says what he means and means what he says.

What’s up with your work--where’s your style heading?
My biggest concern is trying to progress everyday.

Conception Gallery looks like a refreshing cuppa ice-water to art-seekers in this area. What's Conceptions' mission-what's it all about?

You opened in January: what's been the general reaction, and support (or not) of the community?
We've had amazing support from the community as well as our local government. The city has really taken a liking to us, helping us whenever they can. I think the general public has really come to embrace what we provide and the difference in our studio.

I adored your stuff while at Marvel Tattoo in South Bend. Todd Melson, your old boss from Marvel Tattoo in South Bend: how was the apprenticeship and subsequent years there? How did you grow there? What's that relationship like now?
I honestly owe Todd more then I could ever explain, he's not only taught me this amazing craft of tattooing, but taught me a lot of amazing life lessons. He's been a great friend and mentor to me, who I still look to if I need advice. Tattooing at Marvel is one of the greatest experiences of my life and of my career, I have tremendous respect for everyone that works there and we continue to be friends to this day.

What do you love about tattooing?
Being able to create beautiful art everyday, while continually having to think on your feet, working with subject matter that you'd normally never think about.

What do you think sucks about it?
Clients that are very closed minded. Within the industry the egos....

What else do you do creatively? When I have time I love to paint and dabble in photography, nothing special just having fun snapping pictures. (his photography is fab, of course!)

What’s on your bookshelf –tattoo related and non? I'm a huge serial killer/cult nerd, so I have a ton of books about both. But as far as tattoo related, I don't have much. I have Guy's "Reinventing the Tattoo" and "Organica". Michele Wortman's "Moments of Epiphany", Fabio Paleari's "Leu Family's Family Iron". Past that, I have a bunch of reference books, but nothing tattooed related.

Do tattoo’s hurt?
Hell yes.

What was school like for you?
I went to an Alternative High School, so things went pretty well for me. But I drew all the time.

What excites you--How do you get your kicks (not tattooing)?
I love to play golf and billiards. Also happen to by mildly a video game nerd. Other then that I spend my down time watching sports or comedies. I wish it was more exciting then that, but I'm pretty simple. Travel is a huge excitement for me as well.

What’s a girl gotta do to get a shirt around here??
Our shirts are only available at the studio, maybe one day we'll sell some stuff online but not yet.
What's in the works for the future, Mr. Weaver? I heard you will be having a different theme at the gallery every month, what's coming up?
In my personal future, I'm just looking forward to traveling and enjoying our first child. (Due in Feb.) (congrats!)
As for studio future our upcoming gallery will be entitled "Severed" feature Tattoo Artists from all over the United States and we are also featuring a photography solo show from an artist named Brittney Massey in November.

For the People not in the Midwest, what's your traveling schedule like, conventions and guest spots?
 As of right now, Muddy Waters Tattoo Expo (Oct 22nd - 24th), Motor City 2011 and Hell City 2011.

Any parting words?
Deconstruct. Analyze. Educate. Rebuild.

or by phone at 269-983-530


  1. Way to go Zaq Weaver! It's awesome to see all of your success!

  2. Zaq is the best! Everyone needs to visit his place!!

  3. Zaq's a rad, rad man, the gallery? even radder. thanks guys!