Mike Nomy - South Shore Tattoo Co

Published: 10 July, 2010 - Featured in Skin Deep 181, January, 2010

Everyone loves a nice guy, and, contrary to the popular statement; they don’t always finish last… at least that’s certainly not the case with Mike Nomy.

Mike’s tattooing pops with bright and bold colours, and is accented by chunky, sculpted lines that define his work beautifully. His recent forays into the world of tattoo conventions have seen his work gain the recognition it deserves, and we’re doing our best to bring him to the attention of the wider world too!


His uncle’s jailhouse tattoos were seven-year-old Mike’s introduction to the wide and varied world of body art, and coupled with his already burgeoning interest in drawing set him on the path toward the accomplished tattoo artist he is today. “Whenever I knew he was coming to visit,” says Mike, “I would draw all over my left arm and my sister’s arms, with what I thought at the time was some quality artwork, just so I could ‘be cool’ like him!” Subsequent studies of as many outlets of art as he could find (which incorporated the vast expanse between comic books and fine art) led to Mike constantly drawing in school, and his early masterpieces were in great demand by his classroom peers…


Following on from high school, Mike’s studies took in the varied delights of art and computer graphics classes before he went to work in the construction industry for a couple of years. Perhaps it was this career path that reignited the fire and brought his focus back to his creative endeavours, as he headed back into education and emerged with a degree in Fine Arts and Art Education, which led to him teaching in an elementary school. He admits, “I knew that this was not where my heart was. I am just fascinated with the possibility of being able to wear art. I love the whole feeling and atmosphere, and I am especially honoured when people allow me to adorn them with my art. I feel extremely grateful to them.” Mr Nomy’s studies have instilled in him a belief that a foundation in art theory can only be a blessing: “Just being a doodler or a sketcher will only take you so far. Learning colour theories, perspective, figure drawing and other techniques will help advance you as an artist and help your tattoo designs be more successful.” 


As we often discover upon interviewing a tattooist, Mike is another graduate of the school of self-learning. The lack of apprenticeship opportunities led to him acquiring the necessary tools of the trade and “mimicking” the artists who had tattooed him – he sheepishly admits that he probably annoyed more than a few artists with his incessant questions! “I definitely think an apprenticeship is the best way to learn the business”, he says, with the benefit of hindsight. “The only problem is that very few real apprenticeships exist.I did a lot of trial and error on myself, and it was very hard and very frustrating, but I was so determined to succeed at this. If I could do it all over again, I would have really annoyed the shit out of those artists who said no until someone finally gave in.  I have been tattooing for about 3 years and I am still learning everyday. The day you stop learning is the day you die…”


“When I was 19, I got my first tattoo. It was not a great one either, just some silly design I had drawn up, which I then went to some dude’s house with one of my buddies to have it done. It came out pretty shitty, but I was still super happy. This was the start for me”. 


Working out of South Shore Tattoo Co. is a fulfilling experience; a shop full of like-minded tattooists where the only time they get serious is when they are creating great tattoos. Mike laughs, “We like to have fun and keep things light. We have lots of friends and clients who just come hang out at the shop, because it’s always a good laugh. I love when people tell us about some other shop they checked out, where every one there had attitudes or thought they were better than them or some shit.” It is somewhat bemusing that shops packing an oppressive attitude continue to survive but as long as the South Shore mentality prevails, there will always be places where the tattooists are ego-free. Mike came over to the UK for Tattoo Jam last August and dived in to the opportunity to mingle with so many different artists. “I met so many great people and made many good friends and contacts. Tattooing at the convention was quite enjoyable and I was busy all weekend. The venue was tremendous and I was surprised to see how many thousands upon thousands of tattoo artists, collectors and enthusiasts came together to fill the place. I learned so much from Darrin White’s seminar, and also gained a new friend in him. He was so funny and helpful. It seems like everywhere I was, I couldn’t have asked for anything better than what I had,” he enthuses. “The Tattoo Masters’ Ball was a blast! I ate, drank and joked with my new friends all night long. Meeting Jack Mosher and being tattooed by him was a long time goal of mine, and of course, it was fulfilled at Tattoo Jam! He was great, so friendly and willing to share his great knowledge with me. It was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for me. I have to say that Neil and his lady were exceptional! They were very helpful to me and made my experience a memorable one! I have to give Billy The Bastard and the boys from Custom Inc in Glasgow special thanks as well.”


Mike’s big on his influences too and doesn’t shy away from recalling all of the artists who have made an impression on him: “I admire Henning, Eric Ziobrowski, Russ Abbott, Filip Leu, Luke Atkinson, Horiyoshi III, Chris O’Donnell, Tim Hendricks, Tim Hoyer, Kevin LeBlanc, Daniel Albrigo, Grez. There’s so many amazing artists out there that I aspire to be as good as one day.  As far as fine arts, I always enjoyed studying impressionism and I really love bold, graphic, comic book art.” He leans toward bold, colourful tattooing and professes a love of neo-traditional work; because “I really like seeing vibrant pieces come alive on the skin: strong, bold lines and saturated colours really make a tattoo identifiable from across a room,” but Mike is more than happy to tackle any challenge that manifests itself in the studio. His perspective on what he will and won’t indelibly mark on someone’s body is well considered and poignant: “It’s kind of hypocritical for me to say “NO” to someone’s idea,” he muses, “because I know what I want and I want it. I do try to maybe give them reasons why they should maybe rethink their idea or the placement for it… The whole “Corporate Clean” look in some careers sucks because it just proves that people still judge based on appearance and not skill.” His time away from the shop is pretty fleeting because of its embryonic state, and as he says, “I love tattooing so much that I just want to be around it all the time.” Any breaks that are to be found will see Mike chilling with his girl and “a few frosty beverages” or restoring his beloved Dodge van – every man needs a hobby! He’s also managed to sneak some time under the needle with the likes of Jesse Lee, Kurt Fagerland, Rich Verdino, Eric Ziobrowski, Grez, and Luca, and feels spoiled for choice by the vast array of talent available…Mike’s another who’d no doubt kill for extra skin.


His artistic endeavours aside from pushing ink see him experimenting with watercolours, and he did enjoy a spot of oil painting back in his formative years, but finds that tattooing does demand the highest concentration of the creative juices. The lifestyle of a tattoo artist is one that keeps Mike extremely happy and this is best expressed by the man himself: “When something I have made on someone completely makes them so happy and proud, I am so grateful to have their trust that I want to return the favour tenfold. When I’m out at night and someone I tattooed sees me and buys me a drink and goes on about how much they love their ink and shows everyone…that’s why I do this.” 


Mr. Nomy loves the effect that the reality television shows have had and wryly quips, “I love when people ask me if I know Kat or Ami… It’s so funny, like just because I tattoo, we all live in the same house or something!” He continues, “I wonder if one lawyer knows all the other lawyers in the world. Silly television! If these reality shows weren’t around, no one would know who these people were, and they wouldn’t want to talk to them if they saw them walking down the street. Actually, they’d probably cross the street and walk on the other side…” 


We’ll wrap up our exploration of the world of Mike Nomy with his acknowledgements of those who’ve helped him climb the ladder over the years: “I’d like to thank the guy that told me I’d never do this, because he is the reason I will never stop. And also, Tara from 711. She really pushed and encouraged me to do this.” Any further thoughts? Well, Mike says that he likes to share pie. I’ll leave that to your interpretation…


Text: Alex Photography: Mike Nomy


Skin Deep 181 1 January 2010 181