Hudson Valley Tattoo Company, Wappingers Falls
Owners and Hudson Valley Tattoo Fest organizers
When did you first become interested in tattooing?
Mike Shishmanian: Me and Diego [Martin], my business partner, we are the ones that own the shop together. Diego has been tattooing for almost 20 years now. I am about 12 years in now.
I think us getting interested in tattooing was pretty neutral, both of our reasoning is that we just love tattoos. We fell in love with it and couldn’t go to sleep without thinking about it and eventually it became something that ran our whole lives. We decided that it was time to learn ourselves and do our own way. I was born and raised in Queens, and Diego is from Uruguay. We both came from different places in the world, and we both came together to open this place up.
Left: Mike Shishmanian / Right: Diego Martin
What is your personal style like and how has it evolved over the years?
MS: My goal is to make the best tattoo I can for my client. People bring me all sorts of different requests all the time and they have varying degrees of importance to them. Style wise, I tend to do a lot more difficult line work.
Everything is rooted in traditional tattooing but [I] use thinner lines and more vibrant colors than you might see in a traditional tattoo. I don’t really hold myself to a particular style. Diego is pretty much a master of black and gray realism and also Japanese style. That dude can do literally anything, but those are the things that he really loves to do.
Do you have any memorable tattoos you have created?
MS: The most memorable ones to me are either a huge piece or the person was really dedicated. We spend a long time together to make their dream a reality. But something that sticks with me the most, no matter how small it is, sometimes people have tattoos that are important to them no matter how small.
You have people who have lost a loved one, a pet, or are going through a struggle, and they will ask for a certain image that will help them through or help them memorialize something they lost. Usually their reaction is tears of joy in the end, and there’s no better feeling than that.
Photo provided by Diego Martin
How many tattoos do you have personally?
MS: Honestly, I lost count. I would just say I have about 85 percent of my body covered. It is just one big tattoo that is trying to connect to itself at this point. Diego has about the same. We both have most of our bodies tattooed.
Where in the Hudson Valley do you tattoo?
MS: We are in Wappingers Falls right on Rte 9. Probably the coolest thing about our shop is that we have eight resident artists and we also have guests that come to the shop from all over the world from as far as Japan, Australia, and Korea We are really fortunate in our position to bring that kind of talent to the Hudson Valley.
What do you like clients to know about before they get a tattoo with you?
MS: I think the most important thing to get prepared for the physical tattoo is to get plenty of sleep the night before, eat a nice big meal, drink a lot of water, and just the things you would normally want to do to feel good. You definitely do not want to show up hungry, dehydrated, exhausted, or hungover because it will be a miserable experience if you do that.
That being said, all of our guys know what they’re doing, and we are concerned with not making the process anymore painful that it has to be. So as long as you’re mentally prepared, it should be a pretty awesome experience. As far as booking an appointment, you don’t need to know exactly what you want, but at least having some idea of what kind of imagery you relate to or are attracted to will help us. We do primarily custom tattooing, so you usually give us an idea or concept, and we make it into a reality. Just know what you want and be ready to go!
Diego Martin at work in Wappingers Falls / Photo provided by Hudson Valley Tattoo Company
What are you looking forward to at Hudson Valley Tattoo Fest?
MS: We have almost 200 artists from all over the planet coming. Us at the shop are huge fans of tattooing, we love it. So, the thing that is really standing out to me at the show is the lineup of artists attending, [who are] all my favorite guys and girls from around the world.
Essentially my whole Instagram is going to be there. [It’s] everybody that we follow from the shop, people who we have met throughout the years doing conventions or traveling, or people who we know from our online presence. We have established a good reputation for ourselves at Hudson Valley Tattoo Co. in the last five years. It has been a wild ride. In the last five years, we have established ourselves as one of the best shops in New York.
We have garnered respect from a lot of artists in the business. A lot of people reached out to us and wanted to be a part of the show. It is going to be three days of some of the most incredible tattooing that you have ever seen. There are going to be contests for who has got the best tattoo locally for each category. We will have live music and food. We have a puppy adoption event going on in Sunday. I am stoked about [it], and my wife is probably going to get another dog. So obviously you have to be 18 and over to get a tattoo, but the show is open to all ages. We are hoping that families come and check it out. It is going to be an awesome time.
How did you come up with the idea for Hudson Valley Tattoo Fest?
MS: We work a lot of conventions ourselves all over the world. Diego just did one in Puerto Rico a few months ago. We go all over the place and do conventions ourselves.
A lot of the times, some conventions, especially the more popular ones, we feel that they lose sight of what’s important about tattoo conventions. I think that is to exhibit the art form and show how to elevate the art form. Our goal was to make a show that is 100-percent centered around tattooing and want to support the people that support us and our craft, and less people on the outside that are trying to take advantage of tattooing’s popularity of people who have been on television. We are trying to refocus the whole thing and make it about the tattoos, not about us, and not about the personalities necessarily involved. Also, we are really striving [to] make it for anyone who is interested in a tattoo. When I was younger, there was a certain stigma that goes along with [tattooing]. Sometimes people’s experience at the shop is a bit intimidating. They have never been to a tattoo shop before. Sometimes people have a certain attitude towards a potential client and make them feel unwelcome. We really want to push away from that attitude all together, and we want to show some of the most talented, nice artists in the planet to one room. People can walk around and see what they do and how they do it, and meet them face-to-face and feel welcome in general.
One of the cooler things about the convention is that a few of our Japanese guests that are coming who do traditional Japanese style are doing tattooing with a rod. They are doing all the work by hand with a long rod that is traditional in Japanese style tattooing. That is not something you see every day and [it’s] something that is not common in the Hudson Valley.
Left: Mike Shishmanian / Right: Diego Martin
What does 2019 and the future look like for you?
MS: We are adding new artists at the shop. It has been an insane five years. We’ve had a couple lineup changes in the beginning, as with any business, but we are about to be up to nine resident artists at the shop. It has been such a wild ride, and we are so grateful for the community embracing us and helping us be a success. Every November we do a benefit for Poughkeepsie High School Art Program called Harvesting Hope. Last year, we raised almost $13,000 for the kids. We are about to take them on a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art again. That is one of our favorite things to do every year, and the community comes together to help us make a reality for these kids. So that is definitely something we look forward to.
Since this is the first year of the fest, obviously we are nervous [as with] any time you take on an undertaking of this size and weight, but we are super excited for it. We want to do it the next year and the year after that and the next hundred years. But who knows! Diego and I always have something up our sleeves. The gears are always turning, but one way or another we will end up doing something new and fresh and keep ourselves on our toes.