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Business and Mindset: Tattooing Through The Decades JD Crowe EP 269

Tattooing Through The Decades

| JD Crowe | EP 269



JD Crowe was slangin' tats before you were born...actually, before I was born. I really enjoyed the walk through tattoo history with JD. I hope you do as weill.

Be sure to take a look at JD's work at

Also, be sure to check out one of the great tattoo shows in the USA

This episode was made possible thanks to:

Interview by By Jake Meeks —

Writing By Daniel Pushcarich —

Topics: Old School Tattoos, Traditional Tattoos, Lyle Tuttle, Ed Hardy, Richmond Tattoo and Arts Festival, Richmond Virginia Tattoo artist, Tattoo Flash, Tattoo Business, Tattoo Shop


Original Tattoo Brand Logo

“Even from Virginia Beach you had to go a 100 miles to Richmond, or 200 miles to DC just to get tattooed back then.”

— JD Crowe

JD Crowe (@jdcrowetattoos) Has been an essential force in the world of tattooing. He has owned a number of shops across the country from the 80s into the 00s and has seen transitions in the tattoo industry unlike anyone else.

From the earliest days of tattoo conventions to revolutionizing the tattoo flash industry, Crowe has been a part of the rich history of tattooing. 

JD Crowe owns Original Tattoo Brand flash. 

Please enjoy!

Gypsie and Geisha Tattoo Flash by JD Crowe



  • Connect with JD Crowe: | IG


  • [oo:00] Intro
  • [02:35] Enter J.D. Crowe
  • [05:05] What Was It Like Getting Into Tattooing In the Early Days?
  • [08:37] Where Would You Have Even Opened A Shop If It's Illegal?
  • [14:46] Early Days of Richmond Tattoo Convention And American Conventions
  • [21:50] Something Different About the Richmond Show
  • [24:41] How Did You get Back Into Conventions After All These Years?
  • [28:18] It's Just not Like It Used to Be.
  • [30:50] Things Have Really Changed, But Is it Better? Maybe, So.
  • [36:13] A Flash of Genius! Selling Tattoo Art
  • [45:06] Richmond Tattoo and Arts, Just Like The Old Days!
  • [49:11] Crowe's Book Tour!
  • [52:17] Where to Find JD Crowe


What Was It Like Getting Into Tattooing In the Early Days?


[05:05] “It was so tough…there were secrets back then. There was no internet. All the answers were held by tattoo artists, and if you wanted anything answered you had to get close to tattooers.”

— JD Crowe

In the early days, entering the world of tattooing felt like attempting to breach a heavily guarded fortress. Secrets were closely held, and tattooers would often deflect or respond with silence when faced with questions. If they even suspected someone wanted to become a tattooer, they might be swiftly ejected from the shop. But can we really blame them?

For a long time, tattooing carried a negative reputation and faced legal challenges in many states. It was associated with counter culture and often centered around biker or military communities. This led many tattooers to operate underground, protecting their craft fiercely.

To secure an apprenticeship, aspiring tattooers had to prove their genuine dedication to the art. It wasn't enough to simply express interest; they had to demonstrate tangible value to the craft that the established tattooers were so passionately guarding. This meant showing up every day, bringing in clients, and willingly performing tasks without being asked. Diligence, resourcefulness, and perseverance played pivotal roles in determining whether one "deserved" an apprenticeship or not.

In truth, not much has changed today. Tattoo artists still want to ensure that those they invest their precious time in are willing to put in the same level of effort. It's a shared understanding among tattooers that deep down, they seek reciprocation of the dedication and commitment they have poured into their craft.

Early Days of The Richmond Tattoo Convention And American Conventions


[14:46] “For tattooed people back then, the whole community was smaller. But a tattoo convention back then was like… Muslims went to Mecca, bikers went to Sturgis, and tattooers went to a tattoo convention. It was a big deal to people.”

— JD Crowe

Being part of the early days of tattoo conventions must have been incredibly exhilarating. Back then, only a handful of shows would emerge each year, perhaps 1-3 shows, and even then, they were not consistently held year after year. The exclusivity of being invited to one of these shows meant that you were considered somebody in the tattoo world.

Similar to today, organizing and hosting these conventions required significant time and resources. Securing suitable venues and sponsors who believed in the project was crucial. Additionally, having connections with enough tattooers who would participate and draw in crowds was essential. It was not uncommon for conventions to skip a year or undergo changes in management due to various factors.

Fast forward to today, and the number of tattoo conventions is countless. While there are still exclusive and invite-only events, they have become less of the norm. This is not to imply that present-day conventions are inferior or lacking; they are simply different from what transpired in the early days. It serves as a testament to the remarkable growth of tattooing and its surge in popularity over the years.

The evolution of tattoo conventions reflects the significant strides tattooing has made as an art form and industry. It showcases how far the community has come and highlights the widespread recognition and appreciation for tattooing today.

A Flash of Genius! Selling Tattoo Art


[36:13] “Say you bought 50 sheets, it would take you 2 months just to get them up on the wall cause you had to paint them all up. When [clients] walked in looking for a tattoo it was on the walls. There were guys that would boast that ‘this shop has 25,000 sheets of designs up on the walls’.”

— JD Crowe

Tattoo artists sometimes find themselves venturing into other industries, and there are ample opportunities for them to contribute back to the tattooing community. Crowe, for instance, stumbled upon a specific need closely related to tattooing: the demand for high-quality flash. While many individuals were selling flash designs, they required considerable back-end work to be done by the tattoo artist. Coloring and painting these designs consumed valuable time that could have been spent tattooing or managing their business. With the introduction of full-color flash, artists could simply frame or display them on the wall, ready for clients to choose from. If clients desired different colors, adjustments could be easily made.

Pit Bull Flash Sheet By JD Crowe

Flash designs represent just one aspect of the industry that tattooers have revolutionized over the years. They have made significant contributions to machines, needles, ointments, glides, inks, and stencil application, constantly striving to create better, safer, and faster products. The ongoing potential for innovation in tattooing is vast, offering numerous opportunities for artists to be part of the next revolution in the field.

Tattoo artists possess a unique perspective and expertise that enables them to identify areas for improvement and develop innovative solutions. By leveraging their skills and creativity, they continue to push boundaries, advancing the art of tattooing and enhancing the overall experience for both artists and clients.

Skull, Snake., Bat, Lightning Tattoo Flash by JD Crowe


Note: some of the names do not have links because a proper website, wikipedia entry, or profile could not be found for that individual. 

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Eagle and Native american Iconography Tattoo Flash By JD Crowe



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Running a tattoo business requires a completely different skill set than putting tattoos into skin. As tattooers, we tend to put all of our emphasis on the technical aspects of tattooing. Unfortunately for shop owners and tattoo entrepreneurs, tattooing is only one small piece of the puzzle when it comes to the business of tattooing. 

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