When the tattooer now best known as Pokey of Old Towne Tattoo Parlor was just a 17-year-old getting his first tattoo, he didn’t realize it was going to be the beginning of a career. As a kid who’d always been interested in tattoos, Pokey knew he wanted to collect them and become a part of the scene, but it wasn’t until a handful of years later when he realized he actually wanted to become a real tattooer.
“I’d just started college, and as lame as this sounds, I wanted to make a couple dollars while I was in art school, so I started tattooing out of my garage or kitchen or wherever I could,” Pokey says. “I knew I wasn’t doing the right thing. It just didn’t seem kosher. It seemed super wrong, and I knew that.”
As soon as Pokey finished his time in art school, the young artist began a formal apprenticeship at a shop in Artesia about six years ago. Since then, Pokey has become a solid option for fans and collectors of American traditional tattooing in OC. “I’m just honored and super humble about the amount of people who want to get tattooed and want to get what I like to do — traditional with bold lines and bright colors,” Pokey says. “I’m very fortunate for that. It’s crazy because there are tons of traditional tattoo artists in this area. I’ve never really thought about it too much, but there are so many artists who have been tattooing for so long.”
But although he’s established, Pokey’s sponge of a brain absorbs as much tattooing knowledge from those veterans as he can.
“I’m super humble and fortunate to have met the people I’ve met in my career so far,” Pokey says. “I still consider myself really young and still learning. That’s the good thing about tattooing is I feel like no matter how long you’ve been doing it, you can never know everything. You’re always going to be learning no matter how long you’ve been in the game.”
From the moment he learned about the importance of social media during his apprenticeship (back in the pre-Instagram days) to the tidbits about artwork and culture that Pokey picks up from fellow tattooers on a regular basis, the encyclopedia of knowledge between the burgeoning tattooer’s ears is constantly expanding. But among everything the hard-working has learned over the years, there’s one major lesson Pokey will never forget and believes is too often overlooked.
“I learned that it’s not necessarily about what the meaning of a tattoo is to you,” Pokey says. “Being able to get tattooed by your friends and tattooing your friends makes it more about the moment. It’s about that moment where it all comes together, whether we’re sitting here waiting for walk-ins or if we’re all done with our appointments. It’s not necessarily about what it is or what a tattoo means to you, but about the moment of getting tattooed. Those are the kinds of tattoos that I’ll always remember.”
Old Towne Tattoo Parlor, Orange, 714-941-6055, @pokey_tattooer