You know that old clichéd scene? It’s every dad’s nightmare: daughter is going out for a date, and when the kid comes to the door… IT’S SOME TATTOOED PUNK!
How hilarious does that sound now? In 2015, there’s a 32 percent chance that dad has a (tasteful) tattoo. Maybe even a full neckpiece.
You can chalk up that mainstream evolution to the changing tides of the art form itself.
Look at Columbus, where the city has gone from a handful of shops to nearly 200 in just the last 30 years. And just like any creative scene we dig into at (614), you’ll find way more beneath the surface than you could have imagined. Most cover stories we pursue typically start with a news peg (in this case, May’s Hell City Tattoo Festival, one of the country’s largest), and we spiral outward from there, examining all the ways in which the main subject is ingrained in Columbus culture.
So I probably shouldn’t be surprised at the national and, in some cases, global touchstones that we found in one particular subculture. Oh, so one of the most lauded tattoo artists in the United States was a former sword-swallowing dwarf with a shop in what is now the Short North? That he gave Ed Hardy a souvenir tattoo in 1980? Of course he was. Of course he did.
Or that there is a human trafficking survivor using body art as advocacy, doing her part to erase other survivors’ physical and emotional scars due to their former captors’ brands?
Yes, none of this should be a surprise in a city like ours, where even from my desk I am continually amazed by the way art and community collide.
Let’s look at the men and women behind the needle. In a city that’s constantly striving to put more emphasis on art, tattoo artists are the most prolific subset. Beyond their always-booked tables, they’re musicians, graphic designers, photographers, beer label designers, etc.
And what’s extra cool about the local tattoo scene (sure, it’s ultra competitive and there are egos just like in any industry), is that I can’t think of an industry that’s more interconnected.
Hell, when we randomly decided to tattoo a slice of pizza on someone for the cover of our food and drink publication, Stock & Barrel, the lucky recipient and the tattoo artist we chose had already collaborated. Now there’s a 16-bit video game character firing a bullet at a vegetarian slice of pie on Lindsey Klun’s arm, both courtesy of artist Scott Santee. Our photo editor Chris Casella walked in for the shoot and got some dap from Memento’s Iggy Sweeney, who had inked his arm and leg years ago.
The spirit of apprenticeship in an industry like this is refreshing, too. Many of the city’s most sought-after artists learned from the older set, technique and style passed down and evolved through generations. Transference, always. You can also walk into any shop in the city and see how excited they are about transferring their passion onto someone’s skin. And while it’s cool for any artist to have their work hanging on a wall somewhere, think about the permanent installations strolling through the city on any given resident’s shoulders or back. It’s an honor that I don’t think many art forms can boast. As if ink needs any help enduring, hundreds of artists beyond Santee, Sweeney, and Hell City’s Morrison keep the art alive on the living, breathing canvas that is Columbus.
Here’s to that legacy and to doing our part to elevate the colorful world of Columbus tattoo culture.
Travis Hoewischer, Editor-in-Chief