Photos by Sammy Glucksman
Born in Astoria, Queens, it wasn’t exactly a diehard passion of “Big Steve” Pedone’s to get into tattooing, but true to the NY hustler mentality, rather a good way to make easy money. A classically rebellious kid, Steve spent most of his youth hanging out, dabbling in graffiti, and staying as far from school as possible.
It was only years later that he’d officially get into the tattoo game, buying the equipment off a friend and practicing through a half-assed year of apprenticeship at Fun City Tattoo, the highly popular St. Marks parlor which he now owns.
After sitting through a session where he added a voluptuous Latina pinup to friend 13thWitness’ calf, he went on to tell us about his youth, the competitiveness of NY tattooing, and how to handle a botched piece.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Astoria, Queens.
When and why did you first get into tattooing?
I got into tattooing when I was like 18, and I started tattooing in 2003. I didn’t wanna go to school, I just kinda wanted to hang out. [Laughs] That was that. When I was a kid I drew a lot. Then when I was 10-years-old I got a little bit into graffiti and that kinda ruined my artistic abilities for a while cause I just did that. When I was seventeen I started drawing again.
So you were just self-taught?
Yeah, I never even took an art class in school. I was always kind of one of the bad kids so I didn’t get the privileged classes.
What was inspiring you creatively when you initially started?
I mean, really making money…it’s kinda shitty to say, but it seemed like a good way to make a lot of money and not have to get a degree or really deal with people.
How’d you go about approaching the craft itself—like using tattoo guns and ink and all the mechanics involved?
I was approached by a friend of mine who was like “Oh you should start tattooing. I have all this equipment, you can buy it off me for”—whatever, it was like $1,200—“and I’ll teach you how to tattoo.” And then a week after he was like “I’m moving to New Zealand, so good luck.” Then another friend of mine at the time was working here at Fun City under the previous owner Jonathan Shaw, and he was like “Just come work here and we’ll see if we can teach you” and that was pretty much it.