Permanent Markers

Skilled artisans create
lasting impressions

Tattoo industry has gone mainstream

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

March 2012 Edition Cover

March 2012
Edition Cover

(March 2012 ) – With all of his embellishments and body art, Jack Jesse is practically a tattoo poster model. Covered from the waist up with tattoos, he credits this bodily freedom of expression to tattoo artist Scot Winskye and won’t let any other tattoo artist touch his body.
For Jesse, Winskye is not like any other tattooer. “He’s an artist,” said Jesse, 37, of Louisville. “His shop is not like a normal tattoo shop. His paintings hang everywhere.”
When Jesse’s original tattoo artist moved to Texas, he referred him to Winskye. “I wanted someone that would do a good job,” said Jesse. When another friend referred him to Winskye, Jesse paid him a visit. He said Winskye’s shop is “one of the nicest, cleanest, I’ve ever been in.”
Winskye and his wife, Taren, are co-owners of Ink Well Tattoo, located on Main Street in La Grange, Ky. Jesse visits the shop monthly to have Winskye work on his tattoos. He goes in for two-hour sessions, and if that isn’t enough time to complete a tattoo, he will wait two weeks and go in again for another two-hour session.
Winskye’s work “is really clean,” Jesse said. “It has bold outlines and the color pops.” Jesse only has to give Winskye a general idea of what type of tattoo he wants, and Winskye “does the rest.”
Winskye has created tattoos for both Jesse and his fiancée, Emily Hendrickson. His customers come from areas near and far. In fact, only about 20 percent of his customers are local. “I have clients from all over the United States.”
His tattoos are not just a result of a hobby; rather, he takes his craft seriously. Winskye earned a bachelor’s degree in art from the University of Kentucky in 1997 and worked in the field of graphic design for a time.
Originally from Brandenburg, Ky., Winskye entered an apprenticeship at Big Daddy’s Tattoo in Ratcliff, Ky. He had a friend whose father owned the business, and Winskye thought he’d give it a try so he could expand his artistic opportunities.

Scot Winskye

Photo by Don Ward

Tattoo artist
Scot Winskye works
on a design on client
Emily Hendrickson
of Louisville at his
Ink Well Tattoo
shop in La Grange, Ky.

“Tattooing is a great medium to get into,” said Winskye, 37. “Three of our artists have an art degree. Our goal is to get more artists and train them through apprenticeships and help put more quality artists out there.”
Winskye often attends seminars since they provide, “an opportunity for more education.” One way to take hands-on seminar training is to attend a tattooing convention. The Winskyes attend two to three conventions a year.
Conventions are a good way to recharge and get motivated, said Winskye. Every spring the couple attends a huge convention, The Hell City show, in Columbus, Ohio. “It’s one of the best in the world,” Winskye said. Jesse also attends this show with the Winskyes.
“You can find a bevy of tastes in artists at these shows,” said Taren Winskye. As certain clients will only be tattooed by certain artists, they travel to these shows to get tattooed by artists they think are the best in the business.
People visit tattoo conventions for the live entertainment and the community atmosphere as well. “You can hang out with like-minded people,” she said. Many conventions provide music and a gallery art show, classes and seminars on continuing education, introduce tattoo artists to new machinery and technology and promote their business.
One large show held in Bowling Green, Ky., will be the Black Diamond Blues & Tattoos Convention on March 30 through April 1 at the Sloan Convention Center. This will be the first year the convention will be hosted by Black Diamond Studios.
“Putting on an event like this puts the tattoo and piercing industry in the spotlight,” said Black Diamond Studios’ owner Byron Hillegas. “This year’s show will be the largest tattoo convention that has ever been hosted at the Sloan Convention Center.”
According to Hillegas, what attendees seem to like the most about these conventions is that “there is a large variety of artists under one roof. Tattoo conventions are where a person will find the most accomplished artist. Conventions are also a way for artists to get together to exchange ideas and techniques.”

Cheyne Gunter

Photo by Don Ward

Tattoo artist Cheyne Gunter
works on a tattoo on client
Porsche Klare at his Indiana Gun
Tattoo shop in Madison, Ind.

Body artists and vendors will travel from all over the United States to participate in this event, he said. Organizers expect to have 80 booths, contests, art displays, bar, lounge and live performances by some of today’s hottest blues bands.
Art work will be auctioned with proceeds benefiting the Autism Society of America.
It is a challenge to get people to attend such conventions because of the many misconceptions about tattoos. Hillegas said the biggest obstacle is one that has always been present: “People who are afraid of needles but really would like to get a tattoo don’t do it because they associate it with getting a shot from the doctor.”
Hillegas points out that the artist is only tattooing the top few layers of skin and “nothing like when the doctor gives you a shot that passes through the skin and into muscle. If it were, no one would have a tattoo.”
Many in the business, like Hillegas and the Winskyes, are trying to change the negative perception of the tattoo industry. They are not alone. Other tattoo artists constantly try to remove the misconceptions about this art.
“Tattooing is an art,” said Robin Gunter, whose husband, Cheyne Gunter, 44, owns Indiana Gun Tattoo in Madison, Ind.
“My husband has always been an artist and loves art,” said Gunter.
Cheyne has taken several art classes and also paints portraits. He has been in the tattooing business for the last 20 years.
“You have to be an artist because what you put on is permanent,” said Gunter. “You can’t erase it.”
And if a client insists on removal, a tattoo is “costly to remove. Some you can cover.” Others can be removed by laser.
Gunter suggests that younger clients think about where the tattoo will be placed because of employment. Many young people want a huge tattoo, she said. She advises them “to go home and think about it first.”
Once a client is sure of their choice, the Gunters will “do what a customer wants.” Gunter also suggests that prospective clients “be aware of all aspects, such as knowing they are in decent health,” before getting tattooed. It is not safe for someone who is pregnant, has diabetes or is a bleeder to get a tattoo, she said.
These are all conditions that will keep a tattoo from healing properly, said Taren Winskye, as will taking aspirin or antibiotics. The Winskyes have all of their clients fill out preliminary forms and will not tattoo anyone they believe is under the influence of alcohol.
“We’re a family oriented shop,” said Winskye. “Our artists are all highly educated, which differs from the past when a lot of tattooers did not want to continue their education.”

Jack Jesse

Photo by Don Ward

Jack Jesse of
Louisville models his
extensive array of
tattoos on his upper
body. Most of them
were created by
artist Scot Winskye.

For this reason, the Winskyes must sometimes perform coverups or fix cheap tattoos. Winskye cautions that “homemade tattoos are not safe.”
She said, “People come to us for a custom experience. There’s no chance something will go wrong; no wild card.”
There are several things she advices clients to consider before choosing a tattoo artist and a certain business. Make sure the table or chair you sit on is not black, since black will not show any blood that may fall, Winskye said.
“Make sure arm rests are wrapped and gloves are changed frequently,” she said. Spray bottles and ink caps need to be changed and sterile, and disposable tubes and new needles used for each client.
Above all else, tattoo artists need to be licensed and work in a safe, clean environment. The Winskyes do a lot of traveling, and if they are in a state that requires Scot to get a license, he will do so, she said. He renews the license each time he is in the state to give tattoos.
The couple has “traveled to England several times, which seems to be a stopping point for a lot of people wanting tattoos,” she said. They tattoo a lot of G.I.’s, and Winskye said her husband “has a well-known name in the industry.”
This is due in part to word of mouth and exposure in magazine articles, said Scot. “We’re focused on giving the best possible service we can. We discuss a tattoo with a client before beginning. We want to build relationships and we’re art-driven.”
In Kentucky, tattoo businesses, such as Ink Well Tattoo, are inspected annually and regulated by the State Board of Health, he said. But there aren’t restrictions on who is giving the tattoo. For that reason, “You need to research the artist first. Most people who are giving tattoos do not need to be doing it,” he said.
Aftercare is the key to a successful tattoo, said Winskye. It can be applied well, but will be ruined if not taken care of properly.
“The main thing is to keep it clean, but don’t soak it in water.” He compared a tattoo to an abrasion, which must be taken care of in a certain way to heal correctly.
Tattoo artists have to maintain the correct certificates as well, said Gunter. Indiana tattoo businesses also have to undergo yearly inspections. Gunter said her husband is licensed in safety classes such as first-aid and infectious waste diseases.

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