While some tattoo artists know what they want to do from the time they’re children, it takes a little while for others to discover their passion for the art form. For local tattooer Ozzy Ostby, his artistic passions began long before he ever considered tattooing.
“Well, all my life I’ve been into art for sure,” Ostby says. “Art is something I’ve pursued throughout my whole life. I’ve been into everything from architecture to graphic design and things like that, but it wasn’t until I actually found tattooing that I realized it was what I wanted to do. A lot of people say ‘You didn’t find tattooing, tattooing found you,’ and I believe in my case, that’s definitely the story.”
The story of Ostby’s tattoo career begins just about 10 years ago while he was in college for graphic design. While many tattooers may use the “tattooing found me” motto to describe how they first stumbled upon the medium and career, it’s quite a bit more literal for the House of Ink artist. Although he may have ended up pursuing it on his own, Ostby was actually convinced to try tattooing by a relative stranger.
“Some girl came up to me and told me she loved my drawings or art or whatever, and she asked me if she bought me a tattoo machine if I would tattoo her,” Ostby says. “Me being dumb, I said yes, and she bought me the tattoo machine. The day I got the tattoo machine, she had just kind of left and I never saw her again. I was just kind of left with a tattoo machine with nobody to tattoo, so I took it upon myself to learn it for real.”
Over the last decade, Ostby’s knack for American traditional tattoos has become known across Southern California. Although the tattooer hasn’t started traveling on a national or international level just yet, the growing reputation of the self-described “pretty nice guy” is spreading quickly enough to drum up some excitement for when he is ready to take his artwork on the road. But while his artistic skills were already nothing to scoff at even before he began tattooing, Ostby’s customer service mentality is really what he’s picked up over his years in the industry — even if he doesn’t always get to do the exact work he loves.
“I’ve learned a lot about people through tattooing,” Ostby says. “I work in a very people-heavy place, so I’m dealing with people on a daily basis. There are a lot of different people who I didn’t expect would get tattoos, and there are a lot of things in the industry when I first started. When I used to come to work, I used to come to work to people wanting tattoos all day. I was always busy. Nowadays, it’s a little bit slower and harder to get the tattoos that you want to do because of Pinterest and Instagram. All these people want to be original, but they come in with unoriginal art. There are so many trendy tattoos that are going around right now.”
Aside from continuing to hone his craft and get some traveling done, the South Bay native doesn’t have too many other plans going forward. Instead, he prefers to keep things going one day at a time and watch his career grow naturally both in the shop and on social media. After all, there’s no shortage of new tips and tricks for him to learn even after tattooing for a solid decade.
“I don’t really plan anything, so some of the shops I’ve worked at before, it was like ‘OK, let’s do it!’ and then I’d pick up and leave,” Ostby says. “I’m always excited to move forward and learn a lot more. I learn something new every single day, and I’m already 10 years in. There’s a lot to learn with tattooing, and I think you learn everyday whether you’ve been tattooing for one year or 30 years.”
House of Ink, 8 Brooks Ave., Venice, 310-399-0555, @ozzyink