Q&A with Sperry Tattooist Dominic Vasquez

Sperry Top-Siders started out as practical footwear for boating and have since been adopted by non-seafarers for their classic style. Our first ever Sperry Tattoo event at our Robert Wayne store in Torrance, California brought two American nautical traditions together, boat shoes and tattoo art. With fifteen years of tattooing experience and a specialty in large-scale Japanese and American styles, tattooist Dominic Vasquez lent his craft and customized shoes the Sperry event. Read our Q&A with this tattooist below for some fascinating details.


RW: When did you first realize you were fascinated with skin art?

Dominic: When I was a kid, like fourteen years old walking to school with my cousins we'd talk about getting tattooed.  At that time I didn't know about traditional Japanese style. I only knew of tough guy tattoos. I thought my first tattoo would have been something classic like getting my name across my back or maybe a Virgin Mary on my cheek. 

RW: What drives you to continue to learn the about history of tattoo art?

Dominic: It comes from the obsession of wanting to advance my craft. Before you think you've mastered your craft, you should always seek more knowledge and understand why things are done a certain way. Take the time to learn about the craft. Tattooing is more than just the images. I want to find out the cultural reasons. I got into learning about storylines in Japanese tattoos and sailor art for American tattoos. Men were getting these tattoos as charms for safety. When I first started doing tattoos, information on the internet wasn’t as prevalent as it is now. Back then I had to find ultra rare books and I would buy books constantly just for one little morsel of information. To this day I still constantly buy books, even if it's just for one picture in a four hundred page book. If it advances my craft, it's worth it.

RW: Is starting a piece or finishing a piece more rewarding for you?

Dominic: I like to watch the progression and the end result is the cherry on top but during the process you get to learn a lot about a person and you develop a friendship with the person and if they’re not complete scumbags then you can relate to them and the process itself is rewarding. 

RW: How did your relationship with Sperry evolve?

Dominic: It happened through a friend who is a tattooist in New York. He does the same thing for Sperry on the east coast. He had scheduling issues and I am a big fan of Sperry so it worked perfectly. I'm really obsessed with fashion and shoes, buying quality products and consuming more than I could possibly need.

RW: What’s a routine day like at Flying Panther? 

Dominic: I wake up and drink about half a pot of coffee and hang out with my daughter. That's why I need the coffee. Then I prepare for the day by collecting my drawings, get to work, set up for appointments. A lot of times it’s two a day and they’re long four hours sessions. My drawing time is done in the evening after my kids are asleep. For the most part I don’t like to draw during my family time. Some people don’t understand that and they want a drawing really quick but I like to focus. 

RW: When did you feel like you were really good at this? 

Dominic: I still don’t think I’m pro.  I’m still seeking knowledge and advice. Yes, my skill level is advanced, but I still need to work at it to keep that momentum.

RW: Which of your tattoos is your favorite?

Dominic: The most recent piece is my foot tattoo for my daughter. 

RW: Aside from Japanese art, do any other forms or periods of art inspire you?

Dominic: Outside of tattooing, design inspires me.Things like leather working and architectural design inspire me. I started building tattoo machines about five years ago and the idea of design in 3D made me think. I’m very interested in fashion, clothing, design. I dabble a little in architecture, as in I understand when things look really nice. Since that influences me in tattooing, that means I have to be very focused on all the lines for someone look at them from ten feet away. Also the exceptional craftsmanship and that the quality of the product will stand the test of time. 

RW: How did your relationship with Sperry evolve?

Dominic: It happened through a friend who is a tattooist in New York. He does the same thing for Sperry on the east coast. He had scheduling issues and I am a big fan of Sperry so it worked perfectly. I'm really obsessed with fashion and shoes, buying quality products and consuming more than I could possibly need.

RW: What do you see in your future as an artist? 

Dominic: Hopefully business stays good. There are a lot of tattooists out there. A lot of people want to do it but they don’t have the drive and the work ethic to do it. That taints the art. I try to be as professional as I can. I want to keep focusing on doing nice work. 

RW: How many Sperry tattoo events have you lent your artistry to?

Dominic: This is the second of many to come, they may not think so I but I see it.

A big thank you to Sperry for bringing this event to our Robert Wayne Footwear at the Del Amo Fashion Center. Want to see the results of some of the requests at the event? Check our blog post for pics and follow us on Instagram @robertwaynefootwear for upcoming event announcements!