Interview with Matt Heft, apprentice at All Or Nothing Tattoo.
How did you get into tattooing?
Matt Heft: My path with tattooing started long before I did. My Great Grandfather was Sailor Dan from Connecticut. He ran the Carnie circuit- Tattooing, wrestling, hustling. I didnít even know this until I was already quite absorbed with tattooing. The only work Iíve seen of his is on my Gramps. This industry was paved by the sweat and blood of those before me and I give props to all those that gave so I can be here. Thank you.
I come from a long line of artists. As a child I was constantly reprimanded for drawing all over myself in school. Now I Tattoo paint and draw. Art has always been supported in my family. It was a natural progression to move into the Tattoo industry. Thereís a certain magic in tattooing, a certain relationship with the client that canít be found anywhere else. I love it. I donít want to do anything else in my life.
I failed a couple of apprenticeships before I came to All Or Nothing. The first I wonít mention, because I donít have anything good to say about it. I co-owned and apprenticed at a shop, The Golden Lotus, in Oneonta, NY. Theyíre great folks and still running strong. That didnít work out for obvious reasons. My Momma told me never to be a quitter. So I regrouped, built a portfolio and was accepted into the family here at A.o.N.
Whatís it like apprenticing at All Or Nothing Tattoo?
Matt Heft: Itís the most rewarding slavery Iíve ever had! Iíve had 2 apprenticeships before this one, and though I learned from those guys, Itís a world of difference here. Everything from business and promotion, to getting artistic and technical guidance from some of the most talented artists Iíve ever seen. This is what an apprenticeship is meant to be. These guys are great. As much as the image is Rock níRoll, all there is here is family. You gotta work for it, of course. But the well of knowledge here is indispensable. This is the Ivy League of apprenticeships. Iíve learned art, business, and customer satisfaction from Brandon Bond. I regularly discuss design with Dave Tedder, Sean Herman and Bryan Reynolds. Iíve recently been learning about machine building from Tim Orth of Axis Irons. Cover ups and texturing from Jeff Paetzold. Color bombs courtesy of Josh Woods, and a bit of everything from Chris Vennekamp and J Ranno. Itís amazing. Every time I think Iíve met the hurdle, they show me the next plane ahead of me; these boys always produce. Without growth weíre nothing. All Or Nothing has taught me so much. I am indebted to how much theyíve taught me.
Granted, there is a price for everything. Iíve been working 90+ hour weeks for over a year. I donít take my day off; I work 7 days a week. I can count my days off in the last year on one hand. Iíve given up some of my greatest passions to do this. Iíve given everything to be able to do this. I will not quit. And one of these days Iíll have the time to make time again. Then again, the curse of the artist is never being satisfied, always needing to produce. So I guess weíll see on that oneÖ
Who are your biggest influences?
Matt Heft: I have no idea. IĎm a sponge. I Watch and learn and browse, absorb, then draw. I find the best work I can on every level; design, technical, innovative, classic, and study until my eyes are blurry. Itís like asking, ďWhoís the best?Ē I donít know. I know amazing artists. I know absolutely inspirational people. Iíve met people that make me want to be the best I can ever possibly be. People, both good and bad, that show me the way. Half these folks are family now. And the other half I couldnít pick out of a crowd if my life depended on it. Sometimes itís not important to be able to name off a shopping list of artists. Sometimes itís better to just look. To watch the cherry blossoms fall. Maybe thatís an excuse of an answer. Tattooing is reaching amazing levels, levels weíve never seen before. Iím fortunate to be learning from people pushing that envelope.
What do you bring to the tattoo community?
Passion. Art. Life. Iím here to do what I do. I didnít see this on TV and decide it was cool. Itís just what had to be. Iíve spent time finding the best I can learn from, so I can be the best I can be. I want to progress. To grow. Iím fortunate to be in a great environment to do so. Thank you all. Stay up.