Fun City Tattoo | A Conversation about Skin, Ink, and New York City

With MAXX Starr and Big Steve

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Fun City Tattoo It is the oldest tattoo shopfront in New York City. Fun City, a legendary studio in the East Village’s 94 St. Marks Place, was founded by Jonathan Shaw in 1980. Fun City pioneered the tattoo industry by blending art and the raw energy from hardcore and punk cultures. The studio has had a diverse clientele over the years. It’s all there, from Hell’s Angels motorcycle riders to celebrities and New York’s elite.

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Ownership of Big Steve The following are some examples of how to get started: Maxx Starr Fun City Tattoo is the oldest tattoo shop in NYC. The studio’s ethos is to make customers happy, with a refreshing attitude and lack of ego. It also includes a healthy dose of sarcasm. Big Steve, a former apprentice who started working at the shop in 2001, is known for his unique style, which draws on traditional Americana, intricate miniatures, and classic Japanese minimalism.

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Fun City Tattoo inked the skins of several notable figures, including SZAMiley CyrusKaia Gerber, and Young Thug, among others. Even with celebrity clients, the studio is still committed to the East Village community. Maxx Starr brings his multidisciplinary perspective and entrepreneurial skills to the shop. He infuses his work with an uncanny and unrelenting spirit of city life. Fun City Tattoo has a talented roster of international artists. From Joel Baca, Here are some examples of how to get started: Ryan E The following are some ways to get in touch with us: Dylan KrausTessa BX. Jesus Antonio, these artists demonstrate their distinctive styles and creativity. Fun City Tattoo continues attracting visitors through walk-ins or appointments. It offers a place where artistic mastery, self-expression, and exploration thrive.

We met with Big Steve & Maxx Starr for a discussion on (obviously!) tattoos, the creative process and production of them, as well as New York City’s influence.

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Steve, when did you first start tattooing, and what was the inspiration? What has changed in your style of art over your career?

Big Steve: I’ve always been around tattoos, growing up in New York City in the punk culture. Jonathan Shaw threw me into the tattoo world, even though I had no desire to become a tattooist. In the early 2000s, I did traditional American tattoos like many others. Tattooing is intricate, so I stuck with the classic style for two years while learning how not to suck. Around 2005, I was approached by friends who wanted fine black and gray line tattoos. After that, I started to do tiny single needles more often. I still mostly did traditional tattoos around this time– 2012. Most of my tattoos were single-needle tattoos. I still do every/style people ask for, and  I’m confident in doing multiple styles well. Most importantly, I want to give people a great experience.

How do you imagine and design the tattoo of a customer? Have you ever had a funny experience when inspiration struck for a particular design?

Big Steve: My creative process is quite loose, as I don’t have a traditional art background. I always have references and dra/ sketch with pencil and paper– which has become rare in tattooing. Tattoo artists are increasingly using iPads for drawing. This gives a polished look and makes it appear less hand-done. I still think that pencil and paper are the best. If you have a good eye, you can tell the difference.

You’ve worked on other creative endeavors, such as short movies and a recent book. What inspires you to run Fun City Tattoo, and how does it influence your multi-media work? 

Maxx Starr Fun City is New York compressed into a room half the size of an underground car. It is loud, pushes the limits, and is filled with colors. We welcome people from all walks of life. Conversations I listen to are added to my story collection, where some become references. The fun city is bright and active. It’s a place that will make you smile. I believe that our bodies absorb our surroundings. And when you express your feelings, the environment will be reflected just as much in your past, current, and projected future. Fun City is very nourishing. You can feel St. Mark’s and Big Steve’s personalities, languages, and tattoos if you are familiar with me and my work. I’m lucky.

Everyone from the East Village to bikers and celebrities comes in every day. What have I learned from such a wide range of people?

Tattoo shops tend to be disarming. We can see their best qualities in places where people are more positive and open. East Village has a diverse clientele, providing a wealth of new and exciting information. Fun City is the town square of New York, where visitors from all over exchange ideas with residents. There are rich and poor people, young and old. It’s an excellent opportunity to re-program myself on how younger people feel and think as youth becomes more distant from us. It is anti-aging, and it makes me feel more youthful. The East Village’s older liberals remind us of the strange convergences between political ideas. On other days, I’m reminded that people can be born in extraordinary circumstances but struggle to find ease and happiness. I have learned that people are happy when they’re liked and love to share. If you find connecting with an introverted individual difficult, bring them to me.

How long have you lived in East Village? How has East Village changed in the last 20 years?

NYC is now home to me, but my relationship with it was instantaneous rather than a slow development. The place where you first ate your egg and cheese may close if you stay long enough. You will lose the place where you first fell in love. My upbringing in a relatively small, unchanging city did not prepare me for constant change. The thought of a place closing was painful, but now I know that the next step could be even better. The end of a place no longer hurts as much. The excitement and hopefulness I feel when I see a once-empty storefront being remodeled make me hopeful that something extraordinary will open. East Village places are changing quickly, but still have people having fun. There are always new bars opening to meet the needs of the crowd. There will always be blocks with restaurants, shops, and bars facing the street on all four corners. The street numbers and letters will never change. If you stay in Tompkins too long, you may end up confused and feeding pigeons. However, the neighborhood remains the same.

What are your plans for the store or personally in the next few years?

I’m working on a short story collection about love, its loss, healing, and my hope to do it again with more pizazz, trust, and lifelong commitment. Paige Silveria, from Daisies, will publish “Cowboy Love.” Every major city should share Fun City. New York City is a place that everyone can use in their lives.

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