“I got my first tattoo when I was 13 years old, and I’m 32 now,” said Matt Byrge, a Traditional Tattoo customer who was in for a session to add to his vast collection of tattoos, which includes such things as skulls, a marijuana leaf, the name “Kim” and a clown on his wrist.
“Yeah, they’re addicting,” he added.
“The clown is my favorite tattoo, mostly because JI can make its mouth move,” Byrge said, demonstrating this by wiggling his wrist up and down to make the clown look as though it was opening and closing its mouth.
When asked how many tattoos he’s accumulated over his 19 years of getting them, he said, “It’s classified as a multiple amount. . I stopped counting.”
Walking into Traditional Tattoo may be a bit intimidating for those who have never been inside before, but once you step through the doorway it’s definitely an interesting and eclectic place.
The walls are adorned with hundreds of tattoo samples, ranging from fairies to Aztec princesses to the clichéd astrology signs, gory animals bleeding and extremely realistic looking religious tattoos. There’s also a charred wooden cross with numerous nails hammered into it, and in the back, where all the tattoos and piercings take place, is a large “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada” sign that hangs as the room’s focal point.
The color scheme for the business is red, black and white, which is complemented by a zebra-themed sofa situated at the front of the store for customers to relax on and decide which tattoo they will be getting.
Staff members are eager to help with any questions one might have about piercings or tattoos.
Byrge, who was ready for another installment on his tattooed arm, said getting a tattoo doesn’t hurt too terribly, but “it really depends on where you get it,” he said.
Johnny Winstead, the artist tattooing Byrge, added that many clients have said that across the chest on the sternum was most painful.
“You can feel the vibrations actually in your chest,” Winstead said. He added that getting “the elbow done was bad because it gives a strange sensation because of the funny bone.”
Winstead has been a professional tattoo artist for 11 years. “I got my first tattoo, and then six months later I was a professional myself,” he said.
Since he began, Winstead said he has seen numerous changes in what customers request. “Trends” in tattooing such as tribal bands and astrology signs, for example, aren’t requested all too often anymore.
“What has killed trends, really, is the openness people have to getting whatever they can possibly think of,” Winstead said. “Mentally, there’s really no limit if you’re going for a decent size; there are so many possibilities.”
What Winstead has noticed here in San Luis Obispo is that many have been getting tattoos across their ribcage.
“I’ve done up to 15 in the last year,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s because it’s (easy) to hide, or if it is because it’s in a cool spot.”
After shaving Byrge’s arm, cleaning it with disinfectant, putting on rubber gloves and getting out his sanitized tools, Winstead was ready to begin the tattooing process on Byrge.
“I can tell you one thing,” Byrge said. “I’m gonna feel a lot more than he’s gonna feel.”
Just doing the intricate outline of the tattoo took well over an hour. Shading was the next step in the process.
Winstead said that most tend to come back for multiple sessions for large tattoos.
Byrge added, “Yeah, go big or go home.”
Tattoos can run from $60, which is the minimum for the shop, to $700 and higher depending on the size, the time it takes to do the tattoo and how detailed it is.
Though Byrge’s newest tattoo is now complete, his total tattoo count will inevitably continue to rise.
When asked if Byrge was going to keep getting more tattoos after this he answered with a simple, “Oh yeah.”