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Fine Art of Tattooing

Sara's got a unique question for our urbanMamas community, and we are certain some of you can pass along some recommendations for tattoo artiste extraordinaire.  She writes: 

I am a regular mama with a professional job (before I became a SAHM) who has a question about tattoos. I, myself was a reluctant tattoo recipient five years ago. I finally got a permanent tattoo, my first and only tattoo, when I was 28, on a trip home to visit family in California. That particular tattoo parlor and the artist did and excellent job on my tattoo. The artist was himself an illustrator from the "Art Center" School in California.  I had to think long an hard about what I wanted to permanently inscribe on my body. After years of introspection and careful thought, I decided to have the "Fleur-De-Lis" tattooed on my lower back as a tribute to my family's French heritage. My husband who happens to be part Native American and part French Canadian has also dreamed of getting a tattoo, a band around his upper arm. He has yet to make the leap because he was waiting until he had child, and a reason to make a permanent mark on his skin.

Here's our dilemma: We are both artists in our 30's, we both graduated from an art school and both majored in illustration. We are both fine artists even-though we carry-on different day jobs. We moved to Portland 6 years ago, and since then haven't found the urgency to get any tattoos until now. One year ago we gave birth to our first child and are now fantasizing about getting tattoos commemorating his birth. With that said, it's a tough situation for us, as we are artists ourselves, we are picky and will not settle for the mere ready-for-hire bugs-bunny tattoos on the wall that you find in most shops. We are looking for true artisan talent.  We'd like to put something onto our skin for the rest of our lives, that represents our son, with the quality lines of a true artist.  My question for you is, are there any other Urban Mama's out there that can recommend a quality tattoo parlor, rather than the run of the mill color-by-number place so commonly found in major cities? I would really appreciate the name of the tattoo artist as well, in order to make an appointment. Think fine art.... Fine art tattooing...


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Oh yes, there are PLENTY of great tattoo shops in town. But, time after time after time, these are the two that I hear recommendations for:



The artists at Infinity Tattoo (http://infinitytattoo.com/portfolios.cfm) do crazy-good work. I've been inked by Aaron (3 times), but all the artists there are top-notch and each of them has his/her own style. The artists are about 1/2 male, 1/2 female and a number of them are mamas/papas. I can't say enough good things.

optic nerve on NE Alberta, definitely my highest recommendation. all the artists i've seen do incredible work, you can go and look through their portfolios. since you are into the fine arts, i'd suggest making your own design, or collaborating with them. they do cost some money, but hey, it's your body, right? good luck!

Far and away Matt Reed, owner of Tiger Lily. That link above isn't correct? Google him. He's a true artist.

Amanda and Paul at Infinity are good too.

Tigerlily Tattoo and Infinity Tattoo are both really great places to get work done. I suggest just going to their studios and looking through the various artists portfolio's. A LOT of local tattoo artists ALSO went to art school...so that is something to consider as well. (Not to mention that they also quite often go through an apprenticeship process after art school...which is something kids that go through art school often don't have to do anymore!)

ATLAS TATTOO on N Albina Ave.

I don't have a tattoo, but have thought about getting one. After living in Portland for 12 years I have done an informal poll and asked people where they got their tattoos, the ones that are the most beautiful and highest quality are usually from there. They have a very long wait list and are always busy. Go check them out. Sorry I don't have a name for you....

i've heard scapegoat is the best: http://scapegoattattoo.com/

Luckily Portland is famous for its abundance of HIGH quality tattoo artists. I got an amazing piece done at Oddball Tattoo (21st and Clinton) after inquiring about several tattoos that had come from there. Mine was done by one of the owners, Jason. Cheyenne is also AMAZING. they are very booked out and expensive, but nationally acclaimed, and their new studio is gorgeous and comfortable.

Alice Kendall at Infinity. Not only a tattoo artist, but an awesome mama.

I don't have personal experience with Icon tattoo, but the artists there share your values. Each artist seems to have his or her own style. No cookie cutter tats.


Also take a look at the portfolios over at Atomic, www.atomic.ws.

tracy at infinity is really awesome. she did a beautiful tattoo on my arm. i haven't gotten it colored in yet because i got pregnant with my 3rd child instead, but i can't wait to go back to her and get it finished. anyways, she was really willing to work with me on design and drew a few different ones before i was totally happy with it. she rocks.

to follow up danielle's recommendation, dustin, the owner of **icon tattoo**, is an amazing artist AND willing to work with artists on developing their ideas into what would essentially translate into a different medium - skin.

Ed @ Anatomy Tattoo on NE Sandy (formerly Painless Steel) is a genius. I went in with a vague idea of what I wanted and he created a tattoo that was above my expectations (http://www.flickr.com/photos/preciousroy/1272594506/sizes/l/). He was very professional, very interested in knowing how I wanted it done, and an excellent artist on top of that. I'll definitely be going back to him ASAP.

There is no shortage o great places to get inked in this town. I have 2 tattoos done by Amanda (mama of 2) at infinity on Lombard. My daughter's friend's father, Jason, is an owner of Oddball, and I have heard the highest recommendations for Atlas on Albina. Dan seems to be so popular there is up to a 6 mos wait (same with other artists there).
I am happy with Amanda's work, but will probably try one of the other places I mentioned for my next piece.
The best bet, as others have suggested, is to check the places out for yourself. Many now look more like a day spa than a hole in a tourist trap. Look through portfolios and ask what the artist specialize in, many do tribal or asian others do great realistic or natural pieces. Most importantly, if you guys are artists and feel really strongly about the specifics of your design, do it up yourself. Then you need only be concerned with the quality of their inking as they will be tracing it for you.
Personally, after getting a few tattoos, I feel it more of a piece of art by the tattoo artist and not so much some "thing" i want (rose or something). I am much more willing to let them be free with their expressions after my guidelines and that is where their personal style comes into play.
Hope that helps and happing inking-they are addictive!

My new favorite hair parlour, the Parlour, has a tattoo artist in the loft. His work is great...I got to see a lot of it this weekend while Heather, my new favorite hairstylist, cut my hair because he has done some work on her arm which was in clear-view throughout the cut. It was beautiful. When I am ready to get more ink, he will be at the top of my list. They are at 7327 N. Charleston Ave. (503) 289-0830

As other folks have said, if you want talent, Portland is the place to find it. I found it at Atlas Tattoo http://www.atlastattoo.com/ I had two pieces done by Jennifer Billig there, but she has moved out of state. The other artists are doing beautiful work as well.

Good luck to you! I think the toughest part is actually going to be narrowing down your choice to one (but heck, it sounds like you've got a lot of "real estate" left, so you can have multiple pieces done by different artists!)

I have a lot of tattoo work, probably 75% of my body is covered, and I was very involved in the tattoo community for about 10 years (then I had kids and moved). I know many great artists and would be happy to give you some referrals based on what you want done.

It sounds like you are taking this very seriously, so I might recommend that you even look outside of Portland for the right artist for you. There are so many tattooers out there these days and there is a huge range of talent. Once you get into the range of super-talented, then it's more a matter of their style, rather than whether or not they'll do a good job. I don't know much about the local Portland artists except at Atlas and I've heard good things and seen good work from Oddball as well.

Feel free to email me directly and I can give you some names of folks in other cities.

Brooke - brooke.dempsey@gmail.com

I have to add my recommendation to Infinity Tattoo. Paul has done three of my tats and 2 of my husbands. I can only speak for Paul and Amanda specifically they are both artists at heart. The art they custom create is unique to fit you. They also will take the art you create and adapt it if needed to become a tattoo. You always get time to approve the drawing before they start....

I would just make a visit to them and see what you think...

Alice Kendall @ Infinity Tattoo! Beautiful, custom work.

I can't recommend James Kern enough... he's AMAZING. He's new to Portland and has studio that he opened up last year on Division, No Hope No Fear tattoo... the website is www.tattoomonster.com
he's so good!!! He has about a 9 month waiting list, but he is totally worth the wait. He just finished my tattoo and I am so in love with it. He's working on one for my boyfriend right now. His studio is all custom tattoos. And he's a great artist. My tattoo turned out amazing... better than I'd ever imagined. I started with a sketch my sister had done that James redrew. My boyfriends was more of a concept... he just told james basically what he wanted and he made something really awesome. His is only about 1/2 done so far though. Anyway if you're interested, here's a link to what he did for me.


I think there are a lot of great tattoo artists in town, but we went to every shop and finally saw James' work and knew he was the guy for us. I would say go check out all their portfolios and stuff... we did, and when we saw his we were more than willing to wait as long as we had to to get him to do our tattoos. He's rad.

Tracy and Alice at infinity are amazing. Alice did a piece of chinese poetry on my side and did such a great job recreating the small characters. My husband got our son's footprints on his chest and Tracy did a great job...both such attention to detail, definitely an illustrator's touch, and both have very creative ideas on how to make the work better for your body.

Boom Boom Tattoo in Stayton also does vegan ink tattoos. The owner, Jan, is great and i'm very happy with what she did for me.

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