Star Wars Collaboration
Article By: Adam Goetz
It’s not every day you’re heading home from a life-altering experience, but here I am, still in a state of disbelief, trying to recount enough to get it down on paper, as if some two-dimensional narrative can ever compare to the real thing. I feel like telling the scrawny suit next to me that twenty-four hours ago my body was in a state of shock and I was surrounded by some of the most talented artists Atlanta has to offer. I want to ask the girl three rows behind me, a bleached Southern blonde with butterfly #27 on her ankle, if she wants to see what real ink looks like or where to go to get some. I want to ask the stewardess (or whatever I’m supposed to call her to stay politically correct) if I’m still smiling, because I’m pretty sure I am. But you’re not reading this to hear about my flight, right? If you wanted to hear about single-serving friends you’d be reading Chuck Palahniuk instead of an ink rag, but you’re not. So let’s talk shop. Let’s talk art. Let’s talk family.
I first met Brandon Bond on Instagram, and our first interactions were limited to images and hashtags. Anyone who follows me knows I’m a superfan of all things Star Wars, so it was only natural that Brandon’s name started appearing more and more in my comments (or was it the other way around?). He piqued my interest when, after some online banter, he emailed me wanting to talk about something big. I mean, who wouldn’t be incredibly humbled and completely stoked at the same time?! Brandon confided in me that he was expecting an heir to his throne, a little man he would call Remington Cain Bond, and that he was looking for someone to organize an art collection for the prince’s nursery. I was literally speechless. Here was a living legend—is there anyone who hasn’t seen his iconic Darth Vader back piece—asking for MY help! Of course I agreed (more like jumped up and down squealing yes like a schoolgirl), and over the next few months I used my social media network to acquire over ninety pieces of art and Star Wars paraphernalia from across the U.S. and Europe, even as far away as Australia. Through it all I was amazed at the level of respect Brandon gave me. There was no constant checking up, no badgering me to take this seriously; he just seemed to have faith in me. When the time came, I literally shipped a treasure chest to the All or Nothing shop in Atlanta. For a second time, he humbled me by calling personally to gush thanks on behalf of himself and Prince Remy.
Predictably, after Remington was born, our texting slowed down. Brandon’s reputation as an overachiever precedes him, so who wouldn’t expect he’d throw himself into parenting with the same enthusiasm he devotes to everything else. So you can imagine I was dumbfounded at the end of 2012 when Brandon called me up and told me to come get tattooed. I froze for a minute, struggling to articulate the word my brain was screaming at me. Obviously yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! And OH DEAR GOD HELL YES! Once I found my voice it was that simple, and suddenly preparations were being made. The AON staff is simply amazing—I can’t say enough about how they were just happy to help with anything and everything. Before I knew it I had an itinerary, a ride, and a dream appointment… all I had to do was wait twenty-three agonizing days. But I have to admit the wait was worth it, and what happened next is a journey I will never forget.
I flew in Sunday evening and was ushered to my hotel by AON staff, who made sure I had everything I needed for the night. After a restless night (ok I’ll admit I didn’t sleep at all—more like stared at the ceiling and counted how many times the light in the smoke detector blinked) I was picked up and delivered to the AON shop around 11am. I brought with me a Clone Trooper helmet I’d commissioned as a gift for Brandon, and it looked as though it was made specifically for the light table at the shop. After hanging out with AON shop staff for a little bit, I was told it was finally time to go back to the inner sanctum and meet Brandon Bond.
I have to pause here and say what an amazing thing this was for me. I’m a simple family man just trying to work his way through life. Brandon Bond is someone I’d read about; I was familiar with and blown away by the work coming from his shop, work I’d only seen pictures of online or in magazines. I was about to meet someone that I really looked up to in the tattoo industry, and I was about to become a canvas for some serious art. We spend so much of our lives waiting for the moments that change us, waiting for the flatness of an image to manifest as a dude with a cheesy grin standing behind a door, or for ideas and conversations to become reality. All that was about to happen for me, and it was all I could do to breathe.
The door opened and there Brandon Bond was in his all glory, rushing at me with hugs and hellos. He explained the process: how things were going to go, what my role was, and what I could do to maximize the experience. At this point I still hadn’t seen a sketch, and it honestly didn’t matter. I had complete faith that I was in the hands of a master and that anything put on me was going to be amazing. Brandon informed me that Dave MF Tedder, Flaco Martinez, and Mike McMahon were all going to be in there with him and tattooing me. Most people would be happy with a tattoo by any one of the guys in the room, so you can imagine my anticipation at the thought of the collaboration that was about to happen. I couldn’t wait! But it turned out I would wait, since I wasn’t specific enough about the hunk of meat available and the design and to be redrawn to fit my leg (a good lesson I’ll share with anyone else contemplating a major piece – make sure you communicate to your artist).
Suddenly, in walks Dave Tedder (reality check: DMFT is about to tattoo me!) and as I was telling myself over and over not to sound like an idiot I started to wonder if I was saying it out loud. Side note: do amazing artists know how difficult it is to act normal in front of them, much less speak? Dave saved me from myself with a quick handshake hello then he and Brandon immediately started applying stencils. I was in the presence of skilled professionals whose business is putting down serious art; all I had to do was sit back and watch the show. Let’s be honest, fifteen hours is a long time. I don’t even sleep that long on a regular basis, so it sounds preposterous to say that fifteen hours flew by. But it did. DMFT lined me out and before I knew it Mike McMahon and Flaco Martinez (see previous side note about Dave) came in to check it out and tag in so Dave could take a quick break. Suddenly, I had a full-blown collaboration—something most people only ready about—with artists tagging in and out, taking a minute to refocus, bouncing ideas off one another. How surreal that I was involved in any of this, but there I was listening to Brandon Bond giving Mike McMahon feedback when Mike stepped back and asked for a fresh eye’s perspective. You could feel the synergy in the room, as though the sound of machine coils were feeding the artists’ creativity. It was all I could do to suppress a delighted squeal when Flaco Martinez announced, “I’m down to do a Rancor and some Royal Guards!” By that time the shop was closing and the coming hours saw a race for these incredibly talented and amazing artists to beat the sunrise.
At 6am Mike McMahon put the final touches on my shin and did a final wipe. Fifteen hours and four pee breaks after we’d started, I was done, my body literally in shock. I was drained, and everyone else in the room looked spent. We took some quick pictures, wrapped up my leg, and shook hands. To be honest if I could have shaken their hands and thanked them all the next day I would have, but I had to check out of the hotel by noon. I hugged my new family and said my goodbyes, then left to try and squeeze in 3 hours of sleep. Those fifteen hours were unbelievable, and Brandon Bond is the man. He’s the Willy Wonka of the tattoo industry, showing you things previously unimaginable, teasing you with color and texture, inspiring his army of artists and apprentices, all the while making you feel like you’re sitting in your living room hanging out with family. He becomes an ally to his artists, a friend to his canvases. When he wasn’t busy working I watched him fill caps with ink, or stock gloves or paper towels nearby. Sometimes he just focused on me, making sure I had everything I needed. There is no ego to this man, just pure confidence that he and his artists are the best in the world. No exception.
By now you’ve noticed a pattern: speechlessness, humility, awe. I’m reliving all of these emotions, typing so frantically that I didn’t hear the suit ask me to move so he could get out of his seat to use the restroom. The love shown to me by Brandon, Dave, Mike, and Flaco was something I never thought I would experience; they really do mean it when they say FAMILY. These men have given me something that couldn’t be more perfect and meaningful, putting everything they had into this piece for me, showing me how much they cared. If you have the chance to get out to the shop, go. You will never forget it. Much love and respect to Brandon and the whole AON crew. Thanks for welcoming me to the family.