Think ‘cocktail culture,’ and New York or L.A. probably come to mind. Kansas City? A cowtown with jazz, and maybe the Union Station Massacre. This isn’t entirely fair, because Kansas City does love its cocktails, but the fact remains. It’s a fact of life in Kansas City – we get no respect.
But that changed a bit this past weekend, when Tuaca brought Drinks & Ink to Fuel American Made Bar and Grill in Overland Park. It’s hard to say what was the high point of the event – delicious cocktails from Tuaca, Powerflex 5 rockin’ the house, or renowned tattoo artist Corey Miller, who created the custom design for Tuaca’s Perfect Chill label.
Miller was already justifiably famous in the tattoo community when TLC’s LA Ink introduced him to the rest of us. He began tattooing in 1982. Just 15 years old and playing drums in a punk band, he decided that he needed a tattoo, so he gave himself one. Inspired, he built his own tattoo kit that he carried around in a shoebox.
Within a few years, he was working in a real shop as a tattoo artist. By his own description, he worked with some hard-core shops in some of the roughest neighborhoods around. But from that start, he never really looked back. Over the years, he met and learned from some of the best artists around, and he’s become a recognized master himself, specializing in black and gray portraits and dragon art.
There’s probably a temptation to think of tattoo artists as rough, scruffy people living on the fringe of society. The uninformed might think that Miller lives up to that stereotype. He’s not a small man, and there’s certainly plenty of ink on display on his muscular arms. At first glance, he seems like someone that would be more at home bouncing drunks out of a local dive than creating delicate works on art on skin, but it only takes a few minutes conversation to meet a surprisingly introspective and articulate artist.
Looking back at his life, Miller said, “It’s truly amazing. Dropping out as I had and chasing rebellion, it was a search for negativity, full of punk rock and angst. Thirty years later, I’m a father of three. It makes me appreciate my family ten-fold.”
Miller says that he sees at least two occurrances that helped take tattoos mainstream. Not surprisingly, one of those is the success of LA Ink. “It’s amazing to see that [the impact] because of this show. At one time, middle America would never have walked into a shop.”
Another event had an even bigger impact. “9/11 impacted the tattoo community as a whole. We’ve seen so many tattoos. After the fear, it actually became more freeing. People realize they’re not in control, and do what they’ve dreamed.”
But for Miller, tattooing isn’t just creating art. “There’s a bond, a trust in altering someone’s body. There’s a story to go with the tattoo, stories of death, life, tragedy, and they’re sharing that with you. It’s humbling.”
Corey Miller’s Tuaca favorite: Tuaca Ginger-Lime
- 1.5 oz. Tuaca
- 2 oz. ginger ale
- 2 lime wedges
Pour Tuaca into a lowball glass over ice. Fill with ginger ale. Squeeze lime wedges into drink and mix.