Around the time of my entrance onto Earth, a little horror movie debuted. Nineteen years later, I viewed this movie in a dark room covered in obscure Zappa posters and crowded with kids who at the time were trying to transition from punk to emo—or maybe back to punk. That night, I overheard a guy called Suicide explain to his fellow cemetery lovers, “You think this is a f@$%in’ costume? This is a way of life!” I was still deciding who I wanted to be, but it seemed this dude in “The Return of The Living Dead,” all in black, pierced, and dealing with zombies, knew who he was and was damn proud of it. That movie quote has stuck with me for life. You may hide who you are and only let it out on the weekends, you may be loud and proud, or quiet and content, but what you love and feel will shine through.
You can take your experiences of this world and create art…on your body, as a tattoo.
Some of us lost our tattoo virginity in a kitchen when we were young and dumb while others are still on the edge of making the choice. Tattooing has deep roots in world culture, but deepest is the reminder it gives us in a sometimes-trivial landscape of life.
Whether you have a silly memory, a memorial to those lost, or an inspiration to do better, we wanted to give our tattoo virgins and veterans a few artists and shops to keep in mind for their next ink. As Chattanooga grows, so does this industry and we have many artists and not enough pages. Here are a few of the artists among us.
Skip Cisto has been tattooing for 14 years. Also a muralist, portrait artist and musician, Skip came to Chattanooga in 1985 from Milwaukee when his father accepted a position at McCallie School as choral director. I randomly met Skip at a Roots Fest drum circle just after having him recommended to me. I really enjoyed hearing how he was approached about tattooing after doing body art at festivals. After dealing with Evermore Galleries in the past, I was aware that Skip and his team have a longstanding tradition of excellence and positivity. Though a versatile artist, Skip loves Realism-style work and is included in “Black and Grey’s Finest”, a newly published art book that serves as a compilation of the industry’s leading artists of this style.
“I truly feel that I have helped to change and add quality to people’s lives. From my years as a professional ballet dancer to my love for playing blues guitar, I consider myself a lifelong student of the arts. I look forward to continue offering cutting-edge work to all who receive my art. We are all one.”
Skip Cisto, EverMore Galleries, 6910 Shallowford Rd. (423) 899-0056, evermoregalleries.com
Born in Virginia and a musician at heart, Dan Siviter came off tour to pursue tattooing in North Carolina at Liberty Tattoo. We now have him downtown at Triple 7 Studio. Dan’s clientele come to him for a style dubbed “neo-traditional” or “vintage.” The bold lines and color work are a gem. The studio tries to stay away from flash art, which has become a transition in many shops to convince people to use original designs. “The best advice I can give to anyone is to educate yourself. Know the possibilities, know your artists and his/her abilities, look at portfolios, and don’t hesitate to ask questions. There are possibilities in tattooing now that weren’t available 10 years ago, five years ago, even two years ago.”
Dan notes: “Tattoos are all around us these days. Seeing the people that come in everyday to get tattooed is living proof of that. Whether you see their tattoos or not, we’ve seen all types and all ages. You never know.”
Dan Siviter, Triple 7 Studio, 29 Patten Pkwy. (423) 702-5401, tattoochattanooga.com
Justin Nave has been tattooing for 18 years. The father of two and husband of 11 years owns both Sick Boys Ink tattoo shops, and is also a volunteer firefighter and Tennessee state constable.
Justin came to Chattanooga after high school to get away from the country and into a big city with somewhere to skate and live out a punk life. When he got to town, he says, there only four tattoo studios, “while now we have about 15 with three or more artists.” He studied art at UTC, but didn’t like the graphic arts push. As he told me, “I wanted to use pen and paper and they wanted me to use Photoshop…so I told them to kiss my ass.”
Justin says he has a lot of people come to him for tribal, but his favorite style is traditional and he is currently learning the Japanese Tebori art of hand tattooing.
His service and work ethic are his most valued assets—along with the idea that his shop is a no-fluff-no-hassle-no-rock-star kind of joint. “We are the modern-day shamans. We are the counselors, the late night therapist. It’s our job to be the givers of the rights of passage, to console those who have lost loved ones, to help those who have lost their way. A lot of responsibility for just an artist, I guess, but it’s who I am.”
Justin Nave, Sick Boys Ink I & II, 5159 Hixson Pike, (423) 877-0101, sickboysink.com.
Brandy Burgans has been a licensed tattoo artist for six years. Her apprenticeship started at Standard Ink under the ownership of the late Stowe Williams when they realized her history in painting would be a perfect fit. In the man’s world of Chattanooga ink, Brandy holds up a high bar. For some women, it is easier to have another woman understand your body art’s place in the world and having the option of a female artist is a true luxury. Brandy’s clientele come in for her bold color work, saying she has a unique style that goes beyond cartoon. Her advice to those getting their first tattoo is to remember that patience is a virtue: the design and execution must be respected and done in due time. When we talked about tattoo acceptance, Brandy explained that she felt Volkswagen has set a precedent in considering body modifications to have nothing to do with the hiring process or work performance. She has inked many of their employees and executives since their arrival. “The hunger for learning various styles of tattooing is constant; I strive to perfect every piece I do. This summer, I am honored to be spending another month in Europe and UK working under several artists…I am lucky to have the greatest job for me in the world, and I am grateful for it every single day!”
Brandy Burgans, Standard Ink Tattoo Co., 434 Frazier Ave. (423) 756-8776, standardink.com
Note: On May 30, 6 p.m. the Hunter Museum presents “A Tour of Tattoos: An Exploration of Body Art.” Free with museum admission. 10 Bluff View. huntermuseum.org