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Conversations with Kike Castillo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kike Castillo.

Hi Kike, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
My sister made me tattoo her when she was 13 and I was 11, so that was my early start. I kept tattooing as a hobby afterwards; handpoked designs in a basement, that kind of thing. Nothing serious because I never thought it could be a legitimate career path. I was 20 years old and paying cash for my college tuition when I was involved in an accident. I had limited leg mobility for a while and started tattooing more while I recovered. This is when I began to take it seriously and decided to quit college in favor of tattooing. I started tattooing professionally in NYC in 2003 and traveled to surrounding areas frequently in the years that followed. Maryland was one of the places I went to the most and where I had a good following, so I decided to start my own business here. I started with a private studio in 2011, which then grew into a proper big shop in 2015. This year will mark our 10th anniversary in Baltimore!

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
When I moved here, the city did not allow tattoo shops to open just anywhere. It was a different business landscape compared to how things are now. My biggest struggle was obtaining the permit and proving the city wrong about preconceived notions of tattoo culture. I had to prove that I was a professional at my craft and that my business would be an asset to the community. Since opening things have gone smoothly. I feel loved by the neighborhood and the city. We received a lot of support during the pandemic.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I’m a tattooer and can tattoo every style because I grew up doing it all. However, I’m known for traditional Japanese and traditional American styles. My style is like a graphic illustration based on traditional Japanese and American styles. Outside of that, I welcome all ideas. I have been tattooing for a very long time and I like the challenge of bringing a clients’ idea to life to make their idea a reality. I’m most proud of the fact that I have clients who still come to me after 15-16 years, and now I have even tattooed their children. I’m most proud of the fact that I have clients who still come to me after 15-16 years and now I’m tattooing their children. I think what sets me apart from the others is that I like creating a good and long-lasting rapport with my clients and I always give them my best as an artist.

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
None. I have worked very hard and diligently to have what I have now and to be where I am now. To chalk it up to luck would discredit all my hard work, effort, and the sacrifices I have made along the way.

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