This is the first in a series of our quest for the best tattoo artists and salons throughout the world. We will feature a different artist/salon (or both) on a monthly basis.* This article is a little more personal as it involves my longstanding misgivings about tattoos, the eventual appreciation of them and the excruciating task of finding someone to tattoo my favorite person in the whole world…my son.
I was never a big tattoo lover growing up. My father was a hardass ex Air Force pilot who ingrained in me that “nobody but low-lives, felons and people of questionable character have them.” To be honest, I was actually a tad bit scared of people with tattoos; certain that they were going chop me into little pieces and feed me to their pit bulls after the gang bang. Then I grew up. Not only did I grow up, but chose to enter the dark side of journalism – music; where one can barely turn around backstage without bumping into someone with a tattoo. I chose not to see them for a long time. Not the people – the tats. I would just focus on their faces, or personalities or anything to avoid LOOKING at one; as though it would leap off their skin onto mine and turn me into that long ago warned about low-life felon of questionable character by osmosis. This proved particularly difficult because just about everyone I know; including some of my closest friends, have tattoos.
Then one day a magical thing happened. I was smoking with a rocker outside at a funeral reception (never was there a place where cigarettes and booze are more needed) and perhaps it was the whole contemplative feeling that day of being grateful to be alive that made me look at things from a whole new perspective; and I started checking out my friend’s tattoos. What I saw was not scary. It was beautiful. It was BADASS! Before long I had the poor guy practically stripped down to his skivvies so I could get a better look at his ink. He was literally covered with whole “scenes” depicted in beautiful color and there was a story behind every one. Jerry had gotten the majority of his ink done in LA, and could tell me the name of every artist that had touched his skin. These tats were unlike anything I had seen before. They were little pieces of art with the human body used as the canvas. I started digging tattoos that day.
So I began to really look at the ink on people; asked about why they chose a particular design, where they got it, and by whom. I also realized that tattoos fell into two distinct categories: good ones and bad ones. You all know what I mean. There’s everything from “I got this one in prison” or “my cousin did it” to “I flew to Atlanta to have Brandon Bond do this one personally.” Hmmm. That name kept coming up over and over on tattoos that I admired: Brandon Bond; along with the name of his world-famous tattoo studio, All or Nothing Tattoo, and the many talented artists that are employed in accordance with Bond’s high standards. There are literally hundreds of tattoo parlors scattered throughout the Metro Atlanta area, but All or Nothing Tattoo stands in a class by itself.
It is for this reason that when my son Austin turned 18 and was determined to get his first tattoo that I sought out the best of the best and called on All or Nothing Tattoo. Brandon Bond is booked up for a year, so I was in a quandary as to who was as equally talented (or damn close) as Bond that I would allow to touch the virginal skin of my one and only male spawn. What I found from many conversations and careful study of each artist’s online portfolio is that everyone that inks at AON is in a class by themselves. Bond has compiled a virtual superstar team of tattoo artists from all over the country. From reading their bios and seeing their work, it was abundantly clear that if you have one of the highly coveted positions at AON, then you are a kickass tattoo artist. It was with a lot of careful thought and collaboration on design that Jason Adkins became the man for the job.
Jason is a tattoo superstar in his home state of West Virginia. He is literally, “the man.” However, he knew that to truly recognize his dreams and move up in the hierarchy that dominates the tattoo world, he would have to move to a larger market. Adkins jumped at the opportunity to work with Brandon Bond and All or Nothing Tattoo, and he is rapidly becoming one of the most highly sought after tattoo artists in Atlanta.
After talking with Jason at length on the phone there were three things that I needed for him to execute: design a tattoo for Austin from numerous pictures of the characters Carroll and Max from the movie, “Where the Wild Things Are”, tattoo it on his right inner upper arm and…Don’t Fuck It Up. No pressure there.
From the minute you walk in the front door of AON, it is abundantly clear that you are in a top notch professional tattoo salon.
From the hundreds of sparkling trophies and plaques that adorn every surface of the reception area and beyond, the design and flow of the entire space, to the welcoming, immediate and precise way in which clients are treated. Being a mom, and OCD clean, I was especially impressed by the immaculate environment at AON. When you are dealing with body fluids and blood, it should go beyond saying that things should be tidy, but this place gleamed. I started to feel a little bit better.
We were shown the design that Jason had come up with and led back to his open working area in pretty short order. The moment was at hand and I was feeling a little woozy. This was real. There was no turning back once the needle filled with ink touched his arm. Jason fired up and the whole bloody, creative process began. With laser precision, Adkins worked on Austin for almost three hours, shading and expanding on his basic transfer; the end result was nothing short of breathtaking. The detail is phenomenal and Carroll’s eyes literally “look” at you.
Austin’s side of his tattoo experience will be coming up in a future article, as he still has one more sitting with Jason to get the color added. I will tell you that he is beyond stoked with his tat and has brought a whole new dimension of realization to his peers on what a REAL tattoo is. He has been endlessly showing it off with pride and it’s not even done yet. If the time he spends looking at it in the mirror doesn’t interfere with his grades, I will be one happy mom with one happy tatted kid. Thank you to Jason Adkins and everyone at All or Nothing Tattoo for doing what you do so well and NOT FUCKING IT UP!
Jason is booking up fast for 2011 already, so call today to set your exclusive appointment. If the wait is too long to get in with Jason, then check out Tony, Jarvis or Genghis, who I had the pleasure of meeting, admired their work and saw them live and in action tattooing other clients. Simply awesome!
Val King, Editor