On a recent Sunday afternoon at the “Fine Line Tattoo Parlour,” three tattooing artists were busy at work. Roberts, himself, was tattooing an intricate design of waves of water along the sides of a young woman’s feet.
In a second chair in the shop, tattoo artist Jay Kelly of East Windsor was also busy. Kelly, who has spent 17 years in the trade, will soon be working full time in Roberts’ new tattoo parlor in West Hartford.
In the third tattooing chair in the shop, tattoo artist Melissa Stolzmman was updating and enhancing an existing tattoo on the chest of former Marine Corps Sergeant Jeff Beno of Westbrook. Stolzman has 15 years of experience in the tattoo trade.Talkative and friendly, the shirtless Beno served in Iraq with the Marines, and Stolzman is adding an American flag backdrop to one of Beno’s existing tattoos. Another of Beno’s tattoos paid tribute to his former wife, and Beno says he is going to have it removed.
The kinds of tattoos which are popular these days
“These days everyone wants a custom designed tattoo,” says shop owner Roberts. “It used to be that people wanted eagles, hearts, daggers, and other traditional designs,” such as the American flag. “Now everyone wants something different,” he says, although tattoos of Jesus remain popular.
There are even “photo reality” tattoos these days, which are tattoos of a portrait of an actual person. As for the clientele of a tattoo shop, Roberts says, “We do lawyers, judges, policemen, and we did a tattoo for a dentist the other day of a smiling tooth.”
One tattoo that Roberts cautions against is having a tattoo with the name of a current girlfriend or boyfriend. “It might change,” he says. “We tattoo names, only if the name involved is a blood relative,” he says.
As for tattooing young people under the age of 18, Roberts says that “parental consent is always requested.” Though he adds, “I am not the morality police,” as to whether people should get a tattoo, and, “I don’t get paid to say no.”
As for the cost of tattooing at the Fine Line Tattoo Parlour, a small tattoo, or a touch up of an existing tattoo, can cost as little as $60. More complicated designs cost as much as $100 to $150 dollars, and even more.
It is a firm policy at the “Fine Line” shop that the tattoo artist will first tell the customer exactly how much his or her tattoo is going to cost, before the work begins.
As for who is getting tattoos these days, according to Roberts and Kelly, roughly 25% of their customers are women, and the remaining 75% are men. Also, three quarters of the people getting tattoos are retouching their original tattoos, or adding new ones.
There are also times when tattoos can serve a very worthy purpose. After a woman has had a mastectomy, drawing a nipple appearing tattoo on her breast can be very important. “These tattooed nipples can be lifesaving,” Roberts says.
The micro-dermal, tattooing process
Roberts describes a tattoo as a permanent cosmetic, or a “design sketched into the skin.” More technically he says that a tattoo is, “a micro-dermal pigmentation that is injected into the skin.”
In applying a tattoo, first, the spot on the body where the tattoo is going to be placed is washed thoroughly with soap and water. Next, an outline of the desired design of the tattoo is sketched by the tattoo artist on to the customer’s skin.
After this pen outline is finished and has dried, a sterilized tattooing needle is injected into the skin with “single use” ink, and the actual tattoo is put into place in the skin. It takes roughly a week for a new tattoo to heal. During the healing process it is important to keep the tattoo clean. According to Roberts, there are rarely any infections caused by tattooing.
Removing at tattoo is difficult
A major characteristic of a tattoo, which adds to its sense of daring, is that tattoos are designed to be in the skin forever. They are extremely difficult to remove. Touch ups consisting of more tattooing can be done again and again, but removal of a tattoo is very different story.
Two kinds of techniques are used to remove tattoos. (1) An existing tattoo can be covered over with another tattoo of a darker color, or (2) a tattoo can be removed by a plastic surgeon using a laser treatment. However, Roberts belittles this treatment, saying, “You can still see it,” or at least the outline as to where the tattoo once was.
To become a fully competent tattoo artist can be a long process. Roberts said that he spend five years as an apprentice in the trade, and his colleagues in the shop served many years of apprenticeship as well.
As for the ambiance of a modern tattoo parlor, It reminds one of a friendly bar or an old fashion barber shop with everyone chatting away. Also, Roberts emphasizes getting to know his customers, “and establishing a relationship of trust.” As for how the tattoo artist feels, Roberts says, “Giving a tattoo to a person is a performance for the tattoo artist,” he says.The tattoo shop in Deep River, which was founded in 1980, is the oldest tattoo parlor in the state. As for its present Deep River location, Roberts says, “We will always be here.”
Finally, although “not a piercing shop,” Fine Line Tattoo Parlour does some skin piecing. The most common is piercing the navel and attaching a tiny barbell.