Where did you start tattooing?
Josh Carter: I’ve been tattooing for 21+ years now. I started in 1997 on the boardwalk in Venice Beach ,California at 19 years old. The first half of my career was spent just doing whatever anyone who walked through the door wanted. I was a dyed in the wool street shop artist and pretty good at it.
When did you decide on Japanese being your main style?
Josh: At about a decade into tattooing I realized that I needed a singular focus and I settled on making traditional Japanese my main body of work. It’s taken a long time to develop my style but I feel I’ve been able to do that. I try and stay respectful to traditional while adding my own flavor to the tattoos I do. I am still learning and hope to continue pushing my boundaries improving my work ever so slightly with each tattoo.
How Did You Decide To Open Your Own Shop?
Josh: It took me a long time, I had opportunities to open shops earlier in my career, but I didn’t feel like I was mature enough emotionally or in my art to be responsible for an entire shop. Even when it was time to jump on board with Jon and get Dame of the West rolling I had to push through a boatload of fear and anxiety. But everything felt right, I trusted my gut and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done as far as my career is concerned.
Jon and I have put together a crew of people that not only have immense talent, but also absolutely love being around each other everyday. Our goal was to create an environment of positive energy that is totally felt by the clients as well.
To go back to the question, how did I make the decision? I didn’t really I just got out of my own way and allowed the universe to do its thing, because this shop always felt like it was meant to be.
What Are You Looking For From Clients:
Josh: I value the relationships I build with my clients. My main clientele tend to be fairly established working professionals who have taken the time to do enough research to find me. That’s indicative of the patience and intelligence that my clients have.
When I’m spending as much time as I am with clients receiving large scale work I want to be able to vibe with them. I want the experience to be as amazing for me as it is for them. That might be a little selfish but it’s not always about the money.
What Is Your Proudest Achievements?
Josh: Honestly, I can say I’m one of, maybe, 3 tattooers in the Arizona valley who have dedicated their careers solely to the Japanese style and do it well.
There is nobody in the valley who tattoos like me. My work is easily recognizable and respected, it takes consistent work ethic over a long period to develop that. Im far from full of myself but I don’t downplay how much time and effort I put into getting where I am in tattooing.
Having the ability to leverage my own success to help those around me to achieve their goals. To then leave a positive mark, in more ways than tattooing on as many people as possible before I die will be my proudest achievement.
Josh is awesome. My brother went in for his tattoo and I left getting one as well. Let's say I couldn't say no because my brothers turned out great!!! I 10/10 recommend!!!
Josh, one of the owners, took me on a walk-in earlier today. I was asking to get a mountain range tattooed on my bicep. He gladly took me in and helped me design the perfect tattoo. He took about 30 minutes to do it all completely and was very fairly priced. The place was super clean and well kept. Awesome atmosphere and music. I'd reccomend them to anyone.
John R., san Francisco
Gave my husband an idea for a tattoo (I got the idea from a sock). Fernando tattooed him literally the next day and drew up one awesome piece! My husband really appreciated Fernando and his knowledge and support of the tattoos he currently has. I think the tattoo looks awesome! Oh and Austin is awesome. He was great at responding to my emails and very friendly!
I stumbled into Dame of the West last month after drinking my fair share of sake across the street and haven't looked back since. I met Fern just by walking up to the counter and explaining a piece I was trying to get that had been turned down by another shop down the road
(for going against a "moral code" of tattooing). He listened to what I wanted, gave me advice without a lecture, and it was done the next day!
Fern is the 4th tattoo artist I've worked with and by far my favorite. His talent goes without saying, but I get the most compliments on his work out of all my pieces. I always ask him for his professional opinion on the pieces I'm getting and he is so helpful and knowledgeable. I really like that he's so great to collaborate with and doesn't take offense to changes I want to make. I got one of my pieces "upside down" and Fern let me know that traditionally it should face the other way. When I told him I really, really wanted it upside down he didn't judge or give me pushback. I hate when shops shut your ideas down right away because you're new to tattoos or want something they think is "stupid". Fern just has this really chill way of lending his professional advice without turning it all into his show.Read More
Jon Garber - Artist
Josh Carter - Artist & Owner
A professional tattooer with over 20 years experience, Josh started tattooing at the age of 19 in Los Angeles, California around 1997. Early in his career, he worked in high volume street shops. Including places like Venice Beach and Hollywood Boulevard before transitioning into a more custom design oriented path. After a few years of exploring different genres of tattooing, Josh finally settled on making Japanese style tattooing his primary focus. View Josh’s portfolio here.
Jon Garber - Owner & Artist
After 15 years in the industry and over 20 years as an artist, I wanted to open a shop that would exceed clients expectations. Everyone is treated with the utmost respect and given a tattoo they can be proud of. My style is classic Americana or traditional. Simplistic yet expressive with bold outlines and a limited color palette, my designs are representative of tattoos from the 1800's. Strength and timelessness are captured in my pieces.
In Japanese art and irezumi
By Josh Carter
Before the tiger was depicted in Japanese art it first had to be interpreted by Japanese artists. Tigers aren’t native to Japan and the closest ones there are to the Japanese archipelago are in Russia’s Siberian woodlands, the northeastern part of China, and Korea. Regardless, tigers have been displayed on the silk scrolls of traditional Japanese art for centuries. A few tigers had visited Japan before its cultural isolation ended in the late nineteenth century (Meiji Era).
Full-grown cats and mewling kittens were given as gifts to warlords and shoguns, but most artists seem to have depicted tigers using imported pelts as reference. Japanese artists would also depict leopards in the mistaken belief they were female tigers.
Further more, some artists used house cats as models. If you look closely at Maruyama Okyo’s Sitting Tiger, painted in 1777. His tiger glares with green almond eyes and slitted pupils; an ocular feature common to house cats on sunny days, but not to tigers.
Without tigers to draw upon from life, Japanese artists depicted the fearsome cat for spiritual reasons unknown to artists in the west. They borrowed from Taoism, a mystical Chinese philosophy that grew from studying nature.
In free-flowing Taoism, Chinese philosophers saw the universe in terms of a symbiotic yin and yang: yang, masculine order, takes the form of a mythological dragon; yin, feminine chaos, the tiger.
Japanese Zen Buddhism and Chinese Taoism share some beliefs but Outside of the Chinese zodiac the tiger is not associated with either Buddhism or Shintoism in Japan, however some artists depicted twin dragons and tigers on the sliding doors of Zen Buddhist temples and like the Christian story of Saint Jerome and his lion, Buddhists believed that tigers accompanied long-ago holy men.
As a tattoo motif the tiger represents strength and courage, as well as long life. It protects from evil spirits and bad luck, as well as disease. In addition, the tiger is a symbol for the north and for autumn and is said to control the wind. A tiger tattoo protects the wearer from harm and helps them live longer. Its believed that people gain strength from their tiger tattoo, which gives them bravery and confidence.
Meaning in Asian culture and Japanese Tattoo
By Josh Carter
The dragon is arguably one of the most prominent images when it comes to asian culture. For many people the mere mention of China or Japan conjures mental images of these spiky beasts, but where do they originate from and what exactly do they represent?
In order to answer this question let’s start with China, its hard to say where the dragon exactly originates from but I think its safe to say that no other culture shows an earlier widespread use of dragons in artwork and architecture. In stark contrast to the European dragon which is usually depicted as a malevolent creature; asian dragons symbolize potent and auspicious powers, particularly control over water, rainfall, hurricanes, and floods. The Asian dragon is a symbol of power, strength, and good luck. The Chinese imperial court used the image of the dragon as a symbol of its own unbridled power.
The asian dragon is actually made up of several different animals, a creature commonly referred to as a chimera; usually depicted as having: the tail of a fish, the scales of a carp, the neck of a snake, the belly of a clam, the head of a camel, the claws of an eagle, the paws of a tiger, the ears of a cow, the eyes of a rabbit, the beard of a goat and the antlers of a deer.
Depending on the dynasty that was ruling, the “official” Chinese dragon color varied. Chinese dragons are usually one of the “five auspicious colors” blue, yellow, black, white or red
Under the Han dynasty (206 B.C.–220 A.D.), for instance, the Chinese dragon symbolizing the Emperor, who was viewed as a god at that time, was turquoise. This turquoise Chinese dragon also symbolized the fifth element in the Chinese five elements, the sun, the East and the West.
Han dynasty aside, it was mostly the yellow Chinese dragon that was chosen by the Emperors as their symbol. This was particularly the case during the Qing dynasty (from 1644 to 1912 AD). The Qing’s Emperor Yan, in fact, was said to be the offspring of his mother’s telepathic communications with a mystical Chinese dragon, and it was claimed that the most powerful Chinese dragon was yellow
Over time the dragon spread throughout Asia, as it did its physical characteristics changed just a bit. One of main ways to tell where a dragon is from is to count the number of toes it has. Chinese dragons will usually be depicted as having 5 toes whereas the further away it travels from china it will lose a toe, dragons in Korea and surrounding areas have four toes and Japanese dragons will always have three.
Im going to skip over Korea and other surrounding regions and jump straight to Japan since thats where my main area of focus is and where I draw the majority my inspiration from
In terms of how they are portrayed in legends, Chinese dragons are usually given benevolent roles, while a lot of Japanese dragons or Ryu (Japanese for dragon) are not necessarily considered to be malevolent beasts; however they are brutal and powerful forces of nature that transcend good or evil. As a side note, the very concept of good and evil is completely different from the way we view it in western culture. In order to better understand this as westerners we have to step outside our Judeo-Christian perspective and remember that Japanese culture is spawned out of a mix of confucianism, shinto, and buddhism with nature taking center stage. Nature isn’t good or evil, it just is what it is, sometimes fruitful and comfortable and sometime harsh and unforgiving, but you cant blame nature for being nature. We could delve into this more but thats a whole other subject.
Some of the first appearances of dragons in Japanese mythology were in the Kojiki (680 AD) and Nihongi (720 AD).The Kojiki, also known as the Records of Ancient Matters or Furukotofumi, is a collection of various myths related to Japan’s four home islands. The Nihongi, which is also referred to as Nihon Shoki or The Chronicles of Japan, serves as a more detailed and elaborate historical record than the Kojiki.
In both documents, water deities in the shape of serpents or dragons are repeatedly mentioned in numerous ways. These creatures are considered to be Japan’s indigenous dragons, the most popular stories being:
Yamata no Orochi – The Eight-Branched Giant Snake
Watatsumi – The Sea God or King of the Sea
Toyotama-hime – The Luminous Pearl Princess
Mizuchi – The Four-Legged Dragon or The Hornless Dragon
Kiyohime – The Purity Princess
As tattooing in Japan began to flourish around the early 1800’s bigger and more complex tattoo designs began to emerge. It was only a matter of time before dragons started making their appearance in horimono (Japanese body suit tattooing). Since the dragon is most commonly associated with water, the ryu motif become popular among Edo’s firefighters and worn as a talisman to protect against being burned.
One of the biggest contributions to the popularity of tattooing in early Japan was a novel known as the Suikoden. Countless Numbers of young men were getting the same tattoos as some the characters in the Suikoden in an attempt to emulate the brave anti-heroes depicted in the story. One major character in the Suikoden goes by the name Kumonryu Shishin (or 9 dragon Shishin) and is described as having a body suit tattoo consisting of, you guessed it, 9 dragons.
Dragons in Japanese culture are not a mythical creature but a representation or a symbol, they are the anthropomorphic manifestation of a terrible and powerful heavenly force, conversely the tiger is the most powerful earthly force, they are counterparts, yin and yang.
To this day the dragon continues to be one the most widely used and powerful images in tattooing, after 20 years of tattooing it still remains one of my favorite images to draw and or tattoo.