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Brandyn Feldman on Preserving the Craft of Tattooing

close up of hands building a coil tattoo machine

Dan Lorenzo: Which did you get into first, tattooing or building tattoo machines?

Brandyn Feldman: I am a tattooer first. I started tattooing around 2002 and really professionally in 2003, I first worked in a biker shop in California. I worked there for a year-ish. Then I worked in a handful of shops for the next few years until [I opened] my first shop in Los Angeles. I had four tattoo shops and considered myself a walk-in shop type tattooer.

traditional tattoo flash of native american woman wearing a headdress

I would classify myself as, in the words of Paul Rogers, a “good worker“ in the pyramid of tattooing. I feel most connected to the craft of tattooing, and have a massive obsession with flash and tattoo art; I collect it and love to cover the walls of the shop in tattoo flash.

I started building tattoo machines [in] the middle of 2004. I grew up working on old cars with my father and had a family background of craftspeople, so naturally I felt so inclined to follow in the steps of taking my machines apart and finding out how they worked. After finding out that I could get my machines to run better, I realized that I really liked tattoo machines, and as a tattooer I had a hunger for wanting to gain knowledge and better my skills and craft.

Since the biker shop days, I have made my needles and have always found it to be calming and also gave me connection with the tattoo process. I also make my own pigment and have been for many, many years. To me, making or modifying your setup and tools really gives the tattooer or artist an edge and keeps his or her skills sharp. This mindset has been my driving force and has challenged me to prototype power supplies and cords and has kept me constantly wanting more knowledge.

 

What's the manufacturing process like when you make a machine?

To get to how I manufacture, I will have to start with how I got my start in making the parts.

So [I] remember when I got my first frame cast; well, getting the holes drilled in the frame and milling it true and flat was where I was first exposed to the world of machining and cutting metal with precision. And since I had very little background in cutting metal with a machine, I was instantly obsessed with wanting to learn as much as I could take in.

custom handbuilt coil tattoo machine on tattoo flash backgroundThe better I got at machining, the better the tattoo machines got. So for years and years I learned new ways of making all the parts of the tattoo machine, and every process and every little bit of information was like a "win" for me. I would go to the library and rent machinist books. I also went to machine shops and volunteered my time so that I could learn.

If we fast forward you [to] today’s process, I still use many of the same manual machines to make parts or second operation finish parts, but you will also find that we are using cutting edge high precision CNC machinery to produce the parts of the tattoo machines.

 

Is it fair to say most of your tattooing influences are old school?

I would say a simple yes. But I will follow with I love all tattooing.

 

If you had to pick either just building or just tattooing, could you pick or do you need both in your life?

I’ll frame this answer by saying there is no one without the other. I was lucky enough to become a tattooer and that came first before tattoo machine building ever was a thought. And tattooing is the consummate idea in my creativity forethought.

traditional tattoo of demon

 

Anything else you want our readers to know?

The most important constant in tattooing is people. So when I get a chance to be heard, I normally like to underline a mindset that I practice, and that is in order to uphold the values and mystical nature at the core of tattooing, we have to keep people in our focus as the most important part of tattooing.

The people who have gone before us that dedicated themselves to the craft of tattooing, the people who were the customers of the tattooers who came before us. Because of those people can we be so privileged to be part of this craft, and knowing and respecting the history of tattooing allow us to keep telling the story of tattooing and to pass the rich knowledge to the next generation of tattooers, so they can have that to pass on to the next generation. That is one thing we can do to keep tattooing preserved as a rich taboo culture, and you all reading this know that when we all first fell in love with tattooing, we got to see a small glimpse of that magic!!!

People are what makes tattooing — the people we tattoo, the people who tattoo better than we do that inspire us to be better. The people who look to us to inspire them, the people who make tattooing at conventions or when we visit shops that make tattooing so great! The people who make our tools that allow us to better our craft. The people who keep us supplied with all the supplies needed to make the tattoos. The circle goes on and on, but at the end of the day, we as people who are lucky enough to be tattooers can remember how important people are to our craft.

My main motivation to make tattoo equipment is to make all the people who make tattoos struggle less and enjoy the craft more.



Learn more about Brandyn, his products, and his dedication to the industry at feldmanmfg.com.

man sitting in a dimly lit manufacturing shop with tattoo flash on walls and cnc machine in background