This past weekend, I sat down with local artist and musician Dustin Jude of Mark My Flesh to talk tattoos, rock ‘n roll, and what to do if you’re thinking about getting a permanent piece of your own. Read on for the best insider information this side of the Schuylkill–from one of the best in the business.

VG: What drew you to tattooing?
DJ: I grew up around art. My mother is a multi-talented and amazing professional artist, so it was always around. I took art in school consistently until I dropped out of high school. Years later, after working in a great variety of professions, I decided that I needed to learn to tattoo. I was lucky and was accepted for an apprenticeship at the first place I tried: South Street Tattoo at 13th and South.

VG: How long have you been in the business?
DJ: I’ve been tattooing professionally for five years (after my apprenticeship). It feels like a lot longer, but I have so much to learn. I never want to stop gaining knowledge of technique.

VG: Who and what are your artistic, musical, or life influences?
DJ: Musically, it’s rock n roll. I’ve been playing guitar for 17 years. I picked one up and have never put it down. Music is as important to me as water. As far as artistic and life influence, the obvious and best answer is my mom. She’s offered so much guidance in both of these areas (and they’re pretty damn big areas) and I can never thank her enough.

VG: Do you have a preferred style? If so, what?
DJ: I’ve always gravitated toward more stark, high contrast images, so it makes sense to me that I’m drawn towards traditional style tattoos. I think they look so good on the skin; they stand out in a way that other styles don’t. I love the process of distilling a real life image down to a traditional type tattoo. It’s a lot harder to do right than most people think!

VG: What are your suggestions as far as do’s and don’ts when going to a shop and possibly preparing for a tattoo?
DJ: What not to do? Don’t piss off the artist. I’m personally pretty hard to bother, but it just makes sense to treat the artist with respect. He/she is going to be permanently marking your body. At the same time, don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Tattoo-ers can be intimidating, but make sure you’re happy with the image that’s going on your skin. A good tattooer will usually work with you to figure out some sort of happy medium. This is unless, of course, you trust the artist to do what he/she does best. Also, don’t settle for something that’s not up to your standards.

As far as what to do? I think it’s good to check out a shop to see what you’re in for. A few things to look for are:
Cleanliness. A legitimate shop will be licensed with the city or state and certified by L&I. Look for general maintenance of the shop. It’s a fairly good indicator.
Check out the minimums and compare that to your price range. The general rule is that better artists will charge more, but that’s not always the case. It’s always best to check with people that have been tattooed by the artist in question. Even photos can be deceptive to the customer. Tattoos always look the best in photos taken right after completion.
An all custom shop will almost always be expensive, whereas a street shop will generally be more affordable. It depends on what you’re looking for.
Lastly, I really feel that the best way to find a good artist is to ask someone whose tattoos you like where they go for their work. A referral is also a good way to give the tattooer a better idea of whatyou’re going for.

Dustin currently works at Mark My Flesh Tattoo, located at 4601 Frankford Avenue (at Orthodox St.) in Philadelphia (215-533-1149). When not crafting permanent pigments, he can usually be found touring Europe and the US with Philly-based rock band, Haley.

In the meantime, I will be planning out, and saving up for, my next piece with Dustin (Sorry, Mom!). I suggest you start doing the same. ♥


  1. Very up-to-date and cool article, Natalie. 🙂

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