blINK: Behind the Ink

LOCK HAVEN – Many people see tattoo artists as “rockstars,” from the illusions they see on television or in magazines. The popularity of TV shows centered around tattoo shops rarely focuses on the fact that the artists that work strenuous hours – most of the time more than 40 hours a week – and rarely have time to “party.”

“TV shows make it seem like every tattooer barely works and spends the majority of his time partying with rock stars,” said Freddie Wadsworth, owner of Silver Shamrock Tattoo Co., 31 Bellefonte Ave. “Yeah, that’s absolutely the furthest from the truth. I’m generally in my shop, working between 60 and 70 hours a week, and while I do enjoy a frequent adult beverage when I’m not at work, no illegal substances have passed my lips in the time I’ve been tattooing and I’ve never once partied with strippers or rock stars.”

An avid comic book fan, Wadsworth officially began his career in tattooing in 2004. He apprenticed under Ric Sullivan.

“I started getting tattooed at age 15, and by the time I was 20, I certainly had a handful of tattoos. Ric had actually done the majority of my work for me, and a lot of said work was from sketches and drawings that I had brought him,” Wadsworth said.

Wadsworth said while Sullivan was tattooing his then-girlfriend, now wife, Katie, Wadsworth gave Sullivan a little bit of direction on the piece he was working on. While on the outside, Sullivan joked, he ended up using Wadsworth’s advice and decided to offer him an apprenticeship.

“He pointed out that I’d be a good candidate for the job, based mostly on the sketches and drawings he’d seen and how I generally handled myself in social situations,” Wadsworth said. “I asked him for 24 hours to think about it; 18 hours later, I was showing up for my first day at the shop. The rest of the story is kinda-sorta history.”

Wadsworth now owns the shop he started his apprenticeship in, buying the business from Sullivan in February 2011.

As a comic book fan, Wadsworth said he enveloped himself in cartoons and comic books. “I grew up devouring comic books and cartoons, drawing daily, with dreams of becoming an art teacher and children’s book illustrator in the forefront of my ‘career plans,’ ” he said. “You have to remember, this was the time before tattoo reality shows or columns about tattooers in local newspapers. There were a half-dozen tattoo magazines out there. The idea of being a tattooer was a foreign concept to the vast majority of people then. For me, there was always a sort of ‘magic’ to tattooing and the people that did them.”

While not wanting to limit himself to just one style, Wadsworth is a self proclaimed “Jack of All Trades, Master of None,” saying he prepares himself for whatever could walk in through his shop doors.

“In the tradition of street shop tattooing, you have to be ready to handle whatever comes through the door on any given day,” he said. Some days Wadsworth may be working on small black and grey tattoos to extensive colorful Japanese-style pieces – whatever his clientele may happen to want, although, if given a choice, Wadsworth is drawn to American tradition with an American New Skool twist.

“I love the idea of taking the iconography that guys like Cap Coleman, Brooklyn Joe Lieber, or ‘Sailor Jerry’ Norman Collins used, and rendering them in a more slightly modern, more illustrative way, but with the basic ear-marks of traditional American style still securely in place,” he said.

Like many tattoo artists, Wadsworth already has felt the physical affects of the job. Continuously being hunched over, tattooing for 10 or more hours a day takes a toll on the body that not many people are aware of. At 31, Wadsworth has had two back surgeries, one before he started tattooing and one after.

“Generally it’s a mixture of taking breaks and stretching out that keep my body in working, tattooing order. Keeping hydrated is another big key to keeping the body moving. Lately I’ve been doing a small bit of yoga in the mornings before work as well,” Wadsworth said of deterring any physical damage from the constraints of tattooing.

Every day, Wadsworth may be working on something different. He said he has seen several trends in the pieces his clients ask for, varying drastically. He said there’s been a plethora of small, simple text-based pieces, such as lyrics, to feathers: dainty tattoos. On the other hand, Wadsworth has many “project pieces,” involving multiple sittings and covering full arms, backs, legs or chests.

Whatever project comes in the shop, whether or not he likes it, Wadsworth is 100 percent about the customer.

“We’re given jobs with certain parameters, and it’s our job to deliver to the client in question to the best of our abilities what it is that they’re hoping to achieve,” he said. “At some point, a lot of tattooers began to think that everything was entirely about them, and seriously, that just isn’t the case.”

While Wadsworth admires tattooers – old and new style – his creativity ultimately comes from his clients.

“Every day I get to meet new clients with new tattoo ideas, and that keeps me directly on my toes. Without them, I’d pretty much draw zombies and monkeys all day,” Wadsworth said. “The people I tattoo are the ones that push me to strive for something better and to grow as both a designer and as a tattooer. I pretty much owe them everything.”

For more information on Silver Shamrock Tattoo and Freddie Wadsworth, find them on Facebook or visit

Wiegand is a lifestyle-entertainment reporter. “blINK”?features a different local tattoo artist on the last Thursday of each month.For more information, contact the Showcase department at 570-326-1551 or showcase@sunga