East River Tattoo (1047 Manhattan Ave.) opened in 2000 out of a storefront on Franklin Street, making them Greenpoint’s first tattoo shop. They have since moved a few blocks to their current Manhattan Ave location, where a glance in the window reveals a taxidermy fox next to a spotted and stuffed fawn.
The tattoo artists here are a carefully curated bunch led by Duke Riley, the shop’s founder. Tattoos out of this shop can sometimes bring to mind the word “illustration” but their style is more influenced by woodcuts and scrimshaw (carved designs in teeth or bones, traditionally from whales). East River Tattoo hosts some incredible guest artists, some of whom get fully booked before they arrive.
Though the shop specializes in custom work with a one to nine month wait time, walk in customers are taken on weekends by Rob Banks (@robbanksofamerica) and, on Sundays, Tron (@losingshape). Check their Instagram feeds and be prepared to arrive early. While you wait, there’s plenty of reading material including a binder on the shop counter that holds years of press about Duke’s art. Among other things, he’s created daring pieces of performance art using flocks of pigeons, and The New York Times has written about his work.
Nautical and historic themes are common in the work of these artists. If you want a mermaid tattoo that doesn’t look Disney, this is the place to go. Fittingly, one artist book is entirely tattoos done in the old fashioned, “hand poke” method. To get tattooed like a sailor check out Jenna Broma’s work featured here and on Instagram.
If you’re itching to move at a faster pace, head down to Franklin Street, just a block away, to check out Evil & Love Tattoo.
East River Tattoo | 1047 Manhattan Ave. | Open 12-8pm, 7 days a week. Call to confirm.