Andrew Stortz was on a mission to figure out one thing: What would be the most efficient way for him to look cool while also doing work he loves and cares about? Skateboarding wasn’t working for him and being a musician wasn’t cutting it.
“I thought, ‘I’m out of options, so I guess I’ll tattoo,’” he says. After 11 years, he’s still at it.
Though his dream was initially to be a high-school band director, Stortz started working at a tattoo shop in his hometown of Plattsburgh, N.Y., while studying at the Crane School of Music at the State University of New York, taking a bus that cost $2.50 each way to get there.
After finishing music school, Stortz began tattooing full time. He studied under an artist in Plattsburgh who gave him a solid technical skillset and the ability to work in several styles. Today, he has a passion for the American traditional style, as well as its complete opposite: black and grey realism.
“I like the juxtaposition of the two styles in my life, where one day can be completely different from the next,” he says.
Several years ago, Stortz began making satirical YouTube videos parodying tattoo stereotypes and viral videos on social media. He was surprised to get a strong response and was happy to bring some comedic value to aspects of tattooing. After growing his audience, he started a podcast called “Books Closed.”
“I think people were interested to actually hear me speak, because up until that point, I was always a character,” he says. “I don’t think I was ever publically myself.”
Though the original intention of the podcast was to discuss the ways social media and technology have impacted the tattoo industry, its purpose has expanded.
“It got to the point where I actually wanted to talk about stuff instead of just making fun of things, and to really dive into some topics and talk to some of my and other people’s favorite tattooers and ask them the questions that aren’t asked in other interviews,” he says. “It can humanize these people that we look up to, because their work is so prolific and amazing, and remind us that they have opinions and insecurities and concerns and things that they’re working on in themselves, too.”
Stortz says the podcast has changed his outlook on tattooing.
“I’ve made almost a 180 as far as how I view how things are and how things should be,” he says. “It’s rare to be in a career for 10 years and then truly get turned on your heels to think differently.”
Stortz moved to the Seacoast about six years ago. After several visits to the area, he and his wife knew that Portsmouth was “the spot.” After working together at a downtown shop, Stortz and his friend Bill Rocha (aka Billy Chop) recently opened their own business on Islington Street. It’s called Worship Tattoo.
“Portsmouth, to me, is perfect because it’s a city, but without the inconveniences of a city,” he says.
The walls of the new shop feature original artwork by Stortz, as well as other pieces that he and Rocha love. Each artist has his own workspace behind the front counter, with additional room in the back for a potential third tattooer.
A focus of the new business is integrating into the community, especially as the area undergoes so many changes. They plan to host charity events and work with other West End businesses.
“Our goal is to try to collaborate. Whether it’s with breweries or barbershops or restaurants, we want to do cool stuff for the community and make people feel super welcome,” Stortz says. “The thing we’re most excited about is reaching out to the community and being inspired by different types of people. My biggest inspiration is my customers. If it wasn’t for them and being challenged by them, I’d probably fall into doing the same thing.”
To see other installments of Open Doors, click here.