One growing industry is leaving its mark on the community.
Over the past few years, tattoo studios have become more common across the central Kenai Peninsula. The nearly half dozen shops in the area point to a growing acceptance of an art form that once held a social stigma.
Todd Gipson, tattoo artist at Family Tattoo on Kalifornsky Beach Road, said that the increase in tattoo popularity is due to them being more accepted in society. He said people from all walks of life get tattoos these days.
“You’ve got doctors, lawyers, nurses, firefighters, officers,” Gipson said. “Now, (tattoos) are so commonplace.”
In the past, people associated tattoos with gangs, but perceptions have changed, said Jordan Curren, tattoo artist at Skin City Tattoos on K-Beach.
“(People) realize that it is a piece of art,” he said.
Some studios in the area even try to attract certain demographics. While people of both sexes are welcome at Forget Me Not Tattoo Boutique in Soldotna, the studio promotes itself as female friendly.
“It’s not a typical tattoo shop,” said Larissa Price, one of the studio’s artists. “That’s why we call it a boutique.”
She said that another reason tattoos are becoming more popular is that they’re safer than they used to be and the ink stays sharper.
While the abundance of tattoo studios in the area may lead people to believe there is a lot of competition, the artists appear to share a common respect for each other.
“I’m happy for everybody,” Gipson said “They do what they do. I do what I do.”
Joe Hayes, owner of Ink Works Tattoo in Kenai, shared a similar sentiment.
“Tattooing isn’t really a competition thing anymore,” he said. “Everyone is trying to learn from each other.”
As tattoo studios continue to multiply, so do the amount of tattoo styles. Hayes said he’s amazed at how the art form is progressing.
“It’s limitless what you can do with a tattoo machine now,” he said.
Hayes said the artistry seen these days is a stark contrast to that of years past. He said that anymore, the skill is so high that it’s like one needs an art degree to get into the industry.
Curren said that tattoos used to look like simple flash art, but now the images can look more realistic.
“Photo realism is picking up most,” he said.
While more and more people are getting realistic looking tattoos, many of the popular tattoos on the peninsula remain the standard flowers, dream catchers and anchors, Curren said.
He said every person has a unique reason for wanting a tattoo. Some people simply like the way an image looks, while others may want a tattoo to honor a deceased friend or family member.
“It’s such a privilege and honor to be able to give somebody something that will go to their grave. It’s a great feeling,” Curren said. “Nothing beats it.”
While tattoos are increasing in popularity, many of the artists including Price believe that the art form is not a fad; rather it’s here to stay.
“Well,” she said, “(tattoos) are permanent.”
Reach Ian Foley at Ian.email@example.com.