From the Editors: July 20, 2016
Innovative ink abounds in Erie.
Once upon a time, you couldn't get a job if your skin bore visible tattoos. In some places, it's still like that: Tattoos are viewed as undesirable elements unfit for "polite" company or professional spheres.
But many of us actually seek out businesses that employ a diverse workforce, even if that diversity is mostly skin deep. Some of us see tattoos as illustrated proof that we all have stories to tell; and as invitations to share them with each other.
Still, it might seem frivolous to feature tattoo artists in our pages at a time so fraught with global terror and local tension.
But how much of the animosity gripping our present-day world has its roots in resentment – the small seed of which is fertilized every time someone feels shunned? In a culture that encourages individuals to express themselves as they wish, people who might have otherwise felt like they were drowning in rivers of angst instead feel welcomed – or at least not stigmatized.
Today, tattoos have evolved from last-century's symbols of rebellion to become culturally commonplace. And the artistry itself has advanced to rival any of the fine arts, as the artists featured here exemplify.
"Dozens of gifted artists create unique art in Erie every day, and they use their creativity to make a living," writes Nick Warren in this issue. "Erie's tattoo industry is one of the best showcases of entrepreneurial spirit."
Tattoo artist Johnny Matters of Wayward Tattoo tells Warren that "the Erie tattoo community as a whole and the local art community is strong. Erie is a small enough city where we can all work together to become stronger and encourage others."
Jen Minor of Karma Tattoo adds, "I feel like every shop here is pretty essential to the Erie palate, as all the reputable artists I can think of here have such diverse and unique styles, it's really amazing. Just about every tattoo I see, I can look at and identify whose work it is based alone on style and application, and with so many artists in one area, it's really pretty awesome and uncanny to be able to do that."
Is it unfortunate that enormously gifted artists can't all make a living in whatever medium they choose? Of course. But the struggle of artists to survive predates all of our other present-day woes. At least tattooing has emerged as a business model to encourage enterprising and expressive young artists to take a chance on creative careers.
There will always be those who view tattoos with disgust. (And to be fair, some tats are just plain disturbing.) But for most of us who've been inked, our tattoos recount something we've read that changes our perspective for the better; or represent something we've lived through that made us who we most hope to be; or symbolize something we want to remember about ourselves when the world around us clamps down on our uniqueness.
On their skin and from within, these artists inspire orginality in Erie.