Salt Lake City has fostered a steadfast tattooing scene for a couple decades now. It seems like no matter where you go within the city limits or beyond, there is an established shop to be found with committed, knowledgable, skilled and wise people on the tattoo machine. So you may have time to plan your next custom piece or esoteric flash once the heat dies down, SLUG has compiled images of tattooers’ work and their thoughts on their craft. Since it’s impossible to include everyone involved in local tattooing in one issue of SLUG, we’re mixing it up with a range of tattooers from different shops with a range of professional backgrounds, experience, etc. to depict a segment of the current local-tattooing mosaic of SLC/Utah.
Shop: Mercy Tattoo • 180 S 200 E • (801) 355-9191 • @mercyslc
Years tattooing: 15
Where you apprenticed and for how long: I was lucky enough to learn from Nate Drew at Lost Art Tattoo in Salt Lake City. My apprenticeship lasted right around three years.
What styles of tattooing you favor/specialize in: My aim is to produce the most thoughtful and authentic versions of Eastern (Asia/Buddhist) and Western (American/Christian) design.
Favorite subject matter: I think the subject matter comes second to the intention of the design. A single dot can mean more than an entire arm full of dead design. I also enjoy snakes.
Favorite flash: I have an original signed Brooklyn Blackie flash sheet. It’s on display at Mercy.
Favorite custom piece you’ve done: It’s hard to pick out a favorite. My favorite part of bigger projects is the subsequent friendship that can culminate from spending so much time with someone. I’ve met some of the best people I know by tattooing them.
Tattooer you admire: Any tattooer who has perspective and intention in their work. Also, any tattooer who can take themselves down from the phony pedestal that they are usually put on. There is plenty of magic in the business—that’s for sure—but the magic comes from the people doing it, not from the title or the ability to do it, ya know?
Other visual art you make: I am very tall. So I guess that is some measure of visual art. I also make paintings.
Tattooing guilty pleasure: Single-pass lettering. I think it comprises the most filtered-down version of this industry. It’s quick and honest and you can’t hide any mistakes.
Nerdiest thing you know about tattooing: I continuously strive for a better understanding of most imagery, from the origins of the design to the lore behind it all. It is basically the best thing about tattooing, IMO. So, I guess everything that I know about tattooing is kind of nerdy.
Best tattooing tunes to play in the shop: I always pick Washed Out. But I like Young Dolph, too.
Shoutouts: All of my partners at Mercy and everybody that has donated knowledge or patience to help me along my way.
Find a selection of Miller’s works below:
All photos courtesy of Jake Miller