Tattooist’s passion for ink emerged early

Though operations are suspended now, Blood Diamond stands as artistic tattoo staple in town



Chris Peltier, tattoo artist at Blood Diamond Ink, shares stories from the beginning of his career as a tattoo artist.

Blood Diamond Ink is a treasure chest of gas masks, tattoo memorabilia and artwork.

Shop owner Chris Peltier said he knew he wanted to tattoo in fifth grade. His mom’s brother, Jeff, introduced Peltier to his own tattoo kit on a visit to their family home.

“When it first hit me on my radar, it was over,” Peltier said.

He said all his essays in high school were tattoo related even though almost none of his teachers supported it.

“They were like ‘It’s not a real occupation. You have to do this essay on something else,’ — just completely shooting it down,” he said. “Then I had a teacher [who] had a Mighty Mouse tattoo on his arm, and I had tattoos (little ones) through high school. Every time I’d come back from summer, he’d be like ‘Did you get a new tattoo?’” 

Peltier moved from California to Washington around fifth or sixth grade. He lived on a reservation in Washington, tattooing friends from his home.

“I had been out there for years doing tattoos,” he said. “I had my own little machine. I got the first one in a friend’s room probably at like 14. I don’t recommend it, but you know, it’s all those little experiences that we go through. I’ve been chasing it for a long time.”

Peltier started his professional tattoo apprenticeship at age 20. He was taught by Christian Buckingham at the (now closed) Starborn Tattoo shop in Pullman. He went on to manage Starborn before opening up his own shop, 509 Tattoo, a few years later. Peltier eventually transitioned to 13 Ways Tattoo in Lewiston where he met a man who would give him the loan to open Blood Diamond Ink. 

“I met the original owners of this building; the owner was a friend of mine,” Peltier said. “He was like ‘dude, if you want to build a shop in the warehouse part of this building, go for it’. It was a process. [I] ran out of money halfway through it. It was a really discouraging couple years. There was a skate shop on this back road over here, so I rented out a little section from him and tattooed. I’d come here at night and work, then go tattoo; it was tough. There were days where I was like ‘This isn’t gonna work. I don’t know what I’m gonna do.’ Eventually we opened, and Jeff was a part of that build. He started his apprenticeship while I was at the skate shop. We’ve been through a lot of apprentices, and he’s still here. It’s awesome.”

Jeff Drumm has been a tattoo artist at the shop since its beginning. He initially graduated from Spokane’s ITT Technical Institute with his bachelor’s degree in computer graphics and design. Upon graduation, he moved to Pullman where he worked construction for 10 years. His tattoo career began when Sara, Peltier’s wife, gave Drumm his number at her former bartending job. Drumm contacted him and began his apprenticeship at Blood Diamond.

“I was able to start learning how to run a shop, [and] in January I started tattooing,” Drumm said. “[I] always loved drawing; [I had] always been into art. I didn’t really see myself becoming a tattoo artist until later.”

He said he is working on adding more tattoos to himself.

“We have the horror piece on my leg, and we’re gonna get more horror on the back of my leg,” Drumm said. “And there are all my garbage cover-ups from when I was tattooing myself in my house. The first one was my initials on my ankle, in case I forgot.”

Blood Diamond Ink offers piercing in addition to tattoos, headed by Chris Peltier’s wife, Sara. Jon Slichter has been working at the shop for about a year, continuing his 15-year career as a professional piercer. He was trained at Swan Family Ink, following the departure of another piercing apprentice at the shop. Until that point, he had been working in the restaurant business but decided to start doing piercings.

“It wasn’t food service,” Slichter said. “Ever since I was a little kid, I was obsessed with tattoos. I grew up watching professional wrestling, WWE and all that. Half the guys had tattoos and I thought it was pretty cool.”

Blood Diamond Ink has been open for almost seven years now. It is the place where many WSU students receive their first tattoo or piercing. 

“Pullman’s got its own little world out here and I definitely feel blessed to be a part of it,” Peltier said. “The college and the locals, they definitely have made it possible for us to just thrive out here. I’ve gotta say just how blessed and thankful we are for the locals and all the students. I definitely feel like we’ve done really well this time around with the shop. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a landmark, man. It’s gotta be part of Pullman by now.”

Chris and Sara Peltier, Jeff Drumm and Jon Slichter are all available for custom tattooing and/or piercing. The shop is typically open from 12-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 12-10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, but is currently shut down due to Governor Inslee’s ban on certain businesses.

Visit the Blood Diamond Ink Facebook page for news, upcoming promotions and more information.