Photo: This intricate tattoo of a spider and its web was drawn by Jesse Witt, proprietor of Tall Tales Tattoo in Stockton. (Courtesy photo)
The art of self-expression is highly personal. In our culture, we value the right to express our feelings and opinions.
The options for doing so are as diverse and endless as the creative force behind them. We see it, hear it and feel it every day, in every aspect of our lives.
Taking center stage in the business and culture of self-expression is the art of tattooing.
The unique artistry of tattooing is ever evolving and at the heart of every design at Tall Tales Tattoo, located at 7170 West Lane, Suite No. 4. Owner Jessie Witt says they are busy most days due to a great referral business and the exceptionally detailed artistry and attention that go into each design.
“We take our time. We make sure we understand what our customers want and that we are confident we can deliver before we begin to work,” says Jessie. “Most people bring in a picture or copy of a design. If they are unsure we have tons of samples to chose from.”
Permanent ink design on human skin has become one of the top twenty fastest growing industries in the United States. Forty-six percent of the U.S. population has a tattoo. Worldwide, women lead the pack with 59 percent inked, followed by men at 41 percent.
And while the permanency of a tattoo may be too frightening for some, it’s the main attraction for others.
“I have my children’s names tattooed close to my heart, because that is where I always carry them,” said tattoo enthusiast Rebecca Bruff. “All 15 of my tattoos have great meaning to me. They are either about a person, memory or symbolic of an event or time in my life. The portrait of my Father on my leg is a symbol of my deep respect for him,”
During the process at Tall Tales, clients are kept comfortable on massage tables covered in clean disposable linens. Cleanliness is the primary concern. They only use hospital grade cleaners. Instruments and stations are cleaned and disinfected before and after each use.
As a boy Jessie said he drew constantly. “I always had a notepad and pens. Nonstop. I drew cartoon characters, sharks, dragons, super powers, you name it I drew it.”
As he got older and into high school Witt drew less. His interests changed. His parents bought him a tattoo machine but he never used it. After high school he started working construction and his friends started getting tattoos.
“I didn’t think some of the tattoo art was very good. And neither did my friends,” Witt said. “They kept telling me they knew I could do better. I finally decided to take out the machine and start practicing.”
It took him awhile to get the confidence to work on a person.
“I really did not want to mess up. I was afraid at first but then,
When I was ready, I was ready,” Witt said with a smile.
Working out of his garage, he began part time, tattooing his friends. Those satisfied friends referred to their friends and so on. He kept his construction job another four years and then felt he had enough business to do it full time. Four years ago he opened Tall Tales and is so happy he made the leap.
“People ask me all the time how can I break into this business and I always tell them it takes time.,” Witt said. “Lots of time, and patience. Your art will sell itself once it gets around, but that takes time. One person at a time. Art is not something you can rush.”
Witt has seven artists and one piercer working at his location. They are independent contractors so the business runs much like a hair salon. Each artist has his own clientele and unique talents. Witt said “We really can offer any kind of style for someone. Script, traditional, portrait, neo-traditional or realism.”
The costs can vary a great deal depending on the size, design, style and intricacy. The minimum is $100.00 and can go up to $500 -$1000 or more. The more detailed the more time as well. Bruff said the portrait of her father took two eight-hour sessions.
And when it comes to difficulty for the artist, it’s all about location, location, location. The neck, ribs and stomach are very challenging areas to work on.
“Very delicate, because, every time a client breathes or coughs. You get the picture,” Witt said.
He noted that it’s a competitive business, saying “The demand for tattoos continues for us. There used to be say four or five shops in Stockton but now it’s fifteen or more. A few with longevity.”
Jessie Witt hopes to continue to count himself as one of those.
“Being a tattoo artist offers fun, freedom and artistic expression in a lively environment,” Witt said. “It doesn’t get much better than drawing for a living.”