ALPENA – Tattoos seem to become more visible as the spring and summer seasons arrive, when layers of clothing are shed.
Research shows that tattoos have a history that can be traced back to at least ancient Egypt and, most likely, earlier, in the world’s BC era.
In a Psychology Today article titled “Why People Get Tattoos,” Washington, DC-based clinical psychologist Vinta Mehta, Ph.D., said in her practice she tends to see a higher tattoo presence among millennials .
“I learned with this generation, body art is a personal expression,” she said. “Or serve as a message that reflects an important moment in my client’s life.”
Dan Hunter of the Authority Tattoo blog did research that showed in 2012, 21% of Americans had a tattoo. By 2019, with similar research, this figure had risen to 30%. Further research by Hunter showed 40% of Americans under the age of 35 had a tattoo, followed by those between the ages of 35 and 54, at 36%, and finally, those 54 and older, at 15%.
Hunter added, in his opinion, television, movies and, most recently, social media, have caused a significant increase in Americans receiving body art.
In Michigan, tattoo and body piercing services are licensed and regulated by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Within the world’s diverse religious communities, the aspect of body art is welcomed, while in some faiths it is frowned upon. For example, the Jewish faith forbids body art, while certain Christian faiths, Buddhism and Hinduism find tattooing acceptable.
Erika Nicholls is co-owner of Under the Gun Tattoo, located on 2nd Avenue in downtown Alpena.
She and her husband Jeremy founded the tattoo and body piercing center in 2012. They currently employ another tattoo artist, Jason.
As you enter their studio, the front section offers a large greeting area with tabletop portfolios and wall art showcasing their artwork. The rear section of the store offers several private service rooms.
Erika Nicholls revealed that their traditional customer is female, between the ages of 18 and 40.
“This audience tends to get their first tattoo on their foot, wrist or on the side of their hip,” she said. “I feel their drive to get a tattoo is to provide a cool expression, or they simply like the look of the artwork.”
She added: “We once served an 80-year-old who had a tattoo on their to-do bucket list.”
At the Nicholls studio, a simple, single tattoo starts at $80, taking less than half an hour. Extensive tattoos, for example a sleeve (which is on a significant part of the arm), will take several sessions at an hourly cost of over $100. Currently, Under the Gun Tattoo offers appointments, starting in September.
The studio also addressed some homemade or unwanted tattoos by offering tattoo work, such as floral artwork.
When asked about unusual tattoos, Erika Nicholls said they seem to revolve around food.
Recently introduced are tattoos that are made to fade (fading process). Less than 10 years ago, the process was developed by two chemical engineers whose ink and application process enables the creation of a temporary tattoo. The tattoo can last for nine to 12 months and then fade. This relatively new process tends to be found in the larger metropolitan regions.
The body art stories abound.
A health care clinician shared an account of how he helped a patient prepare for a procedure. While helping the patient into an examination gown, she noticed a pair of tattooed eyes on the lower back. She learned the individual had lost a bet and had the artwork installed. The patient’s occupation? A plumber.
A restaurant server’s left forearm displayed six paw prints. The server said each one was in honor of her dogs who had passed away.
On the Paramount Television Network (formerly Spike TV), Alpena native Josh Woods appeared as a celebrity tattoo artist on the Ink Master series. He practices his craft at Dana Point Tattoo in California.
Perhaps the lyrics of Jimmy Buffet’s 1977 song “Margaritaville” started the tattoo boom when he sang about his Mexican beauty tattoo?
Jeffrey D. Brasie is a retired healthcare executive and frequent author of op-eds and feature stories. A former Alpena resident living in suburban Detroit, he is a veteran of the US Navy and the US Naval Reserve.