Interview Series: Zach NelliganPosted: March 17, 2010
Pursuing your passion and turning it into a career is the American dream. In this interview, Zach Nellian, tattoo artist and businessman, shares his life and what drives him.
Could you fill readers in on your background?
My name is Zach Nelligan. I’m 26 years old and a life-long resident of Austin, TX. I’m a tattooer and I work at Triple Crown Tattoo Parlour. I have a BFA in Studio Art from the University of Texas at Austin. Note of interest for people that might care: AJ and I have been friends since the 3rd grade, and he’s always been a top notch dude. Thank you so much for taking me into consideration for this.
It was at some point later in college. I had been getting tattooed since I was 18, and they steadily got bigger and better. I began researching the art and profession more and more.
Austin has a huge tattoo scene. Just about everybody here is tattooed and we have one of the highest per capita counts of shops. Some of the world’s finest tattooers work here and there are more and more everyday. It’s very tough and competitive, but unlike other cities, there isn’t too much drama between shops. As far as breaking in and making a name for myself, I’ve just done what I always do: be as nice and genuine of a person as I can be, while working as hard as I can and constantly keeping up with my clients as far as communication and updates of my online and physical portfolios.
I prefer to do primarily old school, traditional designs or subjects that evoke a vintage nostalgia. I do bright, clean, bold tattoos that will hold up over time instead of super delicate, rendered, soft tattoos that will blur and fade quickly.
If that’s what you really want, I will gladly do it!
Bring ’em on! I’m also here to get paid, haha.
I do a lot of weird tattoos. It’s a niche I’ve broken into. See the answer above, and I also did a skull eating a @#$%&# in this dude’s armpit. That was an interesting challenge.
Anything vintage or nostalgic, and also my clients’ ideas. Old clip art, ads, tattoo designs, objects, etc. I have a lot of reference material.
What’s your approach to attracting customers? Any networking involved?
My business is primarily word of mouth. If I’m kind and attentive to my customers and give them a nice tattoo worthy of being proud of, then they will pass my information along. Besides that, the internet is huge. I have a web site, Myspace, and Facebook for that.
It’s a huge part of it. I’d say half of my business comes from the internet, especially with Myspace, Facebook, and Yelp. That’s where everybody turns to for everything now, so you have to participate and take advantage of its possibilities. I try to keep all my stuff online as up to date as possible.
I’ve had my site and profiles since I was an apprentice. I guess about five years now.
There’s no place to stop advancing. It’s a natural thing to just want to get better at your craft, and it happens exponentially. Especially now that tattooers and artists are getting better and better at younger and younger ages, it’s really important to always be on your toes.
Personal growth primarily. I don’t want to short change my potential or my customers with work that isn’t striving to be the best I can possibly strive to produce.