Local tattoo owner talks evolution of the art of getting inked

Chuck Miller/Staff Photographer Eric Ochrenkehl, owner of Evolved Artforms, 1222 S. Mission St., prepared to pierce the helix of Plymouth senior Colleen Dunleavy Monday afternoon at Evolved Artforms. "The quality of everything has changed," Ochrenkehl said when referring to the tattoo industry, "Most of the things people consider crazy, you can't put in the paper."


The practice of tattooing can be dated back more than 5,200 years, according to the Smithsonian Institute.

Today, the art continues to transform and thrive at Evolved Artforms Tattoo, 1222 S. Mission St.

“I love realism (tattoos),” artist Eric Ochsenkehl said. “I really do enjoy the new-school stuff, too, though, like the thick bold lines and the tattoos that have almost a fantasy feel to them.”

In addition to working as an artist at the shop, Ochsenkehl is also the owner and operator. Before assuming ownership, he previously served as manager for a combined experience at Evolved Art Forms Tattoo of nearly 10 years.

During those 10 years, Ochsenkehl experienced requests for an array of tattoos, all with varying levels of detail and complexity.

“The hardest type of tattoo to do would probably have to be portraits,” he said. “When you are drawing a picture of another person, it’s usually on someone who knows that person extremely well. It can be challenging to make sure it’s everything that they had hoped for.”

Historically speaking, tattoos have had alternating periods of widespread social acceptance and taboo. Recently, popular opinion is mixed on the art of body ink.

“I’m hesitant to get a tattoo that shows when I’m wearing my regular clothing,” Mount Pleasant resident Vance Victor said. “I know that some places are picky about tattoos, and I don’t want to ruin my job prospects.”

Restaurants such as Bennigan’s Grill & Tavern, 2424 S. Mission St., don't allow tattoos to be visible for employees in the front of the house, while Ruby Tuesday, 1023 E. Pickard Road, allows their employees to display their ink.

“(Tattooing) is and isn’t more accepted,” Ochsenkehl said. “As a whole it is, but you still have corporations and individuals who are completely against the idea.”

According to artists at Evolved Artforms Tattoo, the most popular spots for women to get inked are the side, the foot or the inside of the wrist. For men, it’s on the back and the upper arm.

In addition to society's changing stance on whether body art is acceptable, the art of tattooing has undergone changes.

“The quality of the work is probably the biggest change,” Ochsenkehl said. “The top artist 10 years ago would be an average artist today. In order to stay competitive, you have to be willing to grow as an artist.”

Part of that growth, according to Ochsenkehl, is staying up-to-date with new styles of tattoos. Another part is keeping stocked with the latest equipment and ink. For example, compared to traditional tattoo guns, Ochsenkehl’s is almost completely silent.

“My tattoo gun doesn’t make a sound,” he said. “That can really help calm the nerves of anyone who is nervous about getting a tattoo, especially if it’s their first one. The normal 'zzzz’ sound can really cause anxiety for some people.”

Evolved Artforms Tattoo has been operating at their Mission Street location, the previous site of Heritage Tattoo, for nearly two years. The shop employs a staff of three artists, including Ochsenkehl, and offers both piercings and tattoos.


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