Jessie Villasenor, a tattoo artist for Evolved Artforms Tattoo, 1222 S. Mission St., has been a tattoo artist for five years and currently spends his entire day inking up customers. Central Michigan Life recently sat down with Villasenor, a 30-year-old Midland resident, to better understand the world of tattoos.
Q: What about tattoos appeals to you?
A: Personally, it would be the art form; it’s 100-percent self-expression. You can get whatever you want, and it’s permanent; it lasts forever. It’s the only thing you can pay for one time and have one until you die. Nothing else is guaranteed until you die: your house, your love, your children, nothing … On your deathbed, when you’re buried, or burned, or shot into space, or whatever people do, that tattoo is still going to be there.
Q: What unique setbacks are there in the job?
A: A lot of tattoo artists have to go through an apprenticeship, which is usually one or two years of doing tattoos without being paid. That is what most tattoo artists can’t get past, because they can’t make it that long without being paid.
Q: How did you personally get through your apprenticeship?
A: I had to bust my ass to do it. I slept on the floor of an abandoned building for almost a year, because I wanted to tattoo that badly. I knew I could do it. I knew I could make a living off it. I just got a break and was offered to come up here. This is my career now; this is not just a job that I have. This is a living; I support my girlfriend and my daughter.
Q: So, you were willingly homeless in order to become a tattoo artist?
A: I wasn’t literally homeless. I had places I could stay … if I can make it on my own, I’m going to do it. I don’t care if I have to sleep in a building. I never stole or did anything bad. I probably slept places I probably shouldn’t have slept, but I did what I needed to do, and now it’s finally paid off, and now I’m here, tattooing, kicking ass all of the time.
Q: What are the most memorable tattoos you have done?
A: There have been a few that I’ve really liked. My little brother has a couple of pieces. I did a really cool skull and an hourglass on his arm. That’s probably my favorite. It is one of my better tattoos, but it’s on my little brother, and I really enjoy tattooing my family.
Q: Why is tattooing a family member more memorable to you?
A: Usually, if you tattoo a family member or someone who you know really well, they let you have more artistic creativity. They give you an idea, and they know what you can do, so they trust you with it. I feel like when I tattoo my girlfriend, it brings us closer together, because it’s me marking her personally. If anything were to ever happen between us, she will always have that part of me with her, and I’ll always remember doing that.
Q: Do you believe there is still a bias against tattoos?
A: There’s definitely still bias out there. You walk in, you get stares, you get people who are like “oh my God, a person with tattoos just walked in. He’s probably going to shoot me.” I’m like the nicest person in the world. I don’t even kill bugs when they’re in here. I pick them up and take them outside. Tattoos don’t make you cool. They don’t make you stupid. They don’t make you a bad person. They don’t make you a great person. They don’t make you a gangster. They’re just part of you. You make you. I think your tattoos don’t make you awesome; you make your tattoos awesome.
Q: Why risk the negative image?
A: I’ve always been the outcast kid. I lived in a farm community, I listened to reggae music growing up, I had long hair, wore flip-flops, played hacky sack. People always stared at me anyways. I already didn’t care what people thought; I was already different, and I didn’t care about being different. People stared at me anyway, so I got tattoos where people can see them.
Q: What about people who are against getting tattoos because they’re worried they will look bad when they get older?
My personal belief is when you’re 90, you’re going to be old and saggy, and most people aren’t going to think you’re super hot anyway, so why not make that old and saggy pretty colors? If I live to be 100, I’m not going to be super pretty and gorgeous-handsome anyways. I might as well be colorful and different. I’m going to hang out with my other friends who are old and saggy and colorful as well.