Ink Master's Chris Nuñez on His New Miami Shop, Tatu Baby, and Corporate America
Chris Nuñez might be Miami's most recognizable ink ambassador. In addition to turns on reality TV blowouts Miami Ink and Ink Master, the tattoo artist recently opened his own surprisingly low-key spot, Handcrafted Miami (3438 N Miami Ave., Miami).
In addition to reppin' the 305's tattoo scene before a national audience, Nunez is looking to showcase tattooing as the art form it really is. His new labor of love is an art gallery and tattoo parlor, and according to Nunez, such a pairing has been a long time coming.
We caught up with Nuñez at his new Midtown haunt and talked corporate pillaging, stress relief, and fellow Miamian and Ink Master star, Tatu Baby.
Cultist: What sparked the idea of combining a tattoo parlor and studio?
Chris Nuñez: Basically the concept was to create a work space and a gallery space to be able to kind of break the average look of tattoo shops. I just wanted to create a space that was welcoming and inviting and kind of categorized tattooing as the art form that it is.
I always wanted to have a space. As tattooers we always battle the space issue. You always wish you had a little more room to do this and do that, more of a creative work space. This is more of what you would see in an ad agency, a designer's kind of work space. I wanted to set up that kind of work space but offer it to my friends and the people I work with.
Are a lot of tattoo artists also artists in other mediums?
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Yeah, absolutely. I think tattooing has kind of hit an almost a Renaissance form of art. You have so many crossover artists; you have so many graffiti artists that became tattoo artists, you have sign painting, classic painting, pop painters, all these different art forms. Even fashion, clothing -- they all kind of fuse. A lot of people have found inspiration from tattoos and have drawn inspiration from tattooers for their personal art. I think tattoos are completely underrated in the fine art world and that's why I wanted to offer this. I wanted to base the mantra of the shop on showing off the talent we have inside our industry.
Last night I went to a sticker show at Tony Goldman's space. It was a cool Miami vibe, the right people came out and showed up. I'm trying to create that vibe here in the art space. I have the location and the love and care I put into the design. The heart and soul of the shop; I feel like this is the place to invite all these artists that have so much to show to come and show.
We're planning to curate at least a bi-monthly show as well as a huge Basel project that for the time being is under wraps. But we're gonna do something major this year for Basel.
If you look at the fashion world, you look at the corporate world, they've raped and pillaged tattooing to no end and no tattoo artists have been compensated. They just rape and pillage. If we put the art form of tattoos and the painting and real style tattoos -- we're really the tastemakers out there. That fuels a lot of people's finances. If we legitimize that as a community, we'll reap the benefits of our own hard labor.
Do you have any of your own art on display?
I do have a big a collage here and stuff, I'm just so busy. I just got back from Milan and Ireland. It's not like the average shop. It took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. It's a hectic workload but it's all worth it. Coupled with that and a small clothing line that we're starting out. We're doing everything guerrilla, we're not really relying on a name. We're trying to do everything more grassroots. We're grinding just like everybody else. It doesn't hurt to have a TV show, but it's not like they're jumping to be like, "Chris, what can we do for you?" We've got to do it ourselves.