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Denton artist brings his love of tattooing to a new medium

Denton artist brings his love of tattooing to a new medium

April 14
02:10 2016

Kayleigh Bywater | Senior Staff Writer

@kayleighbywater

Carefully holding his equipment in hand, tattoo artist Ernie Moreno delicately adds color within the outlines of an owl design he is working on.

The gold coloring fills the owl’s wings as Moreno blends a lighter shade of brown, creating a depth to the design and tone to the wings. Moreno has been working on the piece for a couple of hours, but has several details to add before the image itself is a complete, cohesive tattoo.

This piece, however, isn’t being permanently placed on a human canvas. Instead, Moreno tattoos on something else: shoes.

Former tattoo artist Ernie Moreno is the owner of an online shop, “Tattoo My Shoes,” where people pay him to make tattoo-style designs on canvas shoes. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

Former tattoo artist Ernie Moreno is the owner of an online shop, “Tattoo My Shoes,” where people pay him to make tattoo-style designs on canvas shoes. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

“I started tattooing around 2000,” Moreno said. “When I realized the possibilities that designing shoes provided, though, I knew it was time for a change. So, I hung up my tattoo machine and picked up markers instead.”

Moreno, who is also a computer technician, now runs Tattoo My Shoes out of his Denton home, where he creates custom footwear for customers. His designs have included everything from Day-of-the-Dead-inspired pieces to Japanese imagery.

Although he jumped into the business in 2014, Moreno has been interested in art and tattooing since he was young. He would spend his nights looking at tattoo magazines and in his free time he’d draw tattoo designs for friends and family.

Slowly, he began to realize while he enjoyed looking at tattoos, he wanted to create them. Inspired by tattoo artists such as Filip Leu and Kari Barba, Moreno wanted to create something that would make a lasting impression on people.

“A lot of the times, you would look in those magazines and they would have tattoos that just looked scratchy and terrible,” Moreno said. “But some of this stuff, it was unreal. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. People were actually putting this art on someone’s skin.”

As Moreno began to build up his tattooing career, he also built a family. He said it steadily began to become more difficult to juggle his constant tattooing schedule with another full-time job and being with his family. That’s when he discovered he could create his art without being restricted to a tattoo gun and a shop.

“I’d seen others do similar things, but I wanted to know how I could stand out,” Moreno said. “I stopped tattooing completely so I could focus on this new venture.”

Moreno sold almost all of his equipment to tattoo artist and friend Anthony Briganti, who had previously hired Moreno at Young Guns tattoo shop.

Even though Briganti was upset that Moreno was swapping the tattoo gun for shoes, he said he knew that Moreno would give everything he had into the business.

Former tattoo artist and owner of online shop “Tattoo My Shoes” Ernie Moreno says he started drawing tattoo-style designs in the early 90s. He self taught himself how to tattoo on people and has since worked at two different tattoo shops around the DFW area. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

Former tattoo artist and owner of online shop “Tattoo My Shoes” Ernie Moreno says he started drawing tattoo-style designs in the early 90s. He self taught himself how to tattoo on people and has since worked at two different tattoo shops around the DFW area. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

“It’s difficult for people to build up genuine feelings in tattooing because there’s a sense of masculinity,” Briganti said. “But Ernie has this genuine love for art. He’s just expressing it on another level.”

Moreno tries to make each pair of shoes unique to the owner. For a Navy Seal, he created a pair that included nautical themes, such as anchors and the sea, as well as the name of the customer’s ship. In addition, Moreno can recreate someone’s preexisting tattoo onto a pair of shoes.

But that doesn’t stop him from including his own aesthetic into each pair. Fellow tattoo artist David Nieto, who worked alongside Moreno at Spinning Needle in Fort Worth, said just like a tattoo artist spends time and energy on giving their clients tattoos, Moreno makes sure each pair of shoes will last.

“There are other people who can say they draw designs on shoes,” Nieto said. “But Ernie takes it to another level. With Ernie’s designs, it’s all him. He takes pride in every little detail on those shoes.”

Depending on what the design is, a single pair of custom shoes can take six to 10 hours or a whole week to complete. In addition, prices can range from $50 to $150 or more.

From giving himself his first tattoo with a needle when he was 18 years old to creating a brand with his tattoo designs, Moreno wants to make sure every product he produces leaves his customers happy, even if it means working other jobs in the process.

“I work from home, so sometimes I’ll be on the phone listening in on these corporate meetings while working on a pair of shoes,” Moreno said. “Eventually I hope to make this a viable full-time job.”

Owner of “Tattoo My Shoes” shop Ernie Moreno works on a shoe design for a customer. Moreno first task when customers send him an image they want on their shoes is to turn a flat design into a canvas shoe design. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

Owner of “Tattoo My Shoes” shop Ernie Moreno works on a shoe design for a customer. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

Moreno has created over 100 pairs of shoes since his business began in 2014, and he’s only had one person return a pair of shoes. Although the issues were not on his part, he keeps the pair around to keep him motivated.

“Honestly, it pissed me off when I had the shoes returned, so I keep them around to push me,” Moreno said. “I honestly love having that instant gratification because it inspires me to keep going. I could go with these cheesy designs that you’ve seen everywhere, but I don’t want to be complacent. I want to be unique.”

For now, Moreno wants to keep his sights set on making Tattoo My Shoes his full-time job. Although he said he would always have a special place in his heart for tattooing, what he is doing now is not too different.

“So many times, people will love tattoo designs, but they don’t get them because they’re afraid of the commitment,” Moreno said. “What I’m doing presents them with the option for me to give them a tattoo design they may want, but if they want to get rid of it or they get tired of it, they can easily just take it off. It’s just a different way to look at tattooing, and I’m glad to share it.”

Featured Image: Owner of “Tattoo My Shoes” shop Ernie Moreno works on a shoe design for a customer. Moreno first task when customers send him an image they want on their shoes is to turn a flat design into a canvas shoe design. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

Video: Meagan Sullivan | Visuals Editor

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