September 1, 2013

Tattoos are a hot brand

The dry dictionary definition of 'tattoo' (to puncture {the skin} with a needle and insert indelible colors so as to leave permanent marks or designs)

By SHONNA MILLIKEN HUMPHREY

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Chris Dingwell of Chris Dingwell Studio in Portland is part of the new wave of tattoo practitioners, college-educated businessmen with detailed professional portfolios. Dingwell, shown working with Jen Parker of Brattleboro, Vt., considers himself a tattoo “artist.”

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Chris Dingwell works on a tattoo for Jen Parker of Brattleboro, Vt., at his Chris Dingwell Studio.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

BY THE NUMBERS

1846: The year German immigrant Martin Hildebrandt set up one of the first documented tattoo establishments in New York City.

1978: The year tattooing became legally regulated in Maine.

82: Age of Thomas J. “Tatts Tommy” Breitweg of Maine, the oldest practicing tattoo artist in the United States at the time of his retirement in April 2001. According to Wiz Tattoos in Brewer, he held Maine’s first tattoo license until his death in June 2001.

196: Licensed tattoo practitioners in Maine.

11: Maine health inspectors.

18: Age of consent in Maine.

1: Bags of cocaine found in the wall during the physical renovation from Zootz nightclub to Sanctuary Tattoo in Portland. (Also found during the renovation: A Meat Men setlist and a fully functional pizza oven.)

18 to 86: Age range of clients at Tom’s Terrific Tattoos in Ellsworth.

20: Number of practitioners required to host a tattoo convention in Maine.

250: Cost in dollars to apply for a tattoo license.

0: Years of education, apprenticeship or formal training required to become licensed in Maine.

25: Approximate percentage of female tattoo practitioners in Maine.

0: Cigarettes that may be smoked while giving or receiving a tattoo in Maine.

2: General body areas that practitioners are typically reluctant to tattoo: Neck and hands.

0: Animals that can be legally tattooed in a Maine establishment.

1: Museums dedicated to displaying tattooed human skin: The University of Tokyo medical museum; accessible by appointment only.

50: Estimated percentage of tattoos commissioned in Maine as cover-up or reworking of existing tattoos.

75 to 150: Average dollar cost per hour to obtain a tattoo in Maine.

50 to 100: Average dollar cost per square inch to remove a tattoo in Maine.

500: Maximum fine in dollars for tattooing in Maine without a license.

 

CONSIDERING A TATTOO?

Shop around. Get recommendations, and visit several shops. Ask for examples of work. Be observant -- is the shop clean? Are they following proper safety procedures?

Make an appointment, and be patient if there is a wait.

Know what you want. Pair up with the right artist. Establish a rapport and good communication.

Don't micromanage. Don't complain.

Some people tip, some don't. Tipping is never expected, but it is always appreciated. For tipping guidelines, think of what is customary for a restaurant meal or hair stylist.


Women also represent about half of their clientele, and this feminine energy is one aspect that makes Madore's approach distinct. "It is important for me to make a personal connection with my clients," she said.

One of those clients, Anna Melbin, supports this vision.

"Tattooing has evolved for me in meaning. It is an artistic way of expressing who I am and what is important to me -- what I love, care about and nurture," she said. "Danielle's art translates a piece of who I am into a tangible expression. It's not unlike personal fashion or dyeing one's hair. The difference is permanency, which makes this medium of expression take considerable thought and, again, bravery."

Robin Harmon, another client, reinforces this significance.

"I had done quite a bit of research online and knew that I wanted someone at Sanctuary to do my tattoo. The artists there are amazing," Harmon said. "Danielle was the first one I spoke to when I visited the studio, and she was so genuine in her response that I knew she would be the one.

"Danielle's work -- lupine, bleeding hearts, hummingbird and dragonfly -- is probably my most significant tattoo, and most meaningful. It represents my grandparents and my husband. I lost both my grandparents to cancer, and my husband is currently recovering from cancer. The lupine is for my grandfather, who collected seeds and scattered them on the hillside of the family farm in Vermont; the bleeding heart and hummingbird are for my grandmother, who loved them so; and the dragonfly is for my husband, who is amazed by them every spring. For me, each tattoo is a well-thought-out design and an expression of who I am. I know this will not be my last one."

Tom Murphy of Tom's Terrific Tattoos in Ellsworth -- an establishment that reflects the grittier, more traditional approach to tattooing -- agreed that tattoos have become much more popular with the female demographic.

"It used to be that an occasional woman would walk into my shop and want a rose on her chest. Now a lot of my clients are women, and it's mostly custom work," he said. "I had an 86-year-old woman come in for a tattoo."

Whereas Tran's work at Tsunami is largely Asian-inspired and his waiting list is six months, Murphy has an impressive wall of iconic flash, and his business is economy-driven. "My clients are more blue-collar, working in fishing or landscaping. With fuel prices so high, tattoos are a luxury item for these guys," he said. 

COVER-UPS COMMON

The growing popularity of tattooing in Maine also has its downside. "Now anybody can buy a tattoo kit," Murphy said.

And he's right. Brand-new basic tattoo supplies can easily be purchased for $50 with free shipping; less if ordering a used version.

"The worst is when teenagers start tattooing themselves and their friends," said Demers at the Department of Health. "We tend to hear about these situations from licensed establishments doing the cover-up work."

Speaking of onerous, when asked if there was any tattooing Tran refused to do, he was quick. "No necks or hands unless they already have full sleeves. Neck and hands are job-stoppers."

Said Madore, "Anything hateful. I want the work to look good. If I feel like I can't be proud of it, I don't want to do it."

As far as basic tattoo etiquette goes, there are some guidelines.

"This is a personal investment," said Dingwell. "Make an appointment. Be patient, wait, think it through, and take the artist's advice seriously."

And if you don't? "I do an enormous amount of cover-up work," he added.

Being nice tops the etiquette list, and discount shopping is at the bottom. The cost of tattooing might seem steep, but consider that body art is a lifetime investment.

While one practitioner might charge less per hour, it could take several hours to complete the project. Another practitioner might be more expensive, but work faster.

No longer relegated solely to marking motorcycle gangs or sailors, Maine's dedicated cadre of artists and craftspeople are now successfully eking a place for body art within Maine's larger creative economy.

But what about the pain?

"Don't complain," said Madore. "It's a metaphor for life. There's pain -- sometimes a lot of it -- but it's all about what you bring to the experience."

Shonna Milliken Humphrey is a freelance writer and a dining reviewer for the Maine Sunday Telegram.

 

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors


Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Chris Dingwell at work at his Chris Dingwell Studio says, we’re breaking away from the biker aesthetic. We’re college-educated folks with an art background. You are commissioning an artist.”

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Chris Dingwell at work on a tattoo for Jen Parker of Brattleboro, Vt., at his Chris Dingwell Studio.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Using a magnifying “needle eye loupe,” a tool of the trade, Phuc Tran inspects a needle for flaws or damage that could cause infection.

Photo by Greta Rybus

click image to enlarge

Phuc Tran works with a customer at his Tsunami Tattoo.

Greta Rybus photo

click image to enlarge

Phuc Tran of Tsunami Tattoo, in Portland, is part of the new wave of tattoo practitioners, college-educated businessmen with detailed professional portfolios. Tran considers himself a “tattoist” or “tattoer.”

Greta Rybus photo

 


Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)


 

Blogs

More PPH Blogs