UP CLOSE & PERSONAL
WITH ALAN K. STOUT
Tyler Pawelzik is the owner and operator of Black Casket Tattoo in Dickson City, which opened in 2013. Pawelzik is a native of Factoryville and a graduate a Lackawanna Trail Junior-Senior High School. He lives in Dickson City.
Meet Tyler Pawelzik …
What was it, initially, that first made you want to become a tattoo artist?
I always drew, so I always knew that I wanted to do something that had to do with art or drawing. And a lot of the music that I listened to when I was a teenager — all of the guys in the bands were heavily tattooed, so that was naturally an influence on me. The whole lifestyle that I was into at that time with music, and the fact that I drew, just went hand-in-hand.
It’s an exceptional skill. You have to be really good. People are trusting you with their body and their appearance and even their health. Where, or how, does one learn how to become a tattoo artist?
Honestly, I was mostly self-taught. I did practice on friends, but I got into a shop basically a month after I graduated high school, so that was my opportunity to try it. But the people that I was learning under … the kid was only tattooing for three months, so he wasn’t a tattooer. He had been trying it for three months, and then he was going to try and teach me. But obviously, what are you going to teach me if you don’t know how to do it yet.? So it was basically trial and error. But I had a natural knack for it. And though I caught on quickly, it took me years and years to learn good composition, and what real tattooing is, and what to reference. I caught on quickly in being able to do good lines and solid shading, but learning the educational side of tattooing, on how it’s supposed to be done, is what took me years and years to figure out.
What are some of the more memorable tattoos that you have done on people? Is there anyone out there in NEPA that you’ve pretty much covered from head-to-toe?
Not head-to-toe, but actually, one kid, almost head-to-toe. I’ve tattooed him down as low as his ankle, and I’ve also tattooed around his head. I’m the only one that’s tattooed him, and he’s probably my favorite client to date.
Is there a particular tattoo that you’ve done that’s the most memorable?
I don’t think the most memorable ones are appropriate for newspaper print. (Laughs.)
What was the most unusual request you’ve ever had for a tattoo?
Same answer. (Laughs). I couldn’t believe the girl wanted it, but she wanted it, and the significance was strange. But I did it.
Do you ever try to talk anyone out of a tattoo? Such as when an 18 year-old kid wants his girlfriend’s name tattooed across his back?
Illogical tattoos and racist tattoos, I would turn away, or try to talk them out of. With the illogical ones, if they still want to get them after I’ve told them it isn’t a good idea, I’d still do it, because they’re just going to go to someone else. But racist, I wouldn’t do regardless. I wouldn’t want to be associated with that.
What do you enjoy about the work the most?
The environment, the freedom and my clients. That’s pretty much it. I couldn’t ask for more. All of those things make it great.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I used to go to the gym a lot, but not as much anymore, so I just lightly train. I like to do physical activity. I’m athletic, so I don’t like to just sit around, because I sit as work. But recently, I’ve gotten into more art-related stuff outside of work, like painting, so I’m sitting down. (Laughs.) I mostly like to utilize my time into doing things that are going to make me more successful. I like to put 80 or 90 percent of my efforts into my business and tattooing, or anything that goes along with it. It might be separate things, but it’s all working towards the same goal.
Who are some of your favorite musical artists?
Pink Floyd. Drake. Future. I know it’s a weird mix, but that’s who is most commonly being played by me. I do listen to some heavy music, too.
Do you follow sports?
New York. I’m not a big fan of cities, but if I had to pick one, it would be New York City.
Favorite vacation spot?
I don’t like vacations. I have two days off every week, so in my eyes, you get a vacation every week. There’s nothing that makes me feel more worthless than going a full week of doing absolutely nothing. I don’t need that much time to relax. I’m off Sunday and Monday, but this Monday, I came in and tattooed. Usually even one day off is plenty for me. I’d rather be working.
Favorite thing about NEPA?
The four seasons. And the mountains are pretty.
Ribs. Sushi. And hot wing pizza.
All-time favorite movie?
“The Crow.” And “Step Brothers,” “Elf” and anything Will Ferrell.
I enjoy most holidays, but you really can’t beat Christmas.
Favorite quote or catchphrase?
“The best or nothing.” It’s a slogan used by Mercedes. Why do anything if you’re not doing your best at it?
Three cats: Flex, Meek and Lilith.
I don’t think I feel guilty about anything that gives me pleasure. Anything that I enjoy, I don’t care who knows it.
Have you had a defining personal moment?
Opening my business was probably the biggest thing in my life. It changed my goals. It changed my outlook on life. With time, I just find out more about who I really am. The older I get, the more I get it. The more I understand and comprehend everything. And opening my own business changed my work, for the better, instantly, because I created an environment that was inspiring. And it reflected in my work.
UP CLOSE & PERSONAL with ALAN K. STOUT is a regular feature in electric city, profiling people from all walks of life throughout NEPA. Reach Alan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
photos by emma black