Fuzion Ink was Norfolk’s first legally recognized tattoo parlor in more than half a century. Now, 8 years into its existence, the studio is still going strong.
I talked to the studio’s co-owner, Tommy Glaser Sr., and their lead body worker, Pu Nastee, about how the perception of the artform has evolved, Downtown Norfolk then and now, and more.
image | Chris Hernandez at FuzionInk TattooStudio
AltDaily: You guys were the ones that broke it open here in Norfolk.
Tommy Sr. It was a long process. They didn’t have tattoo shops for 50 years. It took 6 to 8 months. We had to go to the DNC, all these councils to get their approval and blessing, get a lawyer involved. It was like twisting arms, but the old regime knew they had to make the change.
We got lucky with this one. My son being a cop and me being a NYC firemen, we had to make them realize the tattoo industry has changed. It’s here. It’s not the old biker kind of mentality. Soccer moms are getting tattoos. Grandmas are coming in for tattoos.
What was your first tattoo?
Tommy Sr.: I was 14 years old when I got my first tattoo. A grim reaper, by Dave Fly in West Islip, Long Island. It was something different. I wanted to be different. We were stone cold sober. We caught hell from our parents. They weren’t happy at all. Years went by and I looked at it and I was like, man, what a horrible job they did.
Pu: My mom beat my ass! My mom saw my shit maybe 6 months later. My dad was out to sea. She beat me the best they could.
Why do people get tattoo’ed?
Pu: Different walks of life, different strokes for different folks. You definitely get trendy tattoos little girls see on pop stars. People come in and get portraits of loved ones or dogs. Some are memorials, some are commemorative. I get tattoos that are just funny to me. I don’t give a shit. Like a catepillar humping a French fry.
Tommy Sr.: I got the Empire State Building with the Twin Towers. I got my dad and grandchildren on me. Bowery Stan did this one for free [points to his arm]. I got all my fire department stuff on me. They look cool. Once you got one you want more.
Will you turn someone away when they ask for something that offends you or for any other reason?
Pu: When someone asks for something on their face and they don’t have visible tattoos in the game we’ll say no. Some artists won’t do parts of the hand, palms, or feet, because it won’t stay. They don’t want their name connected to a tattoo unless it has good integrity or morals behind it. If they know it’s going to be crap they don’t want to be a part of it. There should be a good amount of ethics in tattoo’ing. Some are going to stray to just get money or just get a name out there.
Tommy Sr.: We won’t tattoo under 18. Even with a parent. It’s just not ethically within what we do. There are ethics in the industry.
Pu: Their minds are going to change too much at that age.
Is there any loss with the way tattoo culture has gone mainstream in recent years?
Pu: If anything it’s a gain, because it is opening up a more versatile clientele. You’re getting soccer moms, Navy, still get bikers, straight into college to ODU or NSU who get away from their mom who want to break away for the first time. The clientele is an array of mixed masses. It being more accepted in the culture situation is long overdue. We are such a mix of cultures in this country, why has it taken so long for body modifications to be seen as beautiful adornments on ourselves?
Tommy Sr.: Because of what we did it exploded this area even more. 4 or 5 guys have left here and opened shops.
Pu & Tommy Sr.
What was it like when you first moved here on Granby?
Tommy Sr.: Dilapidated. Bad, real bad.
Pu: You’d say Granby St. in Norfolk and people would say, I can’t go out there.
Tommy Sr.: It’s changing fast, though. The Garage was bought by the Deckers. Bob bought a couple more. Nick and Charlie are working on down there (with Work | Release and Zeke’s).
Let’s talk about the future of the neighborhood: what is the neighborhood missing so that it can fulfill this arts district vision and mentality?
Tommy Sr.: More stores, more people, more going on. Need a regular First Friday block party. Bring food trucks in. Events going on for 4 or 5 months of the year. Bring people to this side of Brambleton now that it’s building up. That was the idea with Granby St., to come this way. It’s getting there. They should finish Granby and then start branching out.
Pu: How come every Saturday they don’t have food trucks come and park. We should have had a food truck scenario down here. People can stop thinking Norfolk is scary.
The difference between Downtown Norfolk now and 16 years ago is a complete face flip. It used to be real dirty. Back then people didn’t want to walk around Norfolk because it was dirty and sketchy. It’s not like that anymore.
Fuzion’s 8 year anniversary party is tonight. Hosted by FM99, there will be rock girls and 99 giveaways: concert tickets, T-shirts, gift cards, Scotty Quixx providing food, adult and regular beverages.