School was not Nick Pulzone’s forte. Before becoming a tattoo artist, Pulzone “failed out” of Central Oregon Community College in 2005.
“[School] is not an environment I can thrive in,” Pulzone said. “I’m a hands-on learner.”
Pulzone moved to Salem to pursue the art of body modification, where he attended Be Pierced National Tattoo Academy. After hundreds of hours of practical book work and tattoo procedures, he became a licensed tattoo artist.
“I’ve always been into drawing,” Pulzone said. “I took an interest in tattooing when I was pretty young.”
Pulzone works at Ink Daddy in Salem and is a guest artist at Monolith in Bend.
“You go through a whole psychological thing,” Pulzone said. “When you get that endorphin rush, it’s kind of like exercise. It hurts but it’s addicting.”
From taboo to trendy
Tattoos are becoming more accepted in society, according to Pulzone. However they can still limit opportunities in the workplace.
“Conservativeness has gone down,” Pulzone said. “When I was growing up, badasses got tattoos. Now moms, daughters, teachers and social workers are getting them.”
However, some people are still put off by tattoos, according to Pulzone, sometimes for religious reasons.
“It is believed that the bible speaks out against [body modification], tarnishing the temple of God,” Pulzone said.
The west coast has a more casual attitude toward tattoos, according to Annee Caron, a Bend tattoo artist.
“Over on the east coast there are a lot less visible tattoos,” Caron said. “In Eugene, I know six or seven people with their entire face tattooed.”
However, Caron is reluctant to give people visible tattoos if they don’t already have them, because she said she doesn’t want to give them something they’ll regret.
“That’s kind of a law for tattooing. You don’t touch people’s hands, necks or faces unless they already have tattoos,” Caron said.
Some customers are influenced by tattoo “fads,” according to Pulzone, which can be influenced by the Internet.
“People Google tattoos and pick the second or third picture on an image search,” Pulzone said.
Celebrities also have a strong influence on body modification fads, according to Caron.
Miley Cyrus’ heart tattoo on her finger has inspired many young girls to want to tattoo their hands, explained Caron.
Pulzone has had numerous clients ask for the “Megan Fox tattoo,” which is large Old English text on her left rib cage that reads: There once was a little girl who never knew love until a boy broke her heart.
“Not everybody is massively creative.” Pulzone said. “You get a lot of redundancy.”
Tattoos can be used to cover scars and foster healing.
Some people get tattooed to conceal their scars, explained Caron. After having a double-mastectomy, one of Caron’s clients got flowers tattooed across her chest.
“The doctor had drawn on nipples and they looked horrible,” Caron said. “They did not match and they didn’t even look like nipples. She was really bummed about it, so we put big beautiful flowers all over her chest.”
Others turn to body modification at a time of mourning, according to COCC student Ben Dralle.
“Somebody close passed away, so I got [tattooed] in his memory,” Dralle said. “To remember who he was as a person instead of how he went out.”
Tattoos represent personal transformation, Dralle explained, by repurposing suffering and reminding you of something positive that came from something negative.
As the allure of piercings and tattoos increases, some people are attempting to do body modifications themselves.
Using a safety pin dipped in “Indian ink” COCC student Johanna Ferris describes the process as “stabbing” herself.
“Right now it’s a circle and it’s going to be a sun,” Ferris said.
During the summer of 2012, Ferris and a friend sat on yoga mats in the middle of a field and began tattooing themselves.
Ferris decided to do the tattoo herself because she couldn’t afford to pay a licensed artist and had witnessed her sister tattoo herself using a safety pin before.
“When I have money,” Ferris said, “I’m going to get an actual sun [tattoo] then a moon on my other foot.”
COCC student Colby Camirand regrets his first tattoo that was done using “Indian ink” and a homemade tattoo gun made from a guitar string.
“The lines are off,” Camirand said, “It’s a perfect example of what not to do.”
Think before you ink
While tattoos can be a positive form of self expression, according to Pulzone, potential customers should put a lot of thought into their choices forgetting something permanently etched on their skin. Some things are never a good idea, said Pulzone, such as tattoos of a significant other’s name.
“I have tattooed a name on a person and have had him come back three weeks later to get it covered up,” Pulzone said. “It’s like a voodoo curse.”
Grandparents, parents and children’s names are okay, Pulzone said. But, “anything that can change, you shouldn’t tattoo it on you.”
While getting your romantic partner’s name tattooed on your skin may not be a good idea, going in as a couple is, according to Caron.
“It’s an incredible bonding experience,” Caron said, “but don’t tattoo the name on you no matter how much you love them.
Customers who want a tattoo but aren’t sure what they want, Pulzone recommends following the “100 year rule.”
“Think of things that 100 years ago were beautiful,” Pulzone said, “and 100 years from now will still be beautiful.”