Since 1988, bodyart enthusiasts hungry for ink have travelled from around the world to have custom tattoos designed by Smooth and Company. had the pleasure of interviewing Smooth himself…and asking about his 40ft mobile tattooing trailer.

Smooth - Smooth FX

1. Smooth, welcome and thank you for doing the interview. Firstly, the name….where did it come from?

Thank you for having me. The name obviously reflects me as the owner, and “Fx” is the Hollywood expression for special effects. My studio offers exclusive original designs, with an attention to details and effects not found in many flash studios. High end, clean, special effect work; thus Smooth Fx.

2. After a little research on the net, you mention on one site you began tattooing back in 1988, how did it all begin for you and how did you get to where you are today?

I use to own a hair studio, and I wanted to offer cosmetic tattooing. I had met a tattoo artist name Brewski, rented her a chair, and began picking her brain on the fundamentals. I had a relationship with some area clinics where we offered custom hair goods for cancer and accident patients. So I had the ear of a few doctors when I wanted technical information.

This grew into cosmetic tattooing for accident and surgery scars; along with other vanity work like eyeliner, lips and eyebrows. As things grew I was asked to offer traditional tattoo designs. I met another artist who offered a leg for training, and I gave it a try. My first tattoo was on a tattoo artist from LaCross, WI named Loren; it was a tiger head. I was blessed, as the design work came somewhat natural to me.

To further educate myself on what I would want to offer in a full featured studio, I took a MidWest tour to as many shops as I could with in 5 hours. Back then there where not too many stops. Needless to say, the further away from home I went, the better reception I would receive. I learned to say less, and let them offer some part of their special knowledge.

The two best early influences were the late Bird; owner of Rainbow Fantasy Tattoo in St. Paul MN, and Joyce Mayer and her husband David; owners of Tiger Lily Tattoo in Stockton, MN. Bird impressed the historical importance of the student teacher relationship, and a great deal of insight into the technical end of tattooing. I took several trips to see him, as he made it clear, each trip was worthy of only a certain amount of information.


Tiger Tattoo on Chest

(An Example of Smooth’s Work - Tiger Tattoo on Chest)

His further influence threw my hot rod car affection straight into V-Twins and 2 wheels too. Joyce and Dave became dear friends, and took a more artistic and business interest in me. Joyce was the best freehand artist I had met to this point, and she was so wonderful in sharing with me. Dave taught me how to supply myself with out ever needing a supply company. I admit, I do buy many supplies now, but I was taught how to make EVERYTHING and NEED NO ONE.

The Mayer’s and Bird are who I offer the highest amount of honor to for giving me the right start. A lot of other artist have influenced me over the years. Some new to the business, with great fresh ideas, and some old timers with a great deal of experiences.

3. You have a base in Sauk City (WI), and a mobile 40ft trailer, how do you manage your time between the different locations and ensure your standards are being upheld in the shop and when you are away?

The trailer is as equipped as the studio, including all the same tattoo equipment, and a full MAC computer system for designing and consulting with. As far as my support team, I have two very gifted and honorable apprentices; Danielle Jepsen, and Anita Robey. These trips can require one or all of us. We do Private Events only. I’m not in the mood for “Carney” work. So we really have a good idea before we leave, as to the amount of work we will be doing.


Smooth’s 40ft Tattoo Trailer

(Smooth’s 40ft Tattoo Trailer)

Many times I go one day in advance, and tattoo all the family members who are hosting the party. Then one or both of the girls join me the next day. One artist works with the designing while two others are tattooing. Closing the Studio isn’t desirable, but it is fun to get away.

We bond as a team, and make money while away. I find it to be very valuable in two ways. We reach out to clients who have seen our work, but never made the trip to us. And we get to do something as a studio which is work, but feels like play. Our hosts treat us very well. They arrange to have the clients available to us, feed us really well, and then when the work is done…sometimes we get to party.

Our State doesn’t offer a yearly license for mobile tattoo trailers; although they will allow you to feed all the crap you want in a food trailer with one yearly fee and one inspection. For tattooing we have to get the trailer inspected every fricken time it leaves the driveway of the studio. I don’t really mind the inspections, in fact I welcome the interaction. However, the $100 fee each time is a little sick. This last year we spent about $1500 in inspections!

4. Speaking of the trailer, it is such a cool idea, how did the idea come about and is it popular in your area?

Some punk was coming to my area doing un-inspected home parties in area kitchens, basement, garages and back yards. I thought I would offer the ultimate choice. A respected studio, offering a kick ass trailer, with all the modern conveniences and cleanliness.


Inside Smooth’s 40ft Tattoo Trailer

(Inside Smooth’s 40ft Tattoo Trailer)

With us, they have a home base to contact should they have any questions with healing. Additionally they have the comfort of knowing we hold a real steak in the outcome of the work as a studio; rather than some dude they might never see again. I’m sure these scratcher parties still happen, but this option is now available.

For many years our clients, who have travelled to see us, have gone home and proudly shown off their new tattoo work. Their friends loved the work, but were not able to make the same trip. So now we can come to them. This year, I have run as far East as Rockport Massachusetts and West to the Black Hills of South Dakota. We have yearly events which are gathering so much interest, we have had to return twice this year to two of them. Much of the time, we work well into the next morning.

5. Do you ever encounter problems with large groups of people using your trailer as part of their party, such as when alcohol or young teens are involved etc?

No… Not a chance. If you knew me, you know I wouldn’t put up with any disrespect. People are very cool at these private events. No smoking in the trailer. Drinking is fine in the lounge area, as long as you are NOT in line for work. We ID just like in the studio, and require everyone to fill out our client sheet.


Inside Smooth’s 40ft Tattoo Trailer

(Smooth’s 40ft Tattoo Trailer Lounge Area)

The sign on the door of the studio and trailer reads, “STOP! If you are under 18, pregnant, drunk, dirty, smelly, or otherwise obnoxious, please come back when you ARE NOT.Much of the party never really happens in the trailer. Usually this is planned well enough so other things are going on. These parties tend to really be about the gathering of friends, food, and cool custom tattooing.

6. Today, many teenagers are getting generic, common tattoos that seem to be fashion crazes. You are dedicated to custom artwork, how does this brush off on people who come into the shop? Do you attempt to change their views or customise their idea?

We are in a location which almost guaranties the client is a referral, so they usually know how we are before they get there. We have NO flash on the wall. Many clients come in with some visual reference of what they are trying to do, or can describe their ideas to a designer.

The attraction to us is, they don’t have to fish through thousands of designs to get close or inspired. They just need to explain the idea, and we will produce it. Even fashion crazes can be tweaked. Tribal, for instance, does NOT have to be just black, and we can draw right on the skin to compliment the body lines of the client. We offer original, one time only tattoos… if they bring a flash design in, usually these pieces need some love anyway, and our clients are happy to allow our take on each design.


Tribal Tattoo Design with Wolf

(Generic Tribal Tattoo Design Customised with a Wolf)

7. Have you ever refused to tattoo someone because of their design? If so, what was your reason and what was their reaction?

Yeah… I really hate doing hands, mostly rings. I don’t care who you are, these rarely work out well. I don’t do gang tags, they can do each other for all I care. Anything anti American is met with hostility. I am not a fan of government, but I love my country. I am tactful, but unyielding in these cases, so I think the customer understands.

The hardest is the person who has a sketch drawn by a dead relative, and they want it just like the sketch… and it sucks… yeah… this requires the right touch. I try to learn more about the deceased, then ask if they feel this sketch really reflects this person’s personality.

Usually we find new ideas which truly is a better memorial. Sometimes they know it sucks, and they are happy to have me adjust it. We don’t turn away small or easy work. I would never consider myself above doing a simple design. First of all, these tattoos paid my way to the top. Second, these simple designs breed bigger and more involved designs. If the first time virgins love how they are treated, they are much more likely to return.

We take way more time than many tattoos are worth, but the long run has always worked out for me. I was told by many of my peers, I would go broke doing things this way. In fact for years other studios referred work to me which they didn’t want to deal with. I have taken the custom angle since day one, but I see this as being more and more the norm in other shops, with far better artist coming into the business.

8. You seem to have quite a following, with people traveling from as far as Australia, Norway, Switzerland and Germany to be tattooed by you. Tattoos and piercing can be quite addictive, do you have any regulars coming back for more and more?

With tattooed actors, athletes, and Miami Ink coming into our homes, increasing body coverage is much more accepted. From this, all shops will enjoy return clients. I depend on it. Returns and referrals with very little advertising. The long distant clients are very humbling. They spend 10 times more for tattoo work, which the local Joe at the plant can come in to get. I love to have these clients in my portfolio.

Web site - This is an extremely important tool. I was one of the early studios to have an internet presence. My former studio is probably one of the first registered domain names for a tattoo studio. I think you are dead with out an internet presence. If you can’t be found with a search and a click, I think you are perceived as “not in the game.

9. What is the most unusual design you are proud of completing and what was it?

I hate this question. I have a new favorite each week. In the web site I even post “Cool Tattoo of the Week.”

Here are a few examples…


Motorbike Tatto Backpiece in Hell with Girls

(Motorbike Tatto Backpiece in Hell with Girls)


Elderly man, Horses and Forest Tattoo

(Elderly man, Horses and Forest Tattoo)


Purple and Pink Face Mask Tattoo

(Purple and Pink Face Mask Tattoo)

10. With such respect for your artwork you have picked up a number of awards over the years, what is your proudest achievement and why?

Referrals are the most important of all awards and achievements. Beyond this, unsolicited coverage from magazines, television, and news papers are by far the best recognition. I have been fortunate many times to be published and interviewed. One Flash story was like 9 pages. I have never sent in anything to a magazine myself. So I am very proud of anything like this.

As far as my clients, I tell them the highest compliment for their work is, if someone wants to photograph their tattoo. The fact someone else wants to have a picture of a total strangers work, to reflect on later, is awesome. The convention awards are nice, and I have many, but I am way more humbled being covered on the collection of my years of tattooing.

The awards are fun when a client is into going to the shows. However, each day of each tattoo show is so subjective and hard to explain some of the results. So I tell the clients to proudly accept the winnings, but don’t really fret the losses. Mostly, HAVE FUN.

11. And finally, where do you see the tattoo industry in the next 5 years?

Five years isn’t much time, so I don’t see huge changes. But I think the trend of what I am doing is going to continue by more people coming into the business with increasing art talent, and less of a “head shop” presence about them. The truth is, Tattoo Artists, rock stars, and real anti system people are comfortable in the old style tattoo shop atmosphere.

But, the dynamic portion of todays clients are not comfortable stepping into these intimidating shops. Customer service wasn’t really a big needed feature when you were the only shop in town. Now days, the “sit down, and hang on” attitude will not be supported by a large client base; regardless of how good you are.

So in the future, hard to approach shops will suffer, and non-licensed scratchers will continue loosing an audience. The tattoo client is much more educated and aware of their options. They are looking for the clean studio, where the artists are easy to communicate with. The more people see better work, and better studios, the more they will want from us.

Miami Ink, above the other “Ink” shows, really gives a nice slice of the glory, struggles, and stress of an average tattoo studio. The stories behind tattoos from this show encourages our future clients to think deeper about their permanent art expression.

The nice thing for all of us is, art is relative to the beholder. So every style will probably always have a following. I think the best of what can be done in the skin is yet to come… meet you there!

Smooth, once again thank you for your time. It has been a pleasure interviewing you today!

Thank you. It has been an honor to be asked to speak with you and your magazine.

Interview conducted by Khalid, founder of

Smooth FX Contact Information:



Tel: or toll free

Address: 821 Industry Rd. • Sauk City • WI • 53583