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About Dave McEwan as a Tattoo Artist

Some of my clients have asked me if I was one of those kids at school who sat up the back of the class drawing in my school books my answer is “pretty much just about that”. Though its not the best way to get an education, it did further my interest in drawing and art. Which is now not only an interest but my passion and livelihood.

  After leaving school I went to work for a sign company as a labourer, Six months into this job I was offered an apprenticeship as a signwriter which I gladly accepted. Four and a bit years on I had passed Trade certificate and Advanced trade certificate in signwriting and was now a tradesman.

  But being a tradesman signwriter wasn’t enough to keep me satisfied as an artist so I gave signwriting up too work for a T-Shirt printing company as their in house artist. The chap who owns that company incidentally was a very well known tattoo artist in Wellington for twenty odd years by the name of Kevin Gray who had a studio on Vivian St. I worked as the in house artist at the T-Shirt Co for about a year until I started tattooing full time The Lower Hutt Tattoo Studio as I had been tattooing from home and the James Smith market which I’ll explain in the next couple of paragraphs.

  I started tattooing in 1993, Originally tattooing from home doing only black & gray work. After about a year of stumbling around in the dark, not really knowing what I was doing, but still managing to produce a few good tattoos in that time.

  A couple of those tattoos were noticed by Ken Miller of Artistic Tattoo who was heading off to Auckland and needed someone to look after his shop in Wellington on Saturdays & Sundays. I thought this would be great and agreed to take care of the shop on the weekends, which was fine for about six months. But as the tattooing was only two days a week I also had to have my day job during the rest of the week at the T-Shirt Co. and working seven days became a bit tiring so I had to find something else that was a little less manic.

  I approached Tom Downs of Lower Hutt Tattoo Studio and asked if there was any chance I could come and work with him, Tom said yes. While working with Tom, I learnt a huge amount about tattooing and the history of tattooing in New Zealand and around the world. Tom also encouraged me to experiment with different needle configurations, colour & machine set ups. So with both of us trying all sorts of different things, we could compare notes and weed out the good techniques and machine set ups from the not so good.

  It was also during his time the Lower Hutt Tattoo Studio that Tom and I started to focus on the hygiene aspect of tattooing and body piercing, educating ourselves on hygiene practice’s to cut out cross contamination of equipment and the spread of disease.

  But once again it was time for a change so August 1998 I left Lower Hutt Tattoo Studio to open my own studio in Upper Hutt and TATTOO FREAKY was born. Since opening my own shop I has focused more on custom & freehand tattoos, this came about mainly because I didn’t have a lot of flash. I am now well known for portraits and my diversity in the styles of custom artwork in my tattooing. I likes it like this, as I feels New Zealand’s population is too small to get too specialized, which is a good thing being that I get the opportunity to tattoo all sorts of different styles.

  Well my feet started to itch again in August 2004, after six years in the Upper Hutt studio I decided to move again this time back to Lower Hutt to my new studio in Trafalgar Square Waterloo Lower Hutt. My new studio has a bit of a different feel to my last one in Upper Hutt as I no longer have flash on the walls, just a few paintings, which I am aiming to add more paintings as time goes on. There is still flash for people to look at, only now it is in folders and books. My reason for this is to try and get my clients and myself too not be overly influenced by what has already been done time and time again.

  I had always intended to get another artist in once I moved to Waterloo, but had been procrastinating about it until mid 2005. When Michelle Mac darkened my door and said she wanted to come and do some tattoos at Tattoo Freaky. Michelle’s timing was great as I was starting to struggle with the amount of people wanting to get tattooed at Tattoo Freaky. Michelle has been cranking out great work since.

Well I thought tattooing had got about busy as it could get, I was wrong. 

  We started 2007 with waiting lists two – three months long for a tattoo, I started to think maybe we could do with another artist in the studio. As fate would have it Geoff Teague, with whom I had been in contact with for a few of months came in for a visit while Michelle was on a hard earned holiday. I asked Geoff if he wanted to fill in while Michelle was away, he said ok (I had to twist his arm a little). Geoff worked out great, so the evolution of Tattoo Freaky continues with same interior alterations to the studio to fit in artist number three (Geoff, that is for those of you not paying attention). Geoff stayed with us until October 2008 when he moved back to Christchurch to open his studio Ink FX where he stayed until June 2010. He is now living and working in Queensland Australia.

  Once again we were back to just two artists, myself (Dave) and Michelle. Fortunately this only lasted a couple of months as one bright and sunny day a recent Auckland escapee wandered in to the studio by the name of Brad McIver looking for a spot to work from. Brad had worked at a couple of studios up in Auckland and looking for a change landed in Wellington or Lower Hutt to be more precise. Once again we were back up to full capacity with Brad filling the cap that Goeff left behind, which was great having someone to help relieve some of the workload from Michelle and I.

  But as change comes to everything eventually Michelle decided it was time to see a bit more of the world and in June 2010 headed off to do just that. Starting in Australia. At the time of writing this Michelle has only just left so we don’t yet have an address of where she will be working from in OZ, but rest assured I will get something on once we know. Or you can keep an eye on her facebook page So again we find ourselves back at just two artists for now anyway, as you never know who will walk through the door. (edit) Michelle is back in NZ now

  Well here we are again April 2013, and once again the line up here at Tattoo Freaky has had a wee change with Brad heading off to open his own studio Stained Incorporated. So that brings Tattoo Freaky full circle with just me back to working by myself once again. 

  Ok, its October 2013 and I was pleased to announce that Michelle has come back to Tattoo Freaky after just over three years in Australia working at Gold Coast Tattoo and a short stint at Sinatras Tattoo in Wellington.

  After 20 years tattooing in the Wellington area the time had come for a bit of a change, The studio known as Tattoo Freaky closed the doors for the last time at the end of 2013. I was fortunate enough to be heading the the sunny Bay of Plenty to take up a position at Hammerhead Tattoo located in Mt Maunganui, Starting the first week of February 2014.

 Michelle moved on to Jackson street Tattoo to work with Brent and the team there. 

  June 2014 and after 20 or so years tattooing its was time for a change, I decided to take my leave from the tattoo industry and do something else for a while, thanks again for all the support to my many fantastic clients I have had the good fortune to have met over the years.

  March 2016, After a break from full time tattooing and working in an unrelated industry for just shy of two years I am back in the tattoo industry, Tattooing from a local studio in the mount, all though part time at this stage. (Check out the other part to my business here, Signage, Graphics design and Illustration)When they say tattooing gets under your skin, it has more than one meaning. I’m looking forward to getting my creative energy back into action and pushing some new ideas from a refreshed mind.

The next stage is to be back tattooing in a larger capacity, which brings me to the introduction of Heritage Tattoo Tauranga.  Heritage Tattoo is a shared collective of four great tattoo artists, and was opened by us to create a cool calm envirtonment for us and our clients.


Well that’s enough about me for now, go and have a look for yourself….


Dave McEwan