No big deal but I got to hang out with the QT pie herself, Melvin Arizmendi, recently! For some reason she decided to grace me with her sparkly presence and let me bug her with questions. She also drank some cheap wine with me and brought cute snacks!
If you are unsure who Melvin is - I'm here to fill you in. She's a magical tattoo artist that is, in general, a joy to be around. Although talented in almost any genre - her niche is a haven of colorful, bright and Kawaii-esque creations that make your eyeballs orgasm. She is basically a gift to your body due to the fact she will make you look hella ballin' until the day you die and even afterwards when you are decomposing six feet under. I love how cheery and positive she is to be around - she's a magnificent lady to say the least.
For a while before beginning the interview we discussed how there's nothing too personal on the internet about Melvin despite her large following. Now...that's all going to change.
MELVIN ARIZMENDI = EXPOSED.
Have you always been interested in tattoos - has this always been your outlet when it comes to art?
Yeah. I've always been into tattoos, in my way. The first time I ever saw someone covered with tattoos I was probably...maybe four or five years old. I thought that was the best thing I have ever seen in my entire life - because I had never really seen that many people up close with even one tattoo but then I saw someone that had their whole body covered. I just knew that's what I wanted to look like when I got older.
Was this person a stranger or did you know them?
It was a stranger. When I used to live in Orange County - there's a street that has all of the tattoo shops on it - like how there are in most towns. So I was driving to Pre-school and I saw this guy sitting on a fire hydrant with a huge mohawk. This, by the way, was the first time I have ever seen someone with this Liberty spiked mohawk too and he was just completely covered so I told my mom that was the coolest thing I had ever seen! Of course she told me that's horrible and that those people want mainly attention.
Does she still feel that way nowadays?
She doesn't mind it now...she's definitely used to it. But this was when I was little so you just tell your kids to not get tattoos or whatever.
Did that make you want them more though? It definitely would make me want to go out and get myself a mohawk and ink.
No, I did not care about her opinion. One thing she did say was that people with tattoos just want attention but in my head I was like..."I want attention...so bad. So, that sounds awesome! I'll have a million tattoos and people will stare at me." I didn't care, I guess, about that aspect. Back then, in little kid mind, it looked special to me. You didn't see people like that all the time.
I totally agree! I grew up in a small little town in Philly where expressing yourself is immensely frowned upon. I remember, just like you, always being so fascinated by people who seemed so colorful and comfortable just being them.
When did you get your first tattoo done - since you were so eager to be like that guy you saw in Pre-K?
I got my first tattoo...about three months after I first started working at a tattoo shop as an apprentice. I never had gotten one before because I didn't have any money. I never had a job - this apprenticeship was my first one.
How old were you then?
I was eighteen. My mom probably would have freaked out if I got a tattoo, too, so I wasn't really planning on getting one until I moved out anyway. It was pretty much a few months after I moved out that I got it. They did it for me for free as well - which I didn't even know if that was an option for me because I was just there working. I didn't want to assume. I wasn't really making any money yet and didn't even know how it worked. I got really lucky because someone finally asked if I wanted to get one and I was like, "YES! I do!"
And you pulled out a dictionary sized list of ideas, huh?
So what did you get?
It's a pair of wings - one on each ankle. They are Hermes wings. It's really weird why I wanted those but when I was in community college the summer before I worked at the shop I would go to the library and look at this book. It was The History of Shoes from Vogue. It had all the different trends of when shoes became iconic all the way up until now. There was this shoe from the Seventies - it was a gold shoe with wings. I'm really into shoes. I always have been.
*Disclaimer: Melvin is basically a goddess and wears beautiful, tall shoes on the daily. I wish I could do that without looking like an ogre beast*
Being really short, on top of always just being really into shoes, is why I wear high heels often.
Yeah! I'm at the opposite end. I'm not gigantically tall - I'm average height - but even in smaller sized heels I look like a monster in my opinion, haha. I just am so self conscience that I'm too tall when I wear heels. You aren't even as tall as me, STILL, in your 6 inch shoes. *ENVY*
Yeah! I'm so short. I'm not even 5' so if I don't have heels - I feel awkward because counters in stores don't go that low. When I wear heels, I feel like more of an adult. Like one of the tall people, haha.
I wish I was as tall as I am without heels - in heels. If that makes sense. But we all wish for what we can't have. If I was that short I'd probably crave being taller. US AMERICANS YOU KNOW - UNGRATEFUL.
Do you have a tattoo that you don't like that you've gotten?
Well, I do like all of my tattoos. But I do have one tattoo...I had wanted a quill that had a tattoo tube as the pen part with a bunch of feathers coming out. I kept asking this guy to do it for me. When he finally agreed to do it, he changed my design and made it a certain type of feather - he did peacock feathers instead of doing the ones I wanted.
Wait, without telling you?
No, we discussed it. He kept saying how he wanted to do it that way. I was just like, "Okay, that's fine" because most tattoo artists, if they are your friend and they are tattooing on you for free, you should give them their creative input. They are doing it for free so you should kinda let them do what they want to do on you. So, I got the tattoo from him and it's humongous. It looks really good though. But then a week later he did the same, exact tattoo on this other girl but it was on her hand. Same exact detail in every way. So, I told him that I can't believe she got the same tattoo as me..that's kind of fucked up. I asked him if she had seen mine or how that happened. He said, "I don't know why you're mad, me and her have had this plan for a long time...." So...he changed the design I wanted to kind of practice this tattoo before doing it on this other girl. Copying tattoos is an annoying thing that happens..but I feel like he went out of his way to change my design and now I have a matching tattoo with this other girl.
Damn. That sucks. At least it looks good, right?
Do you have any favorite experiences so far with a client - with either why they wanted a tattoo, the process or the finished product? Outside of anything incorporating me, obviously.
Well you actually have been a blessing. Your tattoos are really fun and it's almost better when there's less pressure on it. (FYI I'm the most complacent person ever. Especially with giving Melvin the freedom to do really anything she wants on me - you know, sexually and artistically.) The ones we have traded for or done more for fun I feel like are better because there's no pressure and also, even though I do this for a living, it's still awkward having to ask for money for something after you're done it. I would totally do this for free if I didn't need the money to survive and to support my business.
JEEZE MELVIN YOU'RE SO SELFISH - HOW DARE YOU RUN A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS.
Taking money away from it is a more pure way of this process for me, though. That's my point. :)
So all my future tattoos will be free of charge - got it.
I love to trade! To put that out there. It also depends on what the person wants to get in return. Obviously your tattoos are the most fun: cute, happy things.
Yeah - that's what really drew me to you. I like looking at happy things - it makes ME happy. Of course, I love dark things too but I never saw this style of tattooing until you. I'm not sure if I was just a noob in a bubble or what - but you popped it. I remember I had seem Jasmine-Blu post your work and instantly I knew you were going to ink up my entire existence someday. I just love looking at what you've done for me so far - it literally makes me smile!
***At this time Mercury, my pup, tried to escape the apartment. So Melvin asked if I named her Mercury after Freddie from Queen. My sighs of disbelief were outrageously loud because of all people MELVIN should have guessed that my Mercury is named after the Sailor Scout, of course! Also I'm five and...anime/manga is life okay???!***
Do you have anyone that you really want to tattoo? Anyone that you'd fangirl over if you were able to tattoo them?
I'm not too sure. I know, for sure, the only celebrity I would definitely want to tattoo is Miley Cyrus. Just because I love her, in general. I listen to interviews with her - I like her. I think she's a genuine person as far as being a celebrity. I love her music too. For how crazy her entire childhood has been - from being on TV and performing like that back in the day - she came out so normal. Things that she does that others may criticize her for is my dream of what I wish I could do. Just being able to be fun and be crazy without having to worry.
She's a normal, early twenties woman in my opinion. Compared to others who have gone off the deep end at that age (Amanda Bynes, Lindsay Lohan,ect) I think she's living a pretty typical life. She balances things in a healthy way. She has fun but doesn't let partying screw up her business life. That's what we all strive for.
I think a lot of people were waiting for a "Part II" in a sense - where this all comes crashing down on her but, like you said, she knows how to balance it and function normally. It's part of her "character" too.
Yeah, and I'd be genuinely weirded out if she was still doing Hannah Montana anyway. I'm glad she's finding her own. She's someone I really like too! She's somebody that I really think is so nice - outside of being a celebrity - like if I met her on the street she would be super cool. I think it's so important when you gain that much fandom/wealth - to stay grounded or whatever.
She doesn't really seem to think she's above "everyday" people.
...Like me. Peasants like me on the street.
I love the tattoos that she gets too. She gets a lot of tiny stuff - which is understandable if you're a celebrity. She gets things that are either her pets or are just happy/fun stuff. That's pretty much what I like to do. It's not me but it's what I love to do it's like.....
Yeah I hope it's like a sparkly rainbow, my aura.
If you read my posts whenever I get tattooed from you - I always describe you in that fashion: "Glitter Queen", "Sugar Fairy", "Bubblegum Pixie"...ect. I think your brand is pretty concrete at this point.
That's what i want - I want to live in a fantasy world where everything is bubbly and soft.
Just like Adventure Time!
YAS! Exactly like that!
***Five straight minutes of talking deeply about Spongebob, Adventure Time & how we still quote it on the regz as adults***
So what specifically would you want to tattoo on Miley?
Whatever she wants! I know she likes really tiny stuff. I also like listening to what my clients want to get 'cause I can keep coming up with things from myself all the time but I like to hear what they want. I know she likes tiny stuff so...
Just tattoo the word, "TINY", across her forehead. Or in between her eyebrows.
I would love that - but maybe above her eyebrow. That sounds cute to me.
Where does you inspiration come from? You said you like to live in a fantasy world - have you always been that way? What made you start wanting to tattoo this Kawaii style?
Yeah, I guess....I don't even know. As far as tattooing that style - when I first started tattooing I felt like I tried to be more of a "serious" type artist where I wanted to do realism and portraits. In my mind, at the time, the "highest" you could achieve as far as tattoo work was super realistic pieces. I still like to do those but I started to notice that the way I naturally draw is more simplistic and cute. When I would do that type of work I would get a huge reaction from it. When I was doing realism I would get a reaction but it was more like, "Wow - I can't believe you did that cause you're a girl...." or whatever but it was never that great of anything. So, I started focussing more on doing my own, personal art and drawing fantasy type things. More people seemed to relate to that and wanted those types of things too.
How long ago was that?
I would say....hmm. I have been tattooing for eleven years so probably about four years ago. It's pretty recent.
Wow. So you spent over half of your career so far not even doing what you're so well known for.
Yeah, I used to pride myself on being able to do all varieties of tattoos. Now - I still do - but I've focussed more on doing my own style. I've even tried to simplify it more from that. A lot of it is inspiration from artists that I really like and how simple it all looks.
Basically you steal ideas then, huh?
*Chuckles* No! Simplicity is what I love.
I was curious about the timeframe because when I think about it - I only saw your work maybe two years ago or so. And prior to that I never really saw this style anywhere.
Yeah it's completely changed! Ever since then....social media wise it took off too. A lot of people really relate to that. It's a good thing because that's my actual artwork. Like, a portrait or realism is not my artwork - it's reality. It's a picture of something. So - what I do now is all original. It has totally helped me be more of myself too.
That's what any artist really strives for, right? Finding themselves completely.
I really started to get away from trying to prove myself, in my mind, of what a "good" tattoo artist is. Working in an industry that's so male dominated....they weren't putting any pressure on me to do a certain style but I was doing that to myself. I felt like nobody would take me seriously if I couldn't do realism or couldn't do any of these other things....and if you only do cute stuff that is really simple - people will say, "Oh. Anyone can do that." Which is somewhat true - anyone can do anything....So I had that mentality - anybody can do that. But then I started realizing it's not true.
Just to clarify, not everyone can do that! I could never do what you do to any degree.
A lot of my clients say that. All the time they tell me that they haven't found anyone like me that does it that way - as far as ultra girly, ultra simple...but still complex? There are lots of subtle details. Now that I have moved primarily into that style, my work is easier for me to do. I'm faster at it and I don't have to think so hard. It's just more true to me. It sucks I was trying to prove myself to people who weren't even asking me to do that for so long.
Like you said though - that pressured environment is definitely tough. It's hard not to have those thoughts - I'm the same way in other areas. This website, for comparison. I don't have a YouTube or podcast channel but those are kind of "the thing" to have in 2016. But I love writing. It's a conflict of pressure to start another platform and it's just tough. I feelz you girl!
What advice do you have for someone that wants to get into the tattoo industry?
Well I would say to make sure to draw in all your free time. When you're in school growing up, people discourage that I feel like. They kinda tell you that you are never gonna get anywhere. They won't say it directly but they will subtly mention it. People who are in school and are doodling all the time - adults will be like, "Okay but you should really be doing your work or studying for that SAT" - they don't ever think that maybe that person doodling truly has talent or passion. They get kinda streamlined into going to school. I did that. I used to always love to draw growing up but when I got halfway through high school I really wanted to go to college. So I completely gave up drawing so I was just studying nonstop. I got into college. The second I got there I realized I don't even want to be here - I have no desire to even get a job after this. It was just the goal to get into college because of the pressure growing up - to be successful you have to do it. (college) After I realized that is when I got my apprenticeship. I was still in school. I had paid to live there for a year already so I decided to just stay. When I went into the tattoo shop they were asking if I had any artwork so I told them that I don't have any artwork cause I haven't drawn in almost two years. On top of that everything I had drawn I ended up giving away.....so luckily they still hired me. I went home that night and just went online. I Googled, "rose tattoos" - I didn't know what else to do. I drew every rose tattoo from the first page of Google -- the simple ones, the complex ones, ect and I just brought in this paper of all these random roses. They told me my line work is really good so we can just go from there. Then, luckily, that was before all of the tattoo shows and social media so they hired me. It still was like a "scumbag" type job too in that time period. It wasn't as glamorous as it is now is my point.
That's legit fate though! If you hadn't paid to live at that college you would never have gotten the apprenticeship.
Definitely! If I had stayed at home I would have NEVER gotten that job. I took out a loan too to go to college - that loan carried me through the first year too. It was like fate, for sure. I wish that I had been drawing up until that point because that was about two or three years wasted that may have been able to help me reach my dreams faster.
I think you're at a pretty good spot now.
To wrap this up - how do you #staynerdy?
I don't even know! I have to think.
I guess - it's not nerdy in the "new" term of nerdy - but the nerdiest thing is that i wanna go home and be reading by myself. I don't want to go out or do anything. I like watching cartoons and I'm just a homebody. So - the old definition of a nerd is pretty much me as well.
There ya have it, folks! It was seriously so whimsical getting to hang out with Melvin. She has agreed to team up with me to give one of YOU lucky dorks a piece of her artwork to be permanently embedded into your skin 5ever. It's SUPER simple to enter! It's open to anyone but she is located in San Diego - so if you aren't able to get to that area - I'm sorry but your S.O.L.! So what will you win? A 4x4 piece of your choice from Melvin. You can choose anything by her or you can create your own original piece too. It's totally up to you. To enter is very easy as well: simply "Like" my Facebook page, follow Melvin on IG and be sure to Repost this from either Melvin or I's Instagram. There are tons of other ways to earn entries listed below - but those three are what is absolutely mandatory to have a chance to win this $300 value tattoo. Good luck and #staynerdy!
~!*<3*<3*!~Melvin's INSTAGRAM ~!*<3*<3*!~
GIVEAWAY OF (LAST) WEEK
Don't forget you still have time to win the travel sized version of the amazing purse pictured above! It's everything you need in life right now! !EXCLAMATION POINTS!
MUSIC VIDEO OF THE WEEK
My fave band, Caskitt, released the music video this week for their newest single, Blinders, off of their new record Old Fires New Frontier. The album is being released September 16th so be sure to get on that dweebs - it's good stuff.
MERCURY MOTIVATION OF THE WEEK
Mercury the doggo knows you can do your best this week in whatever it is you're trying to accomplish! Look at that face - she supports you and all your life decisions.