Tattoos are no longer for hardened criminals, 18 year olds ready to emblazon themselves with the mark of adulthood or anxious lovers who wants to ink their eternal flame for their partner across their chest. Slowly, they are popping up on working professionals, successful college students and those who appreciate art. I fit into the latter category.
Walking into the Electric Anchor Tattoo Co. on Market Street in Parkersburg, Cory greeted me and welcomed me into the studio. She was explaining to me that they like to maintain a boutique style feel and pointing out important pieces when I spilled my entire tea all over their lobby rug. I felt terrible, but Cory reassured me that it was fine and whipped out her bottle of Windex to clean up my mess.
Around this time, Justin appeared from the back carrying the inspiration for the pieces that we were getting that day. In a strange turn of heart, my mom also decided to get inked. Hers was a small sparrow on her upper right shoulder. I opted for a large floral piece on my right thigh. Her first tattoo, and my fourth.
Justin Hofmeister is the award-winning tattoo artist who owns Electric Anchor Tattoo Co. and his fiancée, Cory (a talented artist as well), manages the studio. Likely, when you set up an appointment, you’ll work with Cory. She is wonderfully sweet and has a really fantastic sleeve that includes a portrait of their pug, Maple. The studio opened in early January of this year, and appointments with Justin are difficult due to the high demand.
My mom went first. I was afraid she would chicken out at some point before her appointment, but she held up like a champ. As Justin deftly worked his craft, I began to ask him about how he got his start in tattooing.
It turns out that his first tattoo consisted of his initials squarely between his shoulder blades. He still has it, but plans to one day cover it up. “I don’t know why I got that – it wasn’t like I was ever going to forget my name,” he laughed.
I leaned down to check on my mom. She’s doing well -seemingly unfazed by the needle.
It turns out that Justin didn’t always want to be a tattoo artist. He originally had an interest in engineering and studied drafting. Later on, that skill came into play when he started using sacred geometry in tattooing (a friend dedicated his entire chest to a sacred geometry piece and Justin spent 56 hours on it). However, much of his skill is self-taught.
“I was tattooing portraits before I could paint them. Color theory and other artistic principles were all self-taught,” he said.
Learning, and bettering himself, seem to be important in Justin’s life. He mentions his desire to teach at conventions, educate legislators about tattoo policy (he was one of many tattoo artists in the state to draft a letter expressing his concerns about the lack of regulations in the state’s tattoo industry) and potentially learn how to weld and make his own tattoo machines.
Justin’s style in tattooing is varied. “I love surrealism, but I don’t like to stick to one style. I like to stay pretty well-rounded in all forms – portraits, neo traditional, etc. Emotional tattoos are important too. We probably do at least 30% as some sort of memorial tattoo ,” he said.
Mom’s tattoo is wrapping up at this point. She did great, and the sparrow is now resting beautifully on her shoulder. The lines are pristine, the color rich and possibly most importantly, she had a great experience with her first tattoo. My turn.
I stand still as he applies the outline of the tattoo to my leg. It’s by far the largest piece that I have – and the first one that doesn’t include words. It looks great, and I’m overtaken by the butterflies that I get every time before I’m tattooed. I get into the chair and steel myself for the first needle strike. The machine hums as I brace myself for a few hours of ink.
We move our conversation into the realm of tattoo popularity. For Justin, it’s important that he protects his name and help to break the mold of tattoos being only for bikers and scoundrels. The better his work, the more appreciated the art of tattooing will be. He makes the point that art is being bought all the time, and has been for ages. There will always be a market for selling art.
“Tattoos are being accepted as an art form – not just a sub culture,” he said.
About an hour into my appointment, we take a break. My legs are stiff and hurting much more than the actual tattoo was. Cory brings in her inspiration for a piece on her arm. Her and Justin were pointing out the importance of working with your artist. She knew what she liked and Justin was able to combine several inspiration pieces into something fitted for her.
“I try not to copycat. I’ve seen the same Pinterest and Google images over and over again – infinity signs, feathers, birds and words, anchors. They can be really great, but we can work together to make them custom and unique. The tattoo should fit the canvas, and we like to help people find the best option for them,” he said.
Justin wants people to really love their tattoos. He explains that if you show up and absolutely “need” your tattoo that day, he’s probably not the artist for you.
Jokingly quoting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles he says, “Patience is divine, but never pay full price for late pizza.”
Community is important to Electric Anchor Tattoo Co. Justin enjoys meeting other artists and teaming up with other small businesses whenever possible. As his business flourishes, he is gaining more acceptance within the community. Tattoos and all, his business is bringing traffic into downtown Parkersburg.
“In the last few years, I’m digging the diversity in our community – we’re getting a lot of out of towners. I hope small business can bring back small community, and bring people together,” he said.
My tattoo is coming to an end, and my skin is raw and red. I’m in love with it. Justin walks me to the front and explains his suggested after care to me. My mom and I leave Electric Anchor Tattoo Co. as two unlikely candidates for the typical tattoo stereotype with plans of returning soon.