Interview with Badass Tattooer Chase Tafoya


Chase Tafoya is a tattooer/friend of mine who works out of Bend, Oregon in his own shop The Archive Art Collective.  He is a grounded, humble, hardworking, and obviously highly talented individual who has gotten quite a large amount of solid and well-deserved recognition for his style.  I got the chance to do an interview with him below and talk about some stuff that’s a bit out of the ordinary.  Enjoy.

Honestly I always think about your Crayola rapper pieces haha… I absolutely love it. What is the story behind it?  How did you come up with the concept?

Haha thanks man! I keep a sketchbook full of ideas and one day I was listening to NWA while drawing.  I thought about how all I did as a teen was skateboard and listen to hip hop …  literally nothing else. Which made me think about how all I did as a child was color with crayons.  So I added the two and made an Eazy E crayon ( I ended up tattooing that on my buddy Josh Payne – he has the 1st).  Years later I drew a few more and the next thing you know, I have people flying from other states to get a rapper crayon tattooed from me.  So wild haha

Toughest aspect of being a tattooist?  Most rewarding?

Constantly staying creative and being inspired.  I’m not a robot, so eventually I get “writers block” and have to push through it or sometimes take a day to myself and clear my mind.  

The most rewarding thing is definitely being able to look at my clientele and know that they chose me, out of anyone else, to get tattooed by.  

My books are typically 2+ years out and yet people make the decision that they want my artwork on them.  Very humbling.

When did you begin tattooing? Did you always know this was the career route you were going to take?

I started tattooing 6 years ago with an apprenticeship prior.  Before tattooing I was perusing a career as a painter. I was fortunate enough to show in some pretty major places, but I never quite felt part of the fine art community. At the same time, tattooing always seemed to be nudging me on the shoulder (getting tattooed, tattooer friends, etc.).  I started getting tattooed at age 17, and I’m literally tattooed from feet to neck, so tattooing was always something I was passionate about.  When I did my first tattoo I fell in love with it instantly and knew this was a career I wanted to have.

Any inspirations in the industry as you first stepped onto the tattoo scene?

I remember when I was allowed to buy my 1st machine from my mentor, I hit up Aaron Cain.  His machines were all anyone used at the tattoo shop, so I had to have my own.  So…I emailed him asking to get one, and he wrote back saying “the tattoo community had a good day when you decided to join us.”  That’s something I’ve never forgotten, and motivated me to take this craft serious and dedicate myself to it.  The more time I spend tattooing , the more I respect the traditions of tattooing in this community.

Any overall goals or milestones you hope to reach as an artist/tattooist?

Ya know, it’s crazy to think I own my own Tattoo Studio ( Archive Art Collective) and have a talented group of guys I get to work alongside. That’s a huge goal! I do hope to get back into my personal art and paint more.  I would love to exhibit my life’s work as an artist, collaborate with a respected brand or fashion house, paint my Masterpiece, inspire others as I’ve been inspired from great artists like DaVinci, Caravaggio, Chuck Close, Frank Frazetta…  pass on my entire knowledge as an artist over to the next generation – just to name a few haha.

Funniest or most bizarre experience with any past client you’ve had?

Loooong story short, I had a client come in to get a small tattoo.  Should’ve taken 20 minutes.  An hour later, she’s crying, shaking… the works!  So her man shows up and instantly I get creeped out.  He holds her hand, hand holding turns into hand squeezing, squeeze turns to my client biting her mans finger, then …… quietness…… awkward quietness….  so I look up and homegirl is sucking on two of her man’s fingers staring me dead in the eye! They told me they were swingers and asked what I was doing later!  Most bizarre experience ever.

Three things you wish all of your clients knew without you having to explain repeatedly?

A. Tattoos hurt but not as bad as you think or else there wouldn’t be millions of people tattooed.

B. My most painful tattoo was my sternum or my back.

C. No one has ever tapped out and called it quits, or passed out on me.

Biggest changes you’ve seen between now and the time you first entered the industry?

Social media!  The Photoshopping/editing of tattoos is insane.  The quality of your work was determined by the word of mouth of others seeing your tattoos in person.  Artists now can create something that isn’t real just to get more likes or follows.


If you were swapping tattoo for tattoo with anyone in the world over the next two days, who would it be?

It’s very interesting…  I use to have a list of artists who’s work I would love to collect, and have some pieces from that list, yet the ego of the artist was so much, that I  would gladly take a tattoo from the homeboy or homegirl who’s just as good, but doesn’t have the recognition.  Lately, I’ve been all about getting work from my friends.

If for some crazy reason you were unable to tattoo anymore, anything else you are interested in or could see yourself doing?

Definitely.  I’m an artist, and whether I’m tattooing, painting, drawing, whatever… I’m always creating… that’s who I am.  If I couldn’t tattoo, then I’m sure I’d still be in the arts somehow.

Do you have any interpretation of the words ‘Lead The Followers’?

Yeah the 1st thing that comes to mind is people are easily persuaded in any direction if everyone is heading in the same direction.  Music, Entertainment, Social media, you name it.  Most of the time the ones in charge are leading these followers in a destructive path.  SO…. be a leader for the better good and take lead in a direction that can and will benefit your followers.

I know that there are thousands of aspiring artists who dream of being as established in their craft as you have become… Top three biggest pieces of advice for those who admire what you’ve accomplished and who want to succeed in this highly competitive industry now that tattooing has become so lucrative?

Most important I would say is always do this for the love and passion of art and the craft of tattooing.  If you approach this with a ” Cuz I wanna make bank bro!” mentality, then you’ll never have enough, and that is a very poisonous mindset to have.  It will spill over into your personal life, and effect your family and the people important to you.  Art, and your dedication to your art comes 1st.

Second I would say is realize the seriousness of cutting someone open and marking their body for life.  Although tattooing nowadays is incredibly mainstream and getting a tattoo from someone can be the equivalent to saying I have this or that designer handbag, this is a practice that was done for ritualistic, medicinal, tantric, and spiritual purposes and should be taken serious.  You have the honor of potentially adding to, or taking away, the quality of someone’s life.

Lastly, nothing lasts forever.  When you become established as a tattooer it’s important to plan for your future.  Buying nice things is ok, but so is having money in the bank.  I know too many tattooers who are older and now have nothing.  There is a short amount of time we have as tattooers, so make sure you value this time wisely.

Thanks for you time Chase!  Make sure to give this talented guy a follow @chasetafoya

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