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New business in town enjoys tattoo trend, increase in business

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By Alice Du Pont

At tax time a lot of businesses see a marked increase in business. Big Bend Tattoo, on East Washington Street, is no exception.

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"Business has been really good," said Brandon Barkley, one of three tattoo artists who practice the art of tattooing at the Quincy shop. From butterflies to dragons, it's all a matter personal taste when it comes to what people want tattooed on their bodies.

Tattooing is a method of decorating the skin by inserting colored inks under the surface. The skin is punctured with a sharp instrument, usually an electric needle.

While nationwide tattooing has seen a resurgence is the past 10 years, tattooing is an ancient art. In many parts of the world tribal people use tattooing to indicate social rank and affiliation.

Last week Shena Powell decided to get her third tattoo. Terry Mock was waiting to start the one-hour procedure when Powell arrived just after 5 p.m. She wanted to tattoo the name of the dress shop she plans to open soon on her neck. The words, "Je Suis Belle" (I am beautiful) and the accompanying art work takes about an hour to complete.

"I start with a stencil then I place it on the skin as a guide," Mock said.

Sometimes Mock and Barkley and another artist in the shop, Robert Turnbull, freehand tattoos, but they prefer that the customer have an idea of what they want. Customers can select from over 7,000 tattoos that are available or clients can bring in their own art. Powell knew what she wanted and brought it with her.

The tattoo shop opened about five months ago and most of the business is either through word of mouth or, like a barber or hairdresser, repeat customers.

"People develop a fondness for the artist and the kind of work we preform. A lot of my customers are repeat business," said Barkley, 22.

Barkley has become the favorite artist of Michelle Raboe, 19, of Greensboro. She met him in school when they were both students at West Gadsden High School. She sports 14 tattoos, including eight butterflies in various places and a likeness of "Musha" a dragon, on her thigh. Raboe and 18-year-old Amber Hines stopped by the shop to look at some of the art in preparation for deciding their next tattoo.

"I have four tats, two I did myself and two I had done professionally. I want to get tattoos on my shoulders, back, arms and foot. I'm not going to let anybody tattoo me other than Brandon," she said.

Hines knows the process will take several months or maybe a year but she has her sights set on tattooing most of her upper part of her body. She's proud of her tattoos and shows them off readily, One, a skull and crossbones, she keeps behind her hairline because her parents don't approve of that image.

The young women say they will save up their money to pay for the tattoos they want.

"The cost varies on what the person wants and how intricate the pattern. The average is about $60 but there are no set prices," Barkley said.

The most popular tattoos are zodiac signs, flowers, names and symbols, but the trend is moving toward being unique. He said most of the people who come in want a one-of-a-kind tattoos and will often mix several to get the "mine only" tattoos.

Women tend to want tattoos on the top of the foot while men prefer art on the backs of the hands.

Both Barkley and Mock have art backgrounds, both began drawing as children, and feel that the art form they enjoy is a logical extension of their love for drawing. It comes in handy since men tend to want more creativeness than women when choosing tattoos.

"A lot of guys want tats on both that make a statement or spell out a word. Some people say they sting a little, especially if it on the bone. But women take tattoos better, the men tend to be crybabies; not crying but they really make some faces," Mock said.

Powell grimaced a few times while Mock was tattooing across her sternum. She said she experienced a mild discomfort but that it didn't last long. Mock said that in most cases, the pain will go away in a few minutes for small tattoos.

Larger tattoos, he said, can take a day or more to heal. Before clients leave, however, Mock and Barkley instruct them on caring for their new tattoos.

An hour later a very pleased Powell with her pink-laced tattoo listened as Mock told her to care for her tattoo with with lotion and to never use vaseline. He bandaged the area to keep it clean and free of bacteria for 24 hours later.

"The health and safety of our clients is very important to us. We take a lot of care in sterilizing all of our equipment and never use a needle on more than one person. When we use a needle, we toss it out. This business thrives on repeat business," Mock said.