Ace Tattoo, Phoenix, AZ January 2003

After the shuttle launch and our brief Florida experience (Ok, it started ‘snowing’ in Florida) we decided to meet with Jenn’s friend Kerrie and her family in Phoenix, AZ. Jenn and Kerrie met in Issaquah, WA where her son Wren went to school with Kesley. Kerrie and family now live in Alaska and we haven’t seen them since May ’01 when they helped throw our going away party. Randy (Kerrie’s husband, Wren’s Dad) had an appointment to get a tattoo of Wren’s name on his arm. We were invited and the guys at Ace Tattoo were cool enough to let us hang around with the kids and teach us about the tattoo process.

We started here about 8pm.

Jesus ‘did not come to judge the world…’ do you?

This won’t hurt a bit! Randy’s one of those tough Coast Guard guys anyway…

This is Randy’s tattoo artist. He taught us a lot about the process and let us stare endlessly at him performing the tattoo.

He is talking with the kids about the sterilization process and how to be safe.  We feel that if you talk to the kids they get answers about the things they want to learn about.  Seems to make sense to us.

They use lots of plastic to keep germs isolated. Here he is loading ink into what looked like thimbles stuck to the plastic with a dab of Vaseline. He would dip the tattoo gun needles into this ink several times during each line.


Randy designed and drew the tattoo on paper and brought it to the studio. It is then transferred to a paper that will transfer an image outline to his arm to be traced with the tattoo gun.

The tattoo gun is wrapped in plastic for sterilization. Here the artist begins the outline. He dabs Vaseline on Randy’s arm before applying the ink to keep the ink from setting on the skin. The needle inserts the ink into the skin where it is supposed to stay. It only bled slightly when he worked on the shallow part of the arm between the forearm and shoulder where there’s not much meat.

First break. The outline complete. Randy’s arm is slightly swollen around the outline and reddened from the first few layers of skin being punctured. We learned that a good artist is able to only insert the ink into a few layers of skin. A steady hand, the proper ink, good tools, and lots of experience is a must. The artist admitted to messing some skin up during his learning process. Sure worked like an old pro when we were there.

We also learned that Sailor Jerry is the father of modern tattooing.

The kids spent time in the tattoo magazines looking for butt cracks.

Jenn and Kerrie were considering getting their husbands names tattooed on their butts.

We didn’t ‘inquire’.

Thousands of designs to choose from.

Trick motorcycle riders autographed these pics to Ace Tattoo “for all the tattoos, piercing, beer, and support!”. Some people are just okay with pain.

After the butt tattoos!

Nice work here.

The funny part of this pic is what you can’t make out – the guy behind Kesley is cocking a pellet gun they were chasing each other around with all night!

The outline is done with a single needle puncturing the skin. The fill and shading needles are a group of four needles that are used in a sweeping motion. The shadowing is done with a lighter ink than the outline and fill. As for the shirt, we didn’t find out.

This picture is actually more graphic than it looks.

About two hours later we have the outline with the name filled in.

After the rest is filled in the tattoo is cleaned and instructions are given for care.

Thanks to the guys at Ace Tattoo for a unique un-schooling lesson!

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