When a mid-20s woman asked for a patterned tattoo on her face, artist Michael Williams told her of the possible repercussions: having ink permanently etched across your temples may shorten a job interview.
Williams, an artist at Triple Crown Tattoo, said most tattoo artists decline face requests if the person doesn’t have much ink elsewhere. He honored her wish, however, after she took 24 hours to rethink her decision and returned the next day, determined.
“I knew that if I said no she’ll go to some other shop,” Williams said. “Chances are the place that says yes will do a bad job.”
In its 10 years of operation, Triple Crown Tattoo has earned its reputation for skill, versatility and professionalism, even for the strangest of requests. Each of the seven artists at the shop have specialties that have been vigorously practiced and honed, though they all remain dedicated to the classics, such as roses or “I Heart Mom” tattoos.
Williams enjoys reproducing childhood TV characters in bright detail, from Power Rangers to He-Man. He also builds his own tattoo machines from scratch, which he says provide a closer connection to what he’s doing when drawing on someone’s skin.
“The good thing about us is that we have somebody that specializes in just about everything,” said Triple Crown founder Scott Ellis, who has 23 years
Fellow artist Annie Alonzi said customers may at times request an idea that may be impractical. If this happens, she said it’s important to listen to the feedback of your tattoo artist.
When it comes to the popular trend of watercoloring, known for its splashy colors, Alonzi said clients often have unrealistic expectations. One customer asked for an octopus in all purple, but Alonzi told her the absence of black ink can cause tattoos to fade and become distorted over time, making her octopus likely to end up looking like a bruise.
“For the most part, the people I tattoo do listen,” Alonzi said. “I really appreciate that because one hundred percent of the advice I give to people comes from me wanting to make the best tattoo.”
She also has advice for customers who simply want something charming.
“If you’re trying to steer clear of trendy images, going with classics is always a good idea,” Alonzi said.
Ellis said over half the customers who visit ask for tattoos with sentimental value, whether it’s for a personal achievement or a family member who
“Tattoos are sort of bookmarks on your life,” Ellis said.
For this reason, Alonzi sometimes tattoos her fiancee to commemorate his travels as a musician. On his neck, a sketch of a little hot air balloon reads “Hurry Home.”
“He’s gone a lot,” Alonzi said. Her favorite tattoos are ones where “the story was really important to (her),” not necessarily the most technical, she said.
The bond between tattoo artists and their clients can also be special, Ellis said. Unlike going to the dentist, he said getting a tattoo is more personal in its pain.
“Once you get your root canal pulled, that’s it. You feel normal again,” Ellis said. “When you get a tattoo, that’s something you leave
feeling proud of, and you remember the artist who did it.”