“My focus isn’t on making money, my focus is on making art,” says the tattoo artist known as Snuffy, over the phone from Williamsburg in early October. In the two-and-a-half years since he’s been tattooing, Snuffy has built a celebrity following, a reputation for his one-on-one, artistically driven approach, and now will have his own proper space, as he opens his tattoo shop called Morwin Shmooklers Office today.
“More often than not I have people coming in here with really traumatic stories,” Snuffy says. “I’ve always worked in private, and I find tattooing really therapeutic. It’s a release. My goal is to have this oasis in the middle of all the chaos, and to foster people that I consider to be artists, who just so happen to tattoo.”
Born in Israel, Snuffy moved to Westchester County, N.Y., when he was a toddler “because my dad didn’t want my brothers to die in a war,” he says. His brothers moved into Williamsburg when he was a kid and from early on he recalls bouncing between Westchester and Brooklyn. Growing up he played sports and instruments and at 17, facing some hardships, decided it was time to get a proper job, so started working in real estate.
“I quickly learned that was not the life I wanted — if anything, that I’d want to become a landlord,” he says. He became a landlord right after turning 22, and continued that throughout his 20s. At 25, he started to struggle with depression, and a few years later was walking past The Strand one day when he had the urge to go inside and buy a drawing book.
“Two weeks later, I had a tattoo license and a tattoo machine,” he says.
That was just over two years ago. In that time he’s befriended a number of celebrities, including Machine Gun Kelly and Pete Davidson, both of whom he’s also worked with in design, making album art for Machine Gun Kelly’s “Hotel Diablo” album and designed merchandise for both him and Davidson.
“I met Pete through Machine Gun Kelly,” when they were shooting the movie “The King of Staten Island,” and “I tattooed the back of his neck at 3 a.m.,” Snuffy says. “He had a flight to catch at 11 in the morning.”
Snuffy’s style is black and gray surrealism, but he says what really draws people to work with him is his personalized approach — the same connection to art he felt that helped with his depression.
“I strive to create imagery that makes people feel, that makes me feel, really, without cheating. I don’t do dead bodies or shock value stuff, but I push the boundaries on that,” he says. “What keeps my soul in tattooing is that every tattoo I design, I design it for myself. Everyone is required to write me a story — doesn’t matter if it’s a regular civilian or a celebrity — and I take that story and it’s my fuel. I identify with that person’s story and I turn it into a visual collage to tell the story. I think a lot of people really resonate with what I do. I put my soul in a jar and leave it on the table, which would be Instagram. I think people see the rawness of it.”
As a way to promote the launch of his business while giving back, he’s designed a T-shirt, also on sale today, which works as a raffle to enter for a full day of tattooing with him, with proceeds benefiting Little Flower, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit serving foster children and people with developmental disabilities.
“I wanted to do more than just post a frickin’ thing on social media,” he says.
Morwin Shmooklers Office is named after a business he came in contact with during his real estate days; when he first heard it, he couldn’t quite believe it was a real person.
“It’s true to New York — this is where I’m from,” he says. “And it’s also better than I don’t know, f–ing ‘Blood and Dagger tattoo shop.’”