Ink and Paint: Miya Bailey
Saturday, February 28, 2009 by A.ware | 18 Comments; | Category: Art, Culture, Interview
He’s well known around the Atlanta tattoo scene and can acclaim fame to numerous clients including the likes of: singer/song writer Usher to America’s Next Top Model Eva Pigford.
Who is this tattooist creating such a buzz in the Atlanta tattoo scene? None other than Miya Bailey owner and proprietor of the “City of Ink”. You are sadly mistaken if you think you can just walk in, catch and copy an idea from the flash on the walls, and get a run-of-the-mill generic tattoo, all the work done at the “City of Ink” is custom to each client. It’s not only a tattoo parlor, but it’s an art gallery as well. Walk in and if you see a painting on the wall that you like… buy that too and walk out with two pieces of art.
Havoc: Did you think you would be tattooing for a living?
MB: Naw, I never thought I would be tattooing for a living…to be honest, I wanted to rob rappers for their jewelry and take the money and buy things people really needed in the projects. But I was a kid, and art is my passion. Tattooing was my way out the hood, so I stuck with it. I fall in and out of love with tattooing, but I honor the art form for what it has created for me, my family, and City of Ink. As some point of my life I just want to retire and pass the torch (and my secrets) to another younger tattoo artist. I always want to be apart of this busines, I just don’t want to hear the same old tattoo ideas over and over again. American tattooing is like looking at reruns on TV. Everyone is tattooing with the same ole styles over and over again…City of Ink is creating NEW styles of tattoo, and a few other shops are also, but we need MORE…before I become uninspired.
Havoc: Do you let the other artists at the shop tattoo you?
MB: Of Course I let my staff tattoo me. We would have never hired them if they wasnt good enough for the job. I would prefer all my artists to tattoo me before I let them tattoo our clients. I trust them all, I have an amazing team of talent at the City of Ink.
Havoc: What tattoo is the closest to your heart?
MB: I would say the “Black Ghetto Prophet” tattoo on my right arm. I lose alot of close friends to the hood, and in the 90′s we created a crew of street niggaz and artist and mix them all up. Life took us all in different directions. Some didn’t fully understand our real mission so their not around no more. Our goal was to open businesses and create jobs for people and we did that. We moved out the ghetto and into Castleberry Hill. Shit, I feel like I’m one of the Jeffersons. I never knew tattooing would take me this far in life..and I still have a whole world to conquer and explore…I’m excited about life now. Same message different method…create jobs using your born given talent.
Havoc: Do you consider yourself an innovator of tattooing and innovative with your style of tattooing?
MB: I feel City of Ink is the innovator of my style of tattooing. I study each of the tattoo artists at City of Ink and they inspire my style of tattooing. When I first created my style of tattooing no one could tell the difference between me and Tuki’s tattoos. We were tattooing the same way just drawing things differently. Tuki has the most styles of tattooing at City of Ink, I just focus on developing my style so I can teach other how to do it. Right now I see Corey Davis and Sophies styles growing into something different, and thats what I love to see. I want each artist to have their own signature style of tattooing. Either you like the style or you dont, and with 6 different tattoo artist you have your pick of the style that fits your soul the most. I do feel I have created a whole new form of putting colors in darker skin with little or no bleeding at all…thats a City of Ink secret, you have have to come here to see that first hand.
Havoc: Unlike other tattoo parlors, your parlor does not have tattoo samples on the walls known as “Flash”, is that to discourage people from getting tattoos that they may regret?
MB: Flash is cool, but why use flash when your a real artist? Whats the point of using stencils if you can really draw? I don’t even understand why people do it. How can you get a following and have a future in this business if your copying other peoples work? Now I would sell City of Ink flash to other shops, because this is a business. Doing flash tattoos got me money but I felt I was just hustling people who didn’t know better so I stopped doing flash in the late 90s. The money was good but my career wasnt going anywhere. I was just another tattooist doing flash..it was just a job….then I created a signature tattoo style and the world noticed and felt my vision. City of ink isn’t just a tattoo shop it’s also an art gallery focused on bring fine art and tattooing together as one entity.
Havoc: Do you get inspired by your surroundings to paint?
MB: Yes, my friends and staff inspire my paintings. I tattoo a lot of beautiful women so of course that would inspire my art. My wife’s lips inspire my art. Watching Samba (shop manager) inspires me A LOT. Much people don’t know but if Samba was really focused on painting,…he will be something special in the art world. Pain, love, lust, dreams, my past and future all inspire me and I express it all together in my paintings.
Havoc: How does your tattooing influence your art work?
MB: Tattooing makes your line work better. If you can get a clean outline tattooing just imagine what you can do with an ink pen. Tattooing shading helps you paint and blend colors better also. But what influences my art work the most are my clients and the convos we have when I’m tattooing them. I’m a very visual person so the stories they tell I can see them crystal clear in my mind. They stick with me and I take those memories home with me and create some of my most personal art work.
Havoc: Are we going to see a “Miya Bailey Art book” in stores soon?
MB: Yes I’m almost finished with my book..its been a very long project. The book i called, “BEFORE I’M GONE: The Art & Life of Miya Bailey” It’s a visual look into my life in the streets and how I came from nothing to become somebody. All my struggles, all my flaws,and mistakes..I have nothing to hide. I just want to inspire other project kids to live their dreams. The book will have EVERY piece of art work I have done and kept in my lifetime. The oldest drawing is from 1979, I was only 4years old. My favorite chapter is the 1990-1997. I was in the streets then beating up the police and trying to inspire change. I almost lose my life few times..so that chapter is my deepest work..my new art is more inspired by my surrounds at City of Ink…I even have a chapter about all my friends and love ones.
Havoc: Would we see another City of Ink opening in Atlanta or elsewhere after this?
MB: Thats my whole plan…I want a chain of City of Inks all over the world. I want to employ fashion designers, models, tattoo artists, photographers, painter, writers, etc…I want to show the world you can become rich doing art for a living. We need to make sure we shine so we can inspire the youth. I don’t believe in that starving artist bullshit…make money, get free, and do all the art you can…give a your mark on this planet before your gone.
Havoc: Any last words for the people out there?
MB: Support the City of Ink Movement, and inspire your city!
Havoc: How come we don’t see you at Hollywerd shows?
MB: MAN! the only reason I miss most of he Hollyweerd shows is because their managers even call my managers and when Tuki let me they have a show its about a week or 2 in advance…and most of my appointments are set 2 to 4 months in advance. Since most of my clients fly in fromm different cities I can’t cancel the appointment to go to the shows. People think I just love tattooing that much..and I do love tattooing but not enough to sit in the same chair for 13 hours alone in City of Ink while the whole crew is enjoying the show and seeing all the people…tattooing can be a VERY lonely job…you miss A LOT of personal time…the only time I do get to be alone is when I walk to work, and when everyone is at the Hollyweerd shows. If we can all get our managers on the same page…I will be at EVERY show supporting my team…so when you don’t see me out, I’m at City of Ink until the AM tattooing…so tell Hollyweerd and COI to work on a better appointment system so I can see outdoors something….last night(Feb.23) was my first time in a club (outside of MJQ) in over 5 years..yeah I work that much!
With numerous clients attesting to the success of the parlor, creating a buzz in the Atlanta scene is something the “City of Ink” can not help from doing. You can learn more and see more at the parlor’s website at: http://www.thecityofink.com/. You can see and hear more on his youtube subscription list at http://www.youtube.com/user/miyabailey and his blog at http://www.miyabailey.blogspot.com/.
Photos: Duwayno Robertson