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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at LUC chapter.

Behind a white door covered in stickers, green and yellow walls surround a team of tattoo artists in Chicago. The black cushioned chairs are filled with customers who have decided to witness the art of tattooing on a personal level. 

Kevin Owings, the owner of Mind Crusher Tattoo, just wants people to understand the process of tattooing and the art behind it. To artists, it’s more than just the ink they are putting in you. 

“I hate when no one looks at the portfolios,” Owings said about the struggle of dealing with some customers. “It would save all of us time and hassle. We live for the client that understands the meaning of what we’re doing.”

The real art of the tattoo is the artist. Whether you’re getting a butterfly for Harry Styles, or a lotus flower to symbolize your past, the tattoo artist is the one behind it all. 

“A drawing person focuses on line works and shades,” Owings said about what makes a good tattoo artist. “A painter builds off of line works into shades so a tattoo artist usually is a better artist if they are painters.”

Many tattoo artists say people interested in getting a tattoo should look for someone who is best at the style they want.

“She specializes in doing a little bit of everything,” Owings said as he began to talk about artist Carla Gasca. “She’s like my go-to because she’s not afraid to do necks and the difficult places.” 

Gasca studied art in college and after some struggle getting started in the industry, she landed at Mind Crusher Tattoo. Since then, she has enjoyed getting to know people and their stories. 

**NOTE: Since this article was written and published, Carla Gasca has moved to a different tattoo shop. Kevin Owings still owns Mind Crusher Tattoo and has an amazingly talented team with him. 

“I know that sounds a little weird but when people come in for a tattoo it’s usually because they have gone through something,” Gasca said. “The best part of this job is knowing that it’s not just your artwork on somebody, it’s also helping them heal from whatever they were hurt with.”

With each design pounded into your skin, artists leave their mark permanently, while your story leaves a mark on them. 

Owings and Gasca take their clients’ stories home with them after the studio’s fluorescent “OPEN” sign goes off. It’s part of the job that’s both rewarding and draining. Their job is never really done, and many artists remain in contact with their clients at all hours.

Photo of the tattoo shop I am talking about in the article
Original photo by Sarah Sommers

“Personally, I don’t even feel like I have any days off,” said Davi Nil, another tattoo artist at Mind Crusher Tattoo. “I can pull it up, I have texts from clients at two in the morning.”

On top of the late-night texts, these artists are always stenciling their clients’ next tattoo.

With so many clients, tattoo artists have to keep in mind that they are leaving a permanent mark on many different people, of varying ages. 

According to jobmonkey.com, 45 million people in the United States have at least one tattoo, but 42% of people think that visible tattoos aren’t meant in the workplace. This makes it difficult for young people looking to get a tattoo and a future job.

The team at Mind Crusher Tattoo admits to denying a few face tattoos because they don’t want to be responsible for the kids not becoming successful. In fact, they often tell the younger generation, “Come back when you’re successful and established, then we’ll talk.” 

“Someone looking down on you like, ‘Oh you have a tattoo,’” Gasca said. “It’s upsetting to think that people really do correlate the knowledge that you can bring into the world with what you have on your skin for something that you went through. Something that they don’t even understand or know.”  

Something tattoo artists can all agree on is that tattoos have lost their originality. To Owings, it’s pretty obvious what is trending at the moment, but he likes to look back on the trends he has witnessed throughout his career.

“In the 1990s every guy got tribal and every girl got a lower back tattoo,” Owings said. “In the 2000s every girl switched to their foot and got a foot tattoo, it’s the big thing. In 2010, it switched to the ribs. In 2015 it was a quote and half of these girls and guys have no idea who said that quote.”

According to Gasca and Owings, before you even sit down in their chair, they already know what you are going to want. Whether it’s a younger girl asking for a butterfly or a guy trying to act tough by getting a lion, humans can be predictable. 

Tattoos are also influenced by the media and celebrities. Gasca recalls how many people came in with a photo from Pinterest and Nil shared an example of how a customer came in wanting the same tattoo as the singer Rhianna.

Regardless of originality, all three artists still love what they do. They feel they are creating something that will be with someone for the rest of their lives.

“Kids today think we’ve paved our whole life to this craft of being an artist but there is so much more to it,” Owings said. “It’s not about being an artist, it’s about creating things that people love.”

Sarah is from Dayton, Ohio and is currently studying MultiMedia Journalism at Loyola University Chicago. She enjoys thrifting, traveling, fashion, film photography and lifestyle. She is a creative person and finds comfort in writing, exploring the great city of Chicago, and listening to music. Her dream job is to travel and see the world as she writes about different cultures and activities to do in those different countries. Instagram: @sarahgsommers