Carl Hallowell / Elm Street Tattoo / Dallas Texas.
Traditional Tattooing Since 1995. Roses. Irezumi. Crawling Panthers.
My tattoo work is an attempt to apply the secrets of the masters, to use the same archetypal images; to learn the iconography of Japanese tattooing, or irezumi, as well as the design motifs of home. More rough than polished, I'm a Dallas tattoo artist that enjoys the stylized image, and I use color to complete the traditional tattoo look. It was originally the pure power of this tattoo style that drew me to it. Now, twenty years later, it is the endless pursuit of learning how to render these images correctly that gets me excited for each new piece.
In 1995 I learned the sacred art of tattooing from Derek Jefferson at Screamin Mimi Tattoo. He instilled in me above all a respect for the history and mechanics of the craft. I already loved the traditional and Japanese tattoos, even back then. In 1996 I moved back to North Texas and went to work tattooing in Fort Worth for James Tapscott, who wore many tattoos by the king of Deep Ellum tattooing, Richard Stell. During this time I tattooed at my first conventions and also began doing guest spots at other tattoo parlors, including Elm Street Tattoo, where I work at to this day. In 2002, I opened up Liberty Electric Tattooing with the help of childhood friend Jeff Leeper, who managed the shop while I worked away, satisfying each customer the best I could, both maintaining and growing my clientele. In 2005 I trained Joe Haasch to practice tattooing. Derek would come down from time to time, and I sought to impress him with the way I was teaching Joe. It turned out to be one of my greatest accomplishments, as my teaching of traditional technique, ethics, and values did not go unheeded by the young student. We even worked side by side at Heart in Hand Gallery, doing some of the best traditional tattoos in Dallas.
Liberty was shut down by corporate interests and city rezoning in 2008, forcing us underground like many of the past masters we loved and revered. Thom DeVita had worked the underground in the Lower East Side of New York City when tattooing was illegal there. Horiyoshi 2 had practiced full-scale bodysuit tattooing during Japan's ban of tattooing, fearing for his safety and at times wondering if it was all worth it. I thought of these trailblazers often as I climbed the stairway to our second story walk up loft apartment that we had secretly turned into an appointment only tattoo studio.
Traveling and tattooing had increasingly filled my schedule at this time. I returned to my hobo roots, not hitchhiking or hopping trains, as I had done in my earlier years, but traveling by bus, train or plane, tattooing where I could, when I could, loving the open road once again. The allure of California was just too much. The bright blue skies, the gorgeous weather, the dreamy days and nights captured my heart. But above all, it was the tattoo history of California that drew me to it over and over again, like a moth to a flame.
Failing to find a comparable location to my two story tattoo paradise that was Liberty Electric, I packed up all the flash into boxes and carried my books all home. I called up my old friends and travel buddies, Oliver Peck and Dean Williams, the owners of Elm Street Tattoo. The timing was perfect, they accepted me on as a new Dallas tattoo artist and even remodeled the shop to build me a station, which later became known as Classic Corner. I loved the nickname and I was inspired to stay up all night painting flash to hang there. Staying up all night wasn't much of a stretch, after all, I was tattooing until two in the morning, most nights anyway.
Well, the story is almost up to date at this point. I hope that the common threads of my story jump out at you, long lasting relationships and traditional tattooing. Wow, I guess that really sums it up. I am very proud. This extends to my customers too. Some of these guys and gals I have been tattooing since I first moved back to tattoo North Texas in 1996.
On October 2016, I moved over to Elm Street Tattoo's new private location for appointment only tattooing, Heart in Hand Gallery. It is where I spend most of my time now, working to mostly classic country music as I continue to draw panthers, tattoo dragons, and outline backpieces. I have my own studio there, filled with hand-painted flash and a couple of small statues I brought home from Japan. Of course, the Sailor Jerry, Owen Jensen, and Lee Roy Minugh sheets of flash are up, some Ed Hardy, Bob Roberts, Chris Trevino, and Horiyoshi 3. A picture of my wife in my machine drawer. And a picture of our dog, and a picture of our baby girl.