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Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Tattoo culture in Davis

Within the City of Davis and its many live music and performing arts acts, a distinctly personal form of art embeds itself in the lives of UC Davis students and residents alike.

Tattoo art, a nearly permanent form of body modification, is both rooted in tradition and currently benefiting from advances in the industry’s technology and extravagant media exposure. With several options to choose from, UC Davis students have flocked to tattoo shops in Davis as they begin to add visual representations of their values, passions, interests and life histories to their bodies.

Considering age and average income, many UC Davis students are newcomers to acquiring tattoos and understanding the culture of tattoo art. Yet, according to first-year managerial economics major Kuwaun Wade, this time in a Davis student’s life can be especially suited for getting “inked,” as they experience new, life-altering events and transform their values and beliefs.

“In Davis, I see that there are a lot of new beginners with tattoos … I got the portrait of my grandfather in the summer, and [heaven’s gates] three weeks ago,” Wade said. “We [students] are coming together to show our personal representation of tattoo culture.”

For Wade, tattoos express a permanent representation of his family and his spiritual beliefs, and he urges Davis students considering getting a tattoo to think about whether they wholeheartedly want the tattoo permanently inked on their body.

“Basically, my thought is, if you’re going to get this tattoo, make sure this is something you’re ready to live with. Make sure it’s relevant to your life and who you are as a person. Just basically make sure you’re ready [for it to] represent you for the rest of your life,” Wade said.

From the perspective of tattoo artist Carlo Rossi at Sacred Tiger Tattoo in downtown Davis, tattoo culture in Davis is highlighted by the creativity and novelty of the students and residents who get the tattoos. Rossi said that he has noticed the uniqueness and resoluteness of the tattoo requests in Davis to be unlike anywhere else he has tattooed, which ranges from Santa Cruz to Fort Bragg.

“A lot of people in Davis come up with really good ideas,” Rossi said. “As far as a scene for tattoos, it’s sporadic. There are good ideas — it seems like [they have] more unique requests for art that they want on a specific part of their body more than anywhere else I’ve been.”

According to Rossi, who has been tattooing for 14 years, tradition in tattoo culture can be preserved as long as there are artists who can excel at multiple mediums of art.

“The [tattoo artists] that get major credit, to me, are the ones that have a wide selection of mediums to use from,” Rossi said. “Those are the guys that get respect and truly excel at tattooing. The veterans in the tattoo industry kind of have a duty to keep the tattoo world alive. It’s going towards a positive direction — we veterans definitely can pave the way for others who are worthy to the industry.”

Tattoo artist Chris Yoakum of Urban Body Tattoo and Piercing criticized the exorbitant glamor and intrigue that has been created around the tattoo industry as a result of the addition of tattoo-themed shows to the reality television market.

“Honestly, I feel that tattoo artists get too much respect from the public,” Yoakum said. “The wave of TV shows have glamorized the industry and portray it in a way that is not entirely accurate. They [care] more about the drama that makes an interesting TV show than showcasing good artists and their work,” Yoakum said.

Yoakum, who developed his interest in tattooing through acrylic painting, is excited about tattoo art’s future because of recent developments in ink and cartridge technology.

“The companies that are making ink are constantly getting better and better which makes the ink easier to work with, the colors more vibrant and less susceptible to wear,” Yoakum said.

In addition to his preexisting interest in acrylic painting, Yoakum said traditional Japanese art served as his artistic influence when first becoming a tattoo artist.

“I have a special place in my heart for traditional Japanese work, it always looks good, it’s classic and it’s an art form that they have been working with and perfecting for about as long as modern tattooing has been around. The Japanese really are to thank for where tattooing is today,” Yoakum said.

Tattoo art, although ostensibly different than other mediums of art, relies equally on tradition and creativity for the preservation and development of the medium. Just as Davis students and residents have embraced the thriving arts and music scenes, so they have to the needle and ink.

“Within Davis, [tattoo art] has been accepted,” Rossi said. “Times have changed for tattooing; it’s evolved to a good place and I think Davis is included [in that culture] as well.”


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