When Mikey Sarratt was growing up, he wanted to be a hockey player. Sarratt's NHL aspirations didn't work out, but now, after a stint in semi-pro hockey, he gets to be involved with the Arizona Coyotes in a different way. He tattoos most of them.
Sarratt began his tattooing career in 2003 when his friend and tattoo artist offered to show him how to tattoo.
"I always loved tattoos. I thought they were super cool," Sarratt says. "I was very lucky to have someone ask if I wanted to learn. People don't realize the hardships and difficulties of finding a way into tattooing."
Sarratt would then work as an apprentice for three years, which he believes is yet another obstacle tattoo artists deal with that most people don't see or think of.
"It was a rough road full of ups and downs," Sarratt says. "For that whole three years, I was the lowest of the lows. I'd be the first guy in the shop and the last one to leave, and of course you don't even get paid for it."
These days, Sarratt owns High Noon Tattoo Studio in Phoenix, where he gets to show off his traditional "Sailor Jerry-esque" style of tattooing.
"My tattoos are generally based on traditional fundamentals of tattooing, but I always put my little flair on them," Sarratt says. "I think the differences are in my color palette and my unique designs and drawing."
When he's not busy tattooing and running High Noon, Sarratt also does a wide variety of tattoo expos and shows around the country. He says he doesn't do them all, but the ones he likes he keeps going back to, such as Phoenix's Hell City Tattoo Festival (which Sarratt has attended for the last six years) and other conventions in Salt Lake City and Seattle. Of course, Sarratt happens to do pretty well in the competitions at a lot of these festivals, as his wide array of trophies include first and third in the "traditional" category from one of his favorites, the 2014 Northern Arizona Tattoo Festival in Prescott.
What are some of your tattoos? Most of my tattoos are based on life experiences. They tell a story. I remember where I was for every one of them. Most of them don't have any meaning. One that does was a friend was one that a friend was supposed to get tattooed on him before he passed, so I just got it on my arm and changed the date. I have some good ones, some bad, but I love them all and I wouldn't change a thing about them.
What's a memorable tattoo you've done? I played hockey growing up, so the first time one of the Phoenix Coyotes came in was super cool. Now I tattoo pretty much all of the ones who have tattoos, and I'm friends with some of them. Also, my dad really hated tattoos when I was growing up, but when he was 56 he asked me to tattoo him. That was cool.
What's the most important thing to you about a tattoo? It's most important to take the idea that comes in and turn it into a good tattoo. A lot of ideas wouldn't make good tattoos, so the trick is keeping the elements that are most important to them and making it fit into a good tattoo that'll last for 50 years. Sometimes that's a hard gap to bridge, so you just have to pick the important pieces and make it the best tattoo possible. I don't want to just do a tattoo that they want. I want to be excited about a tattoo, too. I want to do a tattoo and be proud to send it out the door of the shop.
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What do you look for in an artist or a tattoo shop? I think the personality of the tattooer is really important. I know a lot of really good tattooers, but there's more to tattooing than being able to do a good tattoo. I want to get tattooed by good people and good friends. I know world-class tattooers that I'd never want to get tattooed by because they're just like 'whatever' and they know they're that good. I want the tattooer to be excited to do a tattoo, and some guys just don't have that. We have a blast here. We want everyone to feel like we're good friends. You can come by and talk to everyone in the shop and they'll all ask about your family and really get to know you.
Would you change anything about your tattoos or tattooing if you could? If I could just erase the first three years or so that I tattooed, I would. I have a lot of good friends with terrible tattoos from the first few years that I was tattooing. One of my best friends has the first tattoo I ever did, and he won't let me fix it.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to someone getting their first tattoo? Definitely look at portfolios and do research on the shop. Go into the shop, ask questions and see if you click with the tattooers. Go off recommendations, if you see a really awesome tattoo on the street, ask them where they got it done.