THE INTERVIEW: Tattoo artist David Sena
Tattoo artist David Sena is one of the top guys who specializes in Japanese design and puts enough detail into them making for one of the best looking tattoo’s you’ll ever get. After working at Tattoo Culture in Brooklyn, his busy schedule allowed him to open his own Tattoo studio in the East Village called North Star Tattoo recently. I had the chance to talk with David about opening his new studio, the art of the tattoo, the process of getting one, and most importantly, does it hurt?
How did you get into Tattooing?
When I was going to school in the early 90s at Cooper Union, after my sophomore year, I needed a job one summer and randomly found one at a tattoo studio called Kaleidoscope Tattoo, which was on Canal Street and West Broadway, before it became legal in 1997. It was when tattooing was a little more underground. I got a job helping out, stuck around, and then learned how to tattoo.
How did you get into Japanese tattooing?
That just happened over time. Japanese tattooing has a lot of history and is a big genre in tattooing. You end up doing it here and there, and honestly, I think I did a big dragon back piece on one kid and after that, I started doing a lot of dragons. From there, I started doing more Japanese themed stuff, met some Japanese artists, took a trip to Japan, and learned the proper way of doing it and the proper aesthetic of doing it. Also these days, people request it quite a bit.
When did North Star open and why did you pick this location (East Village) to open up shop?
We opened March 2008 and this location came from my partner Rodrigo, who had been looking for locations to possibly open a studio for a couple of months and looked in Manhattan and Brooklyn and a couple of different places. This just ended up being the right place at the right time, and we’re really happy with how everything worked out. It’s such a cool part of the city and there are plenty of opportunities for walk-ins.
Who are the other tattoo artists at North Star and what are their specialties?
There’s my partner Rodrigo Melo who specializes in a lot of Japanese as well as some old-school Americana and portraits. I do a lot of Japanese, black work, and tribal stuff, and we have Ralphie who helps out a couple of days a week doing walk-ins, and Rebecca, a beginner who has been tattooing two to three years.
Outside of Japanese, what are your favorite styles of tattoo to design?
I like doing this kind of black work where I fuse Japanese and tribal elements together and anything that’s kind of cool and catches my eye, like if someone comes in with a good idea or a good design that catches my eye. Recently I did this thing that was inspired by the futurist painters. It was an artwork that involves emotion and illustrates this idea and mechanics during the time of the industrial revolution, and it came out really nice, so you know, I’m into anything that is going to be fun to do.
What’s the funniest/weirdest tattoo request you’ve ever gotten?
Everybody always asks this but I never have a good answer. I haven’t gotten too many weirdo requests. One that I do remember that I thought was genius if anything else was this girl who brought in little drawings she had done. One of them was a table with a chair and on the table were chopsticks and a cup. She had that done on her stomach. Then another drawing was a toilet that she got on her lower back, and later on I realized that it was pretty genius actually. Recently someone came in and asked if we could do a portrait of Winston Churchill on his ass.
Why should someone who wants a tattoo pick North Star over the many other tattoo shops in NYC?
Between Rodrigo, me. and Ralphie, we have over 20 years experience combined tattooing here in NYC and we all can do good clean solid tattoos that are made to last.
If someone wants a tattoo, what’s the process they have to go through?
Usually you have to come in for a consultation and talk what about you might want to do with the artist, then set up an appointment, put down a deposit, and depending on how big the tattoo is you have to come in for one or more sessions so we can take your ideas and illustrate them.
What do you tell people when they ask if it will hurt?
Yes it does.
After a day of tattooing, where do you like to go for drinks/eat?
A good thing about this neighborhood is that there’s a lot of good places to eat. Village Yokocho is one of our favorites for Japanese or Lil’ Frankie’s on second Avenue for Italian or we might go to this place called Itxocan on 9th and Avenue A, it’s a Mexican joint, which serves a little fusion that’s pretty good. Or just whatever’s clever. Whatever is going on.
Tattooing must be a strange business considering that it’s a painful process that people voluntarily go through. What have you gotten from it?
I feel fortunate and kind of lucky that I fell into this profession because it’s been good to me. I’ve been able to travel the world and see a lot of things and meet a lot of people. I learned over the years that tattooing just makes people happy, which I think is a good thing. It kind of feels like I offer this honest kind of service that essentially just makes people happy. But then it’s kind of crazy because at the same time it hurts, but they keep coming back. It’s an ironic thing.
To find out more about North Star Tattoo, check out their website HERE or go in person and make an appointment at their shop North Star Tattoo 74 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10003; (212) 228-6724