Body art: It’s not just sailors and college kids who are getting ‘inked’

November 2010 Posted in Business

Don Robison works on a tattoo of a wolf on his client’s arm.By Aurora Ellison

The broad chests and burly biceps of sailors, soldiers and bikers were once the only flesh adorned with tattoos, but no more.

Tattoos are in, and not just for men or the young.

“Tattoos are for everybody,” said James Moyer, the one-man-show behind Empyre Tattoo, 217 Oak St. .

A block over at 209 E. Main St., Don Robison, who runs the Art Parlor with his girlfriend, Erin Tylosky, agrees. The two met while working at a tattoo shop in Salem, and then decided to get out of the city and create a more personalized business that’s “not just a factory line,” Tylosky said.

Tattoos range from symbols of rebellion to unity, and from beauty to the bizarre.

“Personal” and “custom” are the bywords of the modern tattoo trade.

“I don’t care what the tattoo is. If they think it’s cool, then I think it’s cool,” Moyer said.

After all, he reasons, the artist will forget about a tattoo in a matter of weeks, but the customer is going to look at it for the rest of his or her life.

The Art Parlor offers only custom designs, each tattoo is drawn by the artists specific to each customer’s wishes.

Tattoos are all about personal expression. Some people get tattoos as a memorial for a loved one, but others choose to them just to be hip and trendy, Robison said.

To have a tattoo, the customer must be 18 or older.

Many customers are in their 20s and 30s, some of whom have small children who think tattoos are totally normal, Robison said.  A lot of first appointments are set for 18th birthdays, but he’s also had first-time customers who are retired.

“Some people think about (a tattoo) for 40 years and finally come in and get it,”  Robison said.  He recently inked a veteran with a symbol representing his time in the Vietnam War.

Moyer said military tattoos are still common.

Some people love tattoos as art, and others are addicted—“most people don’’t stop with one,” Robinson said.

Jennie Scott of Molalla got her first tattoo – the names of her children – earlier this year.

“After I got my first (tattoo,) I felt kind of sexy,” she said.

Then she made an appointment for a second tattoo, this time of her favorite animal, the wolf.  Underneath the wolf’s face is the word “fearless.”

As a police officer, Scott said she identifies with the wolf as both “beautiful and tough.”

Robison tries to emphasize tattoos as an art form, which is why he put an art gallery in his front lobby.  On the other hand, he and Tylosky both admit to being tattoo addicts, sometimes impulsively selecting an image without any personal significance.

Although traditional tattoos such as skulls, pinup girls, and “mom” with a heart, are still staples of the industry, modern tattoos are as varied as the customers.  Moyer has tattooed everything from a tiny heart on the ankle to Japanese dragons that cover his customer’s entire back.

“Just having a tattoo is a trend, not a certain kind of tattoo,” Moyer said.

All three tattoo artists discourage a few types of tattoos. Tylosky calls tattoos on the hand or neck that are difficult to hide “life ruiners.”

Moyer doesn’t do racist or “overly demonic” tattoos.  The artists also discourage tattoos with the name of a significant other, except for very long solid marriages such as the elderly couple who came to Moyer and wanted tattoos of each other’s names.

These artists enjoy the support and acceptance of their parents.  Moyer’s parents let him work out of their garage before he opened Empyre, and Robison said his dad was the first person he worked on.
Robison studied graphic design but decided the corporate ladder wasn’t for him.

Not many people will spend several hundred dollars on a painting, Moyer pointed out, but there’s always someone who will scrape together $100 to get a tattoo.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.