Artist Doles Out Free Tattoos at House Parties
RIDGEWOOD — After dropping hundreds of dollars for two tattoos right after he turned 18, Alex Solano swore off getting inked again, thinking it was too expensive to continue.
But when he went to a friend's party last month and realized he could get tatted for free, Solano's tattoo sabbatical ended and he got four more in a matter of weeks.
"I wasn't thinking of getting another tattoo...but the fact you can walk in and get one right now without worrying about the money is one less barrier to doing it," said Solano, 25, an art handler and musician who got what he estimated to be $400 worth of body art for free from friend Josh Kil.
Kil — who has lost track of the exact number of tattoos he has but estimates the number at about 30 — started holding free tattoo parties at his apartment in Ridgewood, just over the border from Bushwick, this fall. He wanted to make the art more accessible and to practice his skills, after the price of tattoos has risen in recent years, he said.
"Most of my friends are also poor artists...they can't afford all the tattoos they want," Kil said about the cost of a tattoo, which he said now starts at about $100, compared with about $40 a decade ago.
Every few weeks, Kil sets up his needles in his living room, invites friends over and doles out free tattoos. He and friends have also supplied free haircuts, massages and nail painting.
"I philosophically like the idea of being able to give a tattoo for free...It's a refreshing moment in a capitalist world," said Kil, who averages nine tattoos at each party and often works on someone's skin until the wee hours of the morning.
"I start at 7 and often go until 3 a.m. It can be a marathon...I already have to turn a couple of people away at the end of each party since we run out of time."
Kil — who works as an art handler by day and learned to give tattoos in an apprenticeship at East River Tattoo in Greenpoint — encourages tattoo seekers to show up with their own designs but has several pages of his own drawings available for inspiration.
Solano spontaneously designed his first tattoo from Kil — a pigeon eating an alligator, in honor of his home state of Florida — when he arrived at the first party. Kil also gave Solano tattoos of a cyclops with hands and an angel in a cloud. Other people got a ram and the word "DiCaprio," in honor of Leonardo DiCaprio.
Kil said he doesn't mind not getting paid for his work.
"I'm fighting against the constant pressure to charge for everything that I do — that everything that feels pure to me has to be ruined by turning it into a business."
Kil has not yet set a date for his next free tattoo party. Interested guests can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.