Despite the stifling conservative air that blankets Utah more heavily than any inversion, there is a bright counter-culture that paints itself all over Salt Lake. Hundreds are covering themselves in beautiful works of art, custom made to be whatever they want. Foxes dancing on backs, flowers peeking out from under shirt sleeves, portraits of beloved children; the artistic possibilities are endless. Getting tattoos can be nerve-wracking, however, and you have to find an artist that matches your heart’s desires. For that, I present to you a list of some of the best tattoo shops to be found in Salt Lake City.
1. Painted Temple
This diverse shop was established by Oak Adams in 2005 and has been growing ever since. They recently relocated to a larger shop, just off 700 East between 1700 and 1300 South, and boy did they deserve the change. Many of their artists, including Oak Adams, are heavily focused on black and grey realism, though their styles still vary within this genre. Oak is very dark, while Zane Collins and Matt Morrison tend toward sculptures and animals. Billy Williams and Al Perez both do more color realism and all of these artists have produced many beautiful and realistic tattoos. There are more tattooists at Painted Temple, who are all incredibly talented. I was tattooed by Matt Morrison, who paid incredible attention to detail and considered how the piece was to flow with the other pieces I would end up putting on my leg. It was a great experience and the shop had a friendly and inviting atmosphere.
2. Black Thumb
Ok, ok. This is technically cheating, Painted Temple and Black Thumb are sister shops, but they are totally different! Both were started by Oak Adams, but Black Thumb does a lot more color work. Bonnie Seeley does incredible pieces that take multiple sessions and is also an artist outside of tattooing (as lots of tattooists are). Walt Watts is also a badass color artist that likes complex designs and geometric patterns and really knows how to create a well-flowing piece. Tori Loke is another artist that stood out to me because her tattoos are somehow both bold and soft. The tattoo as a whole has a very soft look, but her lines are clean and the colors stand out. Once again, this isn’t nearly a comprehensive list of all of the artists at the studio, just ones that really stick out to me.
3. Electric Foundation Tattoo
This little shop is home to only 2 artists. Luna and Randalyn. Randalyn does a lot of black and grey that is very heavily line based. Lots of mandalas and intricate designs. She is also very good at shading and thin, unwavering lines. Luna is very different, she mostly does color pieces and kind of specializes in watercolor tattoos. This can be a very hard style to get right, but Luna does it time and time again. She actually gave me my first tattoo and I would highly recommend her for that experience specifically. She was gentle on my virgin skin and I went fast enough that I didn’t need a second session, even though the tattoo was pretty large. 10/10 would recommend either of these ladies for their dope tattoos!
4. Hearts & Hands Tattoo and Piercing
Now technically these guys are located in Orem, but I really had to mention them because of one artist: Swade Sandasin. This guy has done some fan-freaking-tastic tattoos on several of my friends and I’m going to get my next tattoo from him. He does some great black and grey realism and works quickly and cleanly to provide excellent art. My best friend is bonier than a fish and she recommends Swade because his application is soft-- well, soft as it can be. There are also many other incredibly talented artists working alongside Swade and produce gorgeous pieces of art.
5. Tiger Claw Tattoo
This cute lil shop is located right near Brickyard on 3300 South is a great place to find artists who specialize in American Traditional and Japanese style tattoos. I can’t promise that the Japanese is traditional and actually haven’t found a really good traditional Japanese artist in Utah, but I can promise that the pieces look amazing. Shae McAfee, an artist there, recently took home 1st prize for Best Overall Tattoo for a bodysuit that he had been working on for a while. The studio also set up a charity event last summer to raise money for animal shelters in Utah, so that right there should tell you about the type of people that you will find in this shop!
Tattoos are the perfect way to decorate your body and broadcast your style. Jobs are becoming more lenient and people are becoming more understanding. Even a few of my religious cousins have tattoos. Why not pick one of these excellent shops and set up your appointment?