Born in Malta in 1951, Lou Sciberras came to the United States by boat with his mother and six siblings when he was an infant. His father had been in the United States for over a year working and saving money to pay for the family’s passage. From those humble beginnings, Lou grew-up to be an old school tattoo artist, always favoring traditional tattoo designs with bold outlines and solid colors. Forming a close relationship with tattoo pioneer Paul Rogers in the later year’s of Paul’s life; Lou considered Paul, Hack Spaulding, Philadelphia Eddie, Cap Coleman, and Stanley & Walter, as important influences in his tattooing.
Lou began his tattoo career in 1968 in Queens, New York. He was fascinated by the art, traveling all over New York City picking the brains of the city’s tattoo artists. Mike Malone said of Lou at that time, “He was a pain in the ass.” Back then, tattooing was still illegal in New York and Lou set-up a studio in his apartment in Astoria.
In the mid-70s tattoo culture was still a small world, one in which everyone knew everyone. Lou traveled to San Francisco to work with Lyle Tutle for a few weeks and while there he met Philadelphia Eddie. Eddie was opening a shop in Jacksonville, North Carolina near the military base Camp Lejeune and offered Lou a job. Although a culture shock, Lou worked with Eddie and Dominick Chance until opening his own small studio the size of a bathroom inside Jazz Land, an adult club in the area.
After much research Lou opened a studio in Havelock, North Carolina where the Cherry Point military base is located. With just three stoplights, Havelock was so small that the military base was larger than the town. After deciding that Havelock was just too small for him, Lou opened a studio on famous Hay Street in Fayetteville, North Carolina where Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force military bases are located. Eventually he opened a second shop in Fayetteville that the famous Mr. Tramp managed.
In 1986 Lou settled in Miami, where his ambition and talent flourished with the opening of four tattoo studios. Over the years a number of stellar artists worked in his shops including Luiz Segatto, Albert Sagmbatti, Mike Wilson, Troy Lane, Ken Cameron, and Chris Garver. Lou truly was a godfather of the Miami tattoo industry, providing the foundation of excellence in tattoo artistry our city is world famous for today, and making Tattoos by Lou Miami’s Original Tattoo Studio.
Lou Sciberras was also a family man with a giving soul. His daughter Michelle Sciberras-Cameron grew up watching him work hard for what he had, from the first studio in their small apartment in Astoria to the multiple shops in Miami. Along the way Michelle watched as her father went above and beyond for those in need, from employing the unemployable, giving people a place to stay when they had nothing, and helping people deal with addictions. Lou welcomed people into his life as part of his family.
It’s not surprising that the first word Michelle learned to spell was “tattoo”. She enjoyed watching her father work, listening to the conversations, and interacting with the people that would come by to get tattooed. As a teenager in Fayetteville, Michelle would hang out at the studio playing pool and Pac-Man and taking some of Lou’s designs for school assignments. Eventually, she would go into the studio with her father to sweep, mop, wipe down the walls, file the designs, and help the clients. Lou never paid Michelle at that time, but then again, the old school tattoo industry has always been about working your way up through hard work and dedication. Needless to say, Michelle tried her hand at tattooing and in her words, “Some people are just not artists. That would be me.” She prefers working with the clients directly, seeing them happy with what she assisted them with in the end.
It was at a National Convention in New Jersey where Michelle Sciberras and Ken Cameron met. Michelle was there with her father and some of the studio artists, Ken had come from California selling a new set of his flash. It’s safe to say it was love at first sight, Michelle and Ken have spoken every day since then, having married and raised two children, Coleman and Colby. Ken also came from a family of tattoo artists, his brother Steve “Topper” Cameron was an artist and opened his first studio when he was fifteen. Steve invented the “quick change tube vice” which allowed the tube to be removed from the tattoo machine in order to be sterilized. After Steve’s passing, his son Arlen came to Miami and apprenticed with Ken, having worked at the South Beach studio for a few years until heading back to California.
Since Lou’s passing on August 28, 1996, Michelle and Ken, have continued to operate Tattoos by Lou with the same ambition and passion for the tattoo industry as Lou did. Together they have watched as the industry they love has flourished around the world and continue to offer a home for top quality artists in Miami just as Lou did.
~ In loving memory of Lou Sciberras 1951 - 1996~
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