Q & A with Leo Cadenazzi of FunHouse tattoo

So how do you choose what tattoo to get? Where on your body to get it? Who will do it? When is the right time, and why?

We recently sat down with Leo Cadenazzi of Fun House Tattoo in Pacific Beach to find the answers to these questions. Why Leo? He’s one of San Diego’s most renowned artists, he is co-owner of one of the nicest, cleanest shops I’ve ever seen, and he’s a hot Italian guy with a Brazilian accent. I figured, what the fuck, why not? It’s a hell of a lot better than the old Harley Davidson dude named “Dirty Harry” who gave me my first tattoo when I was 18.

Q&A with Leo Cadenazzi

RIS: So, if I walked into your shop off the street and asked for a Tasmanian Devil tattooed on the bottom of my foot, what would you say?

Leo: I’d have a lot to say about that. First, I’d ask you why a Tasmanian Devil. Does it mean something to you? Does it represent your life, your family, or your lifestyle in some way? Before even entering a tattoo shop, a person should research their idea, bring in samples of style, color, pictures, drawings, anything that will help convey to the artist what you have in your mind. Second, I’d tell you that I wasn’t going to tattoo the bottom of your foot.

RIS: Why is that? Hurts too much?

Leo: No, because it would fade very fast and end up looking like shit. You’d be unhappy and it would make me look bad, like I didn’t know what I was doing. The palms of your hands and the bottoms of your feet are not good places for tattoos because the skin wears away too fast and so does the tattoo.

RIS: So what do you tell someone who says they want a tattoo, but aren’t sure what to get?

Leo: A knowledgeable artist can help you pick something by talking to you about your ideas. You could also start with an artist whose work you like, and go through their portfolio for ideas. 

RIS: Okay, but how do I pick an artist? 

Leo: Word of mouth, people in the community, and online. You should always look through an artist’s portfolio and make sure their style matches what you are looking for. Make sure he or she has enough experience to create the tattoo you want and that they know the meaning or history behind the design. For example, I specialize in Japanese style of tattooing, but Chris VonBong, another artist at Core, specializes in Old School and Lowbrow Hotrod Art that will be evident by looking at our portfolios. You should also make sure an artist is capable of doing the size tattoo you want: just because someone can do quarter-size tattoo doesn’t qualify them to do a full sleeve. Bottom line: ask questions, a lot of questions. You’re going to have this tattoo forever, so don’t be afraid to make sure you’re getting what you want.

RIS: Alright, but what if I don’t find a specific artist, but just go up and down Garnet Avenue looking at the dozens of different tattoo shops. How do I choose? Is there really a difference?

Leo: Yeah, of course there’s a difference because there are very different artists at each one. If you’re just looking for a simple little butterfly tattoo the size of a quarter that will take 30 minutes, almost anyone can do that. But if you’re really researching a big, custom piece where the artist is creating it for you, it makes a big difference where you go. Regardless, the shop should, first and foremost, be clean. First impressions are everything; if the shop looks dirty and unclean, there is a good chance that the quality of work will resemble the shop. Also, look for a shop that has been around a while or at least has a good reputation in the community and is known to employ skilled artists. Again, they should be competent in the style you’re looking for – if you want a Japanese style tattoo, don’t go to a shop that specializes in Old School.

RIS: When I was getting one of my tattoos, I felt really bad for the girl next to me getting a tattoo from this guy who was a real asshole. He treated her like crap and was pretty disrespectful. What if the “perfect artist” and you just don’t get along?

Leo: It’s up to you, and what you are comfortable with. You don’t have to marry your artist, but you should be on the same page as him or her and be able to communicate clearly with them. Especially if you’re getting a big piece that may take several sessions, you could be spending anywhere from 4-8 hours at a time with that person and will have to go back a few times in order to finish the tattoo. If you don’t feel comfortable going into it, you’re not likely to want to go back. It is not ideal to have to have another artist finish a tattoo someone else started because they will, of course, tattoo differently.

RIS: Any suggestions for those of us that get drunk at the Silver Fox next door to you, and think a spontaneous tattoo is a great idea?

Leo: Come in and talk to us, take a card, go home and sober up and we will take care of you when you are in less of an inebriated state.


A tattoo isn’t completed until it is fully healed, which can take about two weeks. This takes active participation on your part. Core Tattoo in Pacific Beach provided the following aftercare instructions:

Remove the bandage after one hour, two maximum.  All wounds need to breathe if in order to heal properly. Wash the tattoo using your fingertips or hands only – no scrubbing! Use a mild antibacterial soap and warm water. Take care to remove all traces of blood, as this will cause scabbing. Do not scrub the tattoo with a washcloth during the two-week healing period. Always gently pat the tattoo dry with a clean soft cloth or let it air dry.

Apply a thin coat of ointment to the tattoo: Aquaphor, A&D Ointment and Tattoo Goo are all good choices. (Apply just enough to make it shine, a little goes a long way.) Work it into the skin really well. Dab off all the excess with a paper towel. You should barely see it; this is just enough to keep the tattoo moist and to keep it from scabbing. Your body heat will liquefy the ointment and it may become glossy looking or runny. This means there’s too much on there. Dab more off. Too much ointment will only suffocate the tattoo and liquefy any scabs that may have formed causing the ink to fall out and look blotchy. There is no need to re-bandage the tattoo. Aquaphor, A&D Ointment, Tattoo Goo and Vitamin E Oil are all very good for your new tattoo.

Ointment can be applied whenever the tattoo is feeling stiff or dry but beware of over-moisturizing. Your body will absorb what it needs where it needs it. Apply ointment twice a day for 2-3 days then switch to a regular moisturizer like Aveeno, Eucerin, Keri, Lubriderm, Curel, Jergens, or Vaseline Intensive care. Apply moisturizer twice a day for the remainder of two weeks. DO NOT use lotions that contain color, fragrance, or sparkles until the healing is complete. (Usually anywhere from ten days to two weeks; Possibly longer for slower healers.)

Your skin will form a protective layer no matter what you do. If you do not keep it moist enough, or if it is too moist(it’s a personal balance and different for each individual), it will form a thick, hard scab that may crack when you move. When you form this kind of a scab the ink sits within it and slowly heals into the skin. When the tattoo is kept moist it doesn’t have a chance to form a scab but does form a thin membrane to protect the tattoo while it heals. This layer peels off similar to the way a sunburn does (do not peel your tattoo, you will pull the ink out!) and it is normal to see small flakes of colored skin falling off during this stage of healing.

You must keep your tattoo clean, however, long showers or baths must be avoided for 2 weeks. Prolonged soaking can and will loosen scabs if any have formed, or will soak through the soft tissue and cause your ink to flow down the drain. This includes soaking in the ocean, pool, hot tub, and saunas. Short showers are best, under ten minutes if possible.

 Refrain from scratching or picking at the tattoo. Scrubbing with a washcloth can be very harsh on a tattoo and will cause your colors to fade. It is normal for the tattoo to become very itchy during the healing time. To relieve this, spray the tattoo with rubbing alcohol or slap it with your hand (this will sting it and take away the itch).

 The sun is BAD for your tattoo, even if you’ve had it for a long time. Sunburn on a new tattoo can cause it to dry out or to form a horrendous scab, which will fade the tattoo before it is even healed. It will also increase the healing time significantly and promotes scarring. Wait until it is fully healed to go back in the sun or a tanning bed and make sure you put on a high quality SUNBLOCK. (Do not apply sunblock while the tattoo is healing.) The tattoo is under your skin, and your tan will form above it. If you get too dark, some colors (white, yellow, pink, and orange) may not show up as brightly as they could. Over time, excessive exposure to sunlight will cause your tattoo to fade no matter what colors are used.

 Remember that hands and feet reproduce skin cells much faster than other parts of the body. A tattoo in these areas will sometimes take an extra two weeks to heal. During this time refrain from washing dishes, wearing gloves, or wearing socks and shoes (sandals must not rub the tattoo). Any friction of this type WILL wear away the tattoo within a very short period of time. Tattoos in these areas are almost never guaranteed.

About Leo:

Leo Cadenazzi is the Senior Tattoo Artist of Funhouse Tattoo Pacific Beach. Professionally trained in art schools of his homeland in Brazil, Leo, a practicing Buddhist, brings to Funhouse Tattoo Studio a vast knowledge of art history and a deep understanding of the tattooing craft. Leo is experienced in a variety of tattoo art styles but specializes in traditional Japanese tattooing.

Leo has spent a majority of his professional tattooing career at Funhouse Tattoos in Pacific Beach. Beyond his full clientele Leo travels to tattoo conventions and tattoo trade shows to display his work to audiences and to expose himself to other artists.

(858) 525-3140

Funhouse Tattoo

1453 Garnet Avenue
San Diego, CA 92109

 Tel: (858) 483-7828

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