Deciding what to write, as my tag, was a daunting task in that it would in turn be one more flanker in my brand of self. At 48 years old, I may have thought I knew who I was, but who did I secretly want to be? Secretly in the sense that your tag is essentially anonymous to the casual passerby, but one instantly recognizable by those in the know. Tagging, and ultimately creating pieces of your tag, are a form of radical self-expression that is written in a language only a small percent of the world can even be bothered trying to translate. As an art form, graffiti is at least 35,000 years old and evidence of humans drawing on walls can be found in the caves of Spain, France, and Africa. Many graffiti artists choose their tag simply based on the letters they are best at writing, while others are more inclined to use a word that represents them or is somehow connected to their given name. Once your name has been created, there's the option, if feasible, to add on a "one." Adding One to your name establishes your tag as the first of the writers to be so. Anyone after you that decides they want the same tag would therefore be "Two." For instance, Alex P. in Los Angeles, is famously known as ManOne, but I just call him Man. While Brandon in Copenhagen writes JuiceOne - to me he'll always be just Juice.
For my own tag, I started with Mikel, as it is what I'd already been writing for the last thirty years. I decided to first change the 'L' to a 1, and then the letter 'I' to an 'A,' which gave me 'MAKE1.' The first piece I ever put up on a wall, in spray painted six-foot tall letters was also the last time I ever wrote that tag. MakeOne made no sense. It needed to be fleshed out some more, to be a little edgier, to be more graphic as well as more engaging. For my purposes, it needed a hook, a concept, an 'X' to mark the spots where I'd be leaving my mark. For that's ultimately what it is to tag - to leave your mark. Tagging is more like the graffiti doodle of a bald-headed man with a prominent nose peering over a wall, than the way a dog might pee on a fire hydrant, but nevertheless it's a way to state 'I was here,' just like Kilroy himself did during World War II. So I put that 'X' in my name and MAKE became MAXE. MAXE1 to be exact. In Graffiti School, my instructors were quick to point out that the 'X' was one of the hardest letters to work with when tagging, and my fellow students - none of whom were over thirty years old - would mispronounce the tag as "Maxi." Undiscouraged, I've been writing MAXE ever since, and today, my tag can be found worldwide - from Jakarta to Johannesburg, from Bangkok to Budapest, Colombia to Copenhagen - you just might find my mark in the coolest neighborhoods of the coolest cities on the planet. As an itinerant by trade, these are the breadcrumbs I leave behind.
In Trenton, you'll find the upcycling innovation headquarters of TerraCycle, where there is what is commonly referred to as "The CorkYard". This was an area surrounded by retaining walls and the backs of their buildings and was a well-managed compound of what the graffiti culture refers to as free walls, or permission walls. In other words, the Vicious Styles Crew and their invited guests could use this entire area as their canvas without fearing any repercussions. It was perfectly legal to tag the shit out of this place, and it became the home of our little Graffiti School. When developing my tag as MAXE, it never occurred to me that I was really ONLY doing spray paint tags, throw ups, and eventually pieces, in Trenton. Once I had my can control in order and established myself as a writer with some 'dope' skills, I became confident enough to refer to myself as Trenton MAXE.