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Artist of the Month - October 2004

Every Tattoo Tells a Story:
Introducing Westside Tattoo

By Janet Lowe

Steve Corn

Moab’s newest art gallery and studio is a place where you can walk out the door wearing the art you’ve purchased. While most wearable art comes in the form of jewelry or clothing, when you walk out of this particular studio, you’ll be wearing your art on your skin in a tradition that is literally thousands of years old.

Jeff Davis, owner of Westside Tattoo thought it was time to bring the age-old art to Moab.

“It was the right time to introduce a tattoo studio in Moab,” said Jeff, who himself is adorned with a variety of colorful “tats.”

“Tattoos have become more popular and mainstream than in the past and I thought Moab would be the perfect place for a studio,” he explained.

While tattooing has only hit mainstream America in recent years, it is an ancient art form. In 1991 a 5,000 year old man from the Bronze Age was discovered on a mountain between Austria and Italy. His body was preserved in a glacier and was found to have unusual permanent markings. Instruments dating tattooing to the Upper Paleolithic period (10,000 BC to 38,000 BC) have been found at archaeological sites throughout Europe. Polynesian tattooing is some of the most artist of ancient body inking. The Polynesian art evolved over thousands of years and is characterized by elaborate geometrical designs which were embellished throughout the life of the individual. Frequently entire parts of the body were tattooed including the face, arms, and hands.

The earliest written record of tattooing in America is found in ship logs, letters and diaries written by sailors in the early 19th century. Stereotypical symbols representing courage, patriotism, defiance of death and loved ones left behind were common. Tattooing was also commonplace among soldiers fighting in the Civil War, Spanish American war and then later in the two World Wars.

It was not until the late 1960s and 1970s, however, that tattooing became “modernized.” At this time the man known as the Cezanne of modern tattooing, “Sailor Jerry,” began experimenting with a greater range of pigment and used an expanded repertoire of images. Today, the images used in tattooing are as diverse as any person’s imagination.

Steve Corn, Westside Tattoo’s resident Cezanne, states that there is no end to the variety of tattoos he is asked to design.

“Some people come in with an idea of what they want and together we create the image. Other times they might pick a tribal or Celtic design. Tribal arm bands are popular with both men and women,” said Corn.
“Women like tattoos on the lower back,” continued Corn. “Men still go for the arms.”

The most popular or commonly asked for tattoo, said Corn, is a “cover up” or fixing old or badly done tattoos.

“The inks and needles are so much more refined today than they were in the past,” explained Corn, “We can easily fix a tat that has faded or was done with old equipment or ink.” Corn, a self-taught tattooist, has been fixing and decorating skin for 14 years.

While tattoo inks can be plastic or metal based, Westside Tattoo uses only organic inks made from natural plant substances. Needles are housed in a tube attached to a small “gun.” The outline of the tattoo is done first with a set of three or five needles. “Shaders” contain bundles of eight to 14 needles that are spread out to fill inside the lines.

“Today’s inks are so much better than those of 20 years ago,” explained Corn. “The older inks used to spread beneath the skin. Today’s inks stay put. This allows us to create far more elaborate designs. Right now some of the artwork is incredible. You can walk out of a studio with something that looks like an oil painting on your body. People are collecting tattoo art like they used to collect paintings for their walls,” Corn continued. “There is absolutely no limit on designs these days.”

Corn explained that he likes to see people choose images that mean something to them rather than a canned design.

“I’d much rather someone come in with an design that they have decided on earlier instead of picking an image off the wall or out of a book. It means they’ve given it a lot of thought and will likely never regret the decision to have a permanent piece of art on their body,” said Corn.

Rex Tanner, a frequent customer at Westside Tattoo, agrees with Corn.

“I get tattoos to commemorate an event or a person in my life,” he said. Displaying his arms and the multiple illustrations, he begins to tell the story behind each piece of art.

“Every single tattoo I have has a personal meaning. Every tattoo tells a story,” Tanner said.

Tanner and studio owner Davis are long-time friends and share some of the same tattoos to commemorate road trips or family vacations. Tanner also proudly wears the names of his children and grandchildren on his arms.

Local resident Janelle Thurston, who got her first tattoo at Westside Tattoo in September, also chose an image with meaning to her.

“It’s a red rose,” she said. “I’ve always loved red roses from the time I was a little girl. When I got married, I carried red roses and now I have them on my back.” When asked if the process of getting a tat hurts, Janelle said, “At first, but then you sort of get used to it. It was no where near as bad as my husband said it would be.”

Certainly the desire for body art wins out over any temporary discomfort. Tattoos are now commonly seen on fashion models, Hollywood actors, and people from all ages and walks of life. In fact, the single fastest growing demographic seeking tattoos is the middle-class suburban female. And tattooing is the sixth fastest growing retail business in the United States.

If you aren’t sure you want a tattoo or aren’t quite ready to go with a permanent illustration, Westside Tattoo can also give you an airbrushed design or offer you a decal to get used to the idea. The studio also does body piercings and offers a huge assortment of jewelry including belly button rings and other body ornaments. You can also get a massage from a licensed massage therapist, Jaclyn Davis. During winter months there is likely to be a football game on the big screen TV and if your team is losing, you can play a game of pool while you’re waiting for your turn in the chair. In other words, Westside Tattoo is much more than a tattoo parlor. Even those not planning on getting a tattoo will enjoy looking at the designs, looking at body jewelry, T-shirts, candles and other unique gift items.

While the studio is happy to accept walk-ins if the artists aren’t busy, appointments are encouraged. Westside currently has two tattooists, Corn and Pup Maddox, who are ready to make you an illustrated man or woman.
“We’ve been getting busier and busier, so it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment for your tattoo,” said Davis. Plan on anywhere from one to three hours for a tattoo depending on how elaborate the design. Tattoos begin at approximately $80-$82.

For folks looking for a way to memorialize their trip to Moab or the Southwest, Westside Tattoo may be the answer for a lasting memory, a good story, and a stunning piece of body art.

Westside Tattoo is located upstairs at 51 West 100 South, just west of Zax’s. They are open each day from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Call for an appointment or more information at (435) 259-SKIN (7546). For an appointment with the massage therapist call (435) 210-0023.

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