Sky Images owner Ken Whitten, Justin Fisher and Daniel Burr stand in front of the newest tattooing machine with seven needles that is used to create the increasingly popular and complicated “sleeve,” or the extensive tattooing of the entire arm.
Tattooing as a marking body ornament has been a known practice, probably since the pre-historic times. This is a presumption because of organic decomposition, but based on early recorded time, the Egyptians practiced it as early as 2,000 B.C.
Not only does tattooing have a long history, it is a world-wide practice, the word as we have it has a Polynesian origin.
Thousands of years have not diminished its popularity, in fact, it currently has reached probably its highest popularity for both genders, crossing all socio-economic levels.
The tattooing process today is universes away from its historical predecessors, both in design and safety. This is the result of technology and a joint effort between tattooing artists who have campaigned for governmental regulation and certification.
So far, for training there is no “apprentice” program per se. Of course, the recommended training is to be done in association with an established and certified tattoo artist.
For example, Justin Fisher, who is with Sky Images of Muskegon (1259 E. Apple, 231-773-8756) has had a good deal of training with Sky Images owner, Ken Whitten, is a well-known and long-time artist and leader in state certification.
Fisher describes himself as fairly typical in choosing this profession of imagination and skill. “I was always drawing, as well as being interested in the art of tattoo. I associated myself with those established artists who could provide the best instruction in technique and sanitary methods.”
Behind current tattooing techniques is a well-established state-regulated and authorized education in blood-borne pathogens, blood diseases, and sterilizing procedures under the authority of the Red Cross, health educators, and a renewable certification by an authorized OSHA Outreach Instructor.
The tattooing rooms at Sky Images are a case in point of the emphasis on sanitation and careful needle manipulation. The client reclines in a “chair” in a room that is typical of the most sterile medical facility: from protective gloves, to the tattoo machine and needles, and to the instruments.
Once in this sterile atmosphere, comes the tattoo design. Modern designs are universes away from former tattooing techniques that ranged from questionable to brutal, of hearts, anchors, and names, a usual long-time association with sailors, although tribal designs could be intricate.
Fisher comments that, “of course, the earlier designs are done, but now there is almost an explosion of something to learn from this evolving culture in style, colors, and techniques. Of particular interest now are the three-dimensional styles (showing depth and naturalism) to portraits, scenes, and realistic abstract forms.”
Tribal style is another current popular design particularly in “sleeves” which is tattooing the entire arm, and can go far beyond that to the entire body.
In Whitehall, the Dimensions in Ink studio (3297 Colby, Suite F, 231-903-2167), using all the careful sterile techniques required by state certification, has the latest in tattoo design as part of its very title.
Co-owner Jason Harris notes that “through more advanced techniques, colors, and machines, we can create entire new effects by starting with light and then build up the three-dimensional effect through shading and color. It requires hours of shading, and a heavy set of art skills.”
Graphic examples of these realistic three-dimensional effects can be seen in such magazines as “Rebel Ink.” On one cover was a woman on whose arms the delicate tattoo portraits of people, leaves, and intricate abstract designs that looked as if they could have been in an art gallery, and yet they were on human arms.
Tattoo costs in general usually start with a $50 set-up charge, and then range from $75 to $150 an hour, with ultimate costs, depending upon complexity, up to thousands. For instance, “sleeve” tattoos can take as much as 40 hours plus to complete.
Tattooing is a positive growth industry. Women have doubled the client base, imagination and artistry skill seem to know no limits, and the techniques are done in as sterile a condition as can be attained. The unending influence of television and movies continues their vast influence on tattooing with the result that imitation has been replaced by an individual expression.