Self-expression that lasts a lifetime

Telisa Swan does touch-up work on Brian Keeny’s tattoo on Tuesday at Swan Family Ink.


Swan Family Ink

There is always a certain invisible magic behind a tattoo. Tattoos are more than just a piece of art you carry around on your body for the rest of your life; they often represent a story or a memory, good or bad.

It is with this mentality that Telisa Swan, tattoo artist and owner of Swan Family Ink tattoo shop in Moscow, approaches every new client who walks through her door.

“Sometimes (the tattoo process) is really about helping someone heal from something horrible that happened,” she said, “or in memory of someone, or empowering someone to take over their body again.”

With this in mind, Swan takes her work very seriously. She feels a great responsibility to provide her clients with not only a beautiful piece of art but also help bring their visions to life and keep them healthy during the whole tattoo process.

Before becoming a tattoo artist even crossed her mind, Swan studied graphic design at WSU and received her bachelor’s in fine arts in 1994. As a senior in college, she first tried out the tattooing medium but never planned to do it for a living – especially considering how tough the industry was on women at the time.

“Maybe one in 25 tattoo artists were women … back when I started,” she said.

Despite the gender-exclusive climate, Swan fell in love with the art form and continued to craft her skills. In 1994, she opened Little City Tattoo in Palouse while continuing to attend tattoo conventions, enter contests, receive training and tips from other artists, and work to expand her knowledge on tattooing techniques and safety.

In 1999, she bought the current location which was previously a movie theater, renovated it completely, and a few years later renamed the shop to Swan Family Ink. Four tattoo artists, including Swan, now work in the shop.

Swan said it is her clients’ ideas that help keep her creativity and ideas flowing. She said she stays inspired by meeting people from all walks of life with fresh takes and input on her art form. While aiming to continue to grow artistically, she said that is what makes her job most rewarding.

“I love people, I love socializing and I love art,” Swan said, “and this kind of brings it all together.”

Reporting by Madeline Braun

Bitterroot Tattoo

RACHEL SUN | The Daily Evergreen
Thad Froio tattooing client Garrett Williams on Tuesday at Bitterroot Tattoo in Moscow.

If you find yourself wanting to get away from Pullman for a few hours, with some change in your pocket and the desire to alter your image, put Bitterroot Tattoo on your list of places to visit.

This tattoo studio in Moscow is home to four tattoo artists with their own unique styles: Simon Gentry, Thad Froio, Karla Dagovitz and Allen Duffy. The variety of expertise among these artists contributes to their ability to do custom work for their clients.

Gentry, the owner of Bitterroot Tattoo, primarily focuses on custom work – creating original pieces of art depending on the client’s liking. He believes that tattooing, as well as getting tatted, brings the community closer by enabling people to be expressive and creative.

“Doing this has a big impact on the culture and people here,” Gentry said, “especially through our art.”

As for the other artists, they have more specific talents in addition to doing custom work.

Froio focuses on detailed visual representations – making a tattoo look like something you would see in a photograph. His creations tend to be black and gray and representative of real life.

Dagovitz perfects botanical tattoos and will create custom gardens, all depending on the individual, as well as geometric designs.

Duffy, an artist who recently joined the Bitterroot team, is experienced in creating fun and whimsical custom designs and has a background in cartoons.

Clients who anticipate getting a tattoo from Bitterroot should expect a comfortable atmosphere and a personal interaction with the artist they decide to get a tat from.

Walk-ins are an option, but for a better experience, Gentry recommends that you interact with your artist over a longer period to get the best quality tattoo you can.

The length of time it takes to illustrate your tattoo can vary. Preparing for a custom tattoo can be instant or take a few weeks to get ready – maybe even months.

Gentry also adds that you should do your research: look at artists’ portfolios, be critical, and find a shop where you are comfortable and an artist you trust. Most importantly, don’t compromise quality for cost.

“Get the tattoo you want, whatever the cost,” Gentry said, “and you will be happy with your decision as long as you live.”

Blood Diamond Ink

ZACH RUBIO | The Daily Evergreen
Chris Peltier explaining how he runs his tattoo shop, Blood Diamond Ink, on Monday.

For people who are looking to express themselves with hoops, studs or new ink, Blood Diamond Ink is the only place in town that offers both tattoos and piercings.

In order to tattoo and stay close to his family’s roots, Chris Peltier, owner of Blood Diamond Ink, created this shop with the desire to be his own boss and create kick-ass tattoos.

The shop has a fun and friendly environment with movies, music and even video games.

“It’s kind of like a bar without the alcohol,” Peltier said. “So expect to have great customer service and, most importantly, good vibes.”

Blood Diamond Ink charges by the size, placement and detail, as well as a $50 deposit going toward the tattoo. However, if the desired tattoo is custom designed and on a larger scale, the price may range around $100 an hour.

Either way, Peltier said he guarantees a fair price and a quality piece of work.

For those who want to test their vigor and pain-tolerance, Blood Diamond Ink has a special offer: No Tears Tuesday.

This event is $450 for all-you-can-sit-through-tattooing from noon until 8 p.m. This includes drawing time, lunch breaks or restroom breaks.

“Usually three out of 10 people make it through all eight hours,” Peltier said.

This can either be a great deal for experienced clients who feel little discomfort or a financial loss for the people who overestimated their pain tolerance.

If people show interest in No Tears Tuesday, or just getting a tattoo in general, Blood Diamond Ink has tips on how to prepare.

In order to help your body accept ink easily and cope with trauma, consider what you are consuming beforehand and keep your skin hydrated. In other words, treat getting a tattoo like it’s a big test.

This doesn’t mean you have to study what a color is, but instead just get enough rest and fuel your body for a big day.

“Out of all the crap you’re going to buy in your life,” Peltier said, “this is going to last as long as you do – so it’s worth the price and preparation.”

Triumphant Tattoo

For those out there who are in need of some assistance turning their tat ideas into the real deal – a tattoo shop located on Grand Avenue is the perfect place to turn your vision into the artwork you crave it to be.

The artists who work at Triumphant Tattoo are Todd Holley, owner and artist, and his colleague Cameron Price.

Originally opened in Post Falls, Idaho, in 2001, Holley said that moving his tattoo shop to Pullman was a no-brainer because of the tattoo community that was already established here.

Holley specializes in natural pieces of artwork, such as animals, as well as colored tattoos.

Price, who received a degree in fine arts from WSU, commonly specializes in traditional American style and Japanese style tattooing.

However, there may be one unique thing about the Pullman college-town culture that Price cannot avoid.

“(I do) lots of ass tats,” he said.

These two artists are skilled at turning anyone’s idea into a piece of artwork, no matter what style it is – or where on the body it is, for that matter.

“Most of the time, people come in here with an idea,” Price said. “They don’t usually come in with an exact decision, so we’ll draw their design for them.”

However, if Holley or Price think someone in town can do a better job tattooing a client than themselves, they are happy to refer the person to another shop.

“If there’s an artist who I think will do a better job, I’m glad to send them there,” Holley said.

Triumphant Tattoo also offers custom tattoos for reasonable prices. Instead of charging clients at an hourly rate, this tattoo shop gives an estimate for the artwork and stays close to the given number, as well as a 10 percent deposit.

“(Clients) should expect a good atmosphere, friendly people, quality work and good aftercare,” Price said.

Reporting by Lauren Ellenbecker