Living Breathing Art

 Living Breathing Art

Local tattoo artists create amazing bodies of art

Natasha Baker

When most people think of art it is of the more typical kind that hangs on walls in a museum or stands as a sculpture on a city street. The idea of body modification as a form of art is less common to a typical art enthusiast, but local tattoo artists would beg to differ.

“The tattoos I create for my clients are just an extension of my art in a different medium up and walking around for the whole world to enjoy,” says John Lloyd, tattoo artist at Truth and Triumph in Dayton.

Tattoo shops are certainly not new to the Dayton area. Case in point, Truth and Triumph has two locations, one in Belmont and one in Vandalia, and has operated in the area for years. But tattoo shops in areas like downtown Centerville were unheard of until recently when Aisle9 Tattoo opened in the former Joli Boutique at 27 W. Franklin St. Local artists and shop owners say the opening of a tattoo shop in the heart of Centerville is a nod to the fact that society has become more accepting of body modification.

A new form of art
John Lloyd at Truth and Triumph has created body art for more than 12 years. Before that, he was an elementary and middle school art teacher. He also painted cars before settling on becoming a body artist.

“I loved working with kids, but didn’t get to make art as much as I liked,” he says. “I was a collector of tattoos and decided that was where I could really see myself.”

Lloyd got his start in the business working for no pay 60-80 hours a week for 20 months as an apprentice. He says the drive to do it came from the happiness on his client’s faces when he would finish a piece.

“I really want to make sure people are stoked about what they are doing.”

Jodi Thompson, a local nurse and mom of five, says it’s true. “John really worked with me to make sure this was the art I wanted. It’s not only beautiful it really expresses exactly what I was looking for and no one else will have anything like it.”
All about the experience
While Matt Clemmer, owner of Aisle9 Tattoo, will tell you that having a shop in downtown Centerville is somewhat unique he believes his shop is a great addition to the heart of the business district. ”We aren’t your typical shop.”
In fact, Aisle9 looks more like many of the spas in the area than what most people would expect. The business worked for more than nine months to create an open, airy environment that maintains some of the building’s unique character.
“Then we brought in some of the best artists in the Midwest, award-winning artists, to be sure our clients were getting not only the most incredible art but also that we were honoring the fact that we get to be a part of the rest of their lives,” Clemmer says.

Aisle9 is also unique in that it provides medical procedures in its shop. Clemmer, a realism artist, gets referrals from area plastic surgeons and provides tattoos for women in the reconstruction process after breast cancer.

“These women are able to get back a part of themselves they thought they lost. It’s a gift to provide this service, to help rebuild their self worth.”

Clemmer says the name for his shop came from something he believes and says often.

“Miracles and blessing happen anywhere, even in aisle nine at the grocery. It is incredible that we get to create them for our clients right here every day.”

Tips for newbies
If you are considering your first tattoo, Lloyd says to remember that you are creating a relationship with your artist. “You may think you are driving, but really you are only controlling the brake.” So here are a couple of tips to be sure you have the best experience.

● First and most importantly, do your homework. Have a design in mind and then find an artist who does that kind of work. Take a look at the artist’s portfolio of previous work. Then trust that artist to know what they are doing.

“It sounds trite, but do your research,” says Lloyd. “This is an installation of permanent art on your body. You have to walk around with the results.”

Clemmer agrees. “I have artists here who are excellent letterers. If a client comes to me wanting lettering, I redirect them to the person who can do the best job for them. Not all shops or artists do that, but here there’s no ego.”

● Second, check out the shop. Is it run like a business? Does it have a professional environment and process?

“Most shops will have a shop minimum. They will have a professional way of handling your appointments. Someone will greet you and get you settled. It’s all part of customer service, which businesses know is important,” says Lloyd.

● Be sure to understand your artist’s rate, bring cash and know that it is customary to tip.

Finally, Clemmer believes the artist you choose should understand the importance of this moment and want to create an experience to honor that.

“We have a responsibility to help them find something epic and timeless, and to deliver that art to them,” he says. “This is legacy for the client, but also for the artist. We understand this is a memory and a gift they are giving themselves.”