By Jordan Waldmeier
Thanks for nothing, George Clooney...
Tattoos, why do we get them? To pay tribute, to memorialize? To be a badass? To display great works of art? To have a sense of acceptance? To express your fandom? To promote your favorite energy drink? To be sexy? Because you watched too much Dusk Till Dawn as a kid?
Always Moving Forward
We all have our reasons; and by “we,” I include myself in this discussion, having several tattoos myself. I certainly remember the first time an ink soaked needle touched my skin. Unfortunately though, like countless others, I didn’t choose a good artist. It was my 20th birthday and my family had set up an appointment for me with a locally renowned artist. Each member of my family has a tattoo of a sun; it’s a symbol of many things that connects us. I designed my own sun, to which I called it a “nautical sun.” It was simple yet effective. I was so proud of it, and the time had come to put it on my body. Upon entering the shop, I was informed that the planned artist was unavailable but was offered another artist instead. I showed him my design and asked if he could do it justice. He assured me he could; and so it began. During the process it looked great. The only pain I endured was weeks later when I realized how shitty of a job he did. Instead of a majestic sun, I got a sketch of a dying flower that had been partially erased. Looking back on how quick he did it and the motions he made with his machine, I felt sorry for the pig skins he trained on--if any at all.
Do Your Research...Or Don't, Or Whatever
My eagerness and impatience have scarred me, teaching me a lesson that all others should take to heart: DO YOUR RESEARCH. Take the time to find an artist who matches your style as well as cares about their own work. It’s permanent. There are thousands of shops out there that provide your standard “pickitandstickit” books that can handle your impulsive need for a tattoo right-damn-now, but you might end up with a hidden penis in your filigree. Tattoos are to be taken seriously, no matter the level of maturity the design is. If urge takes control, you will likely have a similar story to my first. A few years post sun tattoo, I was ready for my second. I wanted to represent my love for Star Wars and get a Rebel Alliance symbol. It’s a simple logo, and I wanted it to be solid black. I began to ask around for shop and artist recommendations. The one shop I kept hearing was Rickies. After more research on this said shop, I took a trip to check it out. Pulling into the rock driveway of what looked to be an old house converted into a parlor, I walked in the front door with a wary mind. Instantly, I noticed stacks of your shop standard books on a table, throwing caution to the wind. From behind a wall a gentle voice called out, “I’ll be right with you.” After straying my eyes away from the books, I saw many pictures on the wall from work done throughout the years, which boosted my encouragement of the shop. I was impressed. Suddenly, I was greeted by a man behind the counter that resembled a Nordic bear, a man named John Davis. We are told to never judge a book by its cover, a lesson that I quickly forgot when I first laid eyes on John. He asked how he could help me, and in fear of being literally thrown out the door by a man that obviously is worthy of wielding Mjolnir, I slowly slid the design across the counter top. He picked up the paper and quietly observed it for a moment. “A Rebel, eh?” he stated with a soft voice. His immediate recognition brought to me a feeling of relief. He said that he would love to do the job and to come back the next day, he would have some designs ready. I agreed and left the shop. My mind was boggled. How could he possibly be altering it, it’s such a simple design?! He took one look and sent me off. Does he really know what the symbol means, or where it comes from? He did ask me if I was a Rebel, right? Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night.
My Rebel Friends
The following afternoon I arrived back at Rickies, slightly on edge again. I went to the counter and was met by John. He got the attention of a coworker, soon to be introduced as Chris Walkin, who was in the distance working on a full chest piece. John said to Chris, “This is our Rebel friend.” Chris responded, “Rebel scum.” An insult, reassuring in choosing this shop. John grabbed a stack of papers and said “Let me show you some of my ideas.” He spread the designs across the counter, and my mind was instantly blown. In a short amount of time he had created dozens of variations of the Rebel alliance logo, all amazing. I was going to have a solid black logo, which has its symbolism, but no depth. Decisions, decisions. I was torn. He grabbed one from deep within and said, “This one, I think, is my favorite.” At one glance I was assured, this guy gets it. It was stone, aged, and cracked; as if it was engraved on the walls of the Yavin base. It was the Rebel Alliance.
You'll Get Your Arm Amputated
Tattooing throughout the years has gotten a bad rep. Your parents probably told you you will get an infection from a dirty needle, will have to get a limb amputated, or likely die. Shops are bound to follow strict laws, rules, and regulations. The vast majority of shops, including John and crew, follow these rules religiously. I sat on the freshly sanitized chair, which was quite comfy, as John assembled his sterilized machine. So it began, I chose to place it above my inner left ankle; with plans of getting other Star Wars symbols above each of my ankles in hopes of possibly expanding them in the future. It is a fairly small tattoo, so it was a pretty quick session. Though short, it was entertaining. We ranted and raved on the subject of Star Wars, comics, movies, Kung Fu, and pretty much anything you could argue about in a comic shop; Chris and his client even chimed in from the distance. It was an awesome time that will be remembered, and looked forward to joining them for future body modifications.
I began to follow John and Chris through social media. Seeing their extraordinary work on a daily basis is a treat to the eyes. Both of them are well traveled and have terrific skills in the art of tattooing. They have mastered the beauty of the style known as Biomech (think H.R. Giger, but cooler), though they each have their own specialties and style. John can bring to life the comic book styles of great artist such as Kirby, Ditko, Adams, Eisner, Steranko, Miller, and Lee (Jim not Stan). Chris can make you feel like you have joined the yakuza with his expertise on Japanese (or Irezumi), with his renditions of coi, dragons, tigers, samurai, water, hannya, and even modern anime. Though these are their specialties per se, they are still expert artists and are well capable of fulfilling your needs. Their years of experience together have seen the ever changing trends throughout the years; from tribal to tramp-stamps, lock and keys to feathers, kanji (which translates to: I hope this means what I think it means) and the never ending requests for fluttering birds. They are willing to perform the work for you, but also want you to take it seriously and will work with you so that you are left with something meaningful and visually impactful. If you want an “Exit Only” sign on your ass, it’s best for you to go elsewhere.
If You Love Something, Let It Go
One day on their social media page they made an announcement: John and Chris had decided it was time to branch off from Rickies and start their own shop. It was a brave and bold move for the two youngsters, straying away from the Lake Charles area's first tattoo shop. But, they had a vision of something grand and beautiful. Working on the new shop meticulously for several months as if they were carving it from marble, it was time to open. They dubbed it Iron Cypess. I remember going up there for the first time. I was ready to get the next set of Star Wars symbols done. Located at 929 East McNeese Street in Lake Charles, I parked my car and marched my way to the door. Entering the doors I was instantly blown away; I had walked into an art studio. I wasn’t greeted with fold out tables with stacks of books, or walls filled with flash. The walls are reserved for framed pieces of some of their greatest works and the windows littered with many awards recognizing their accolades and achievements. The wide open floor space is fit for the occasional light-saber battle. As I walked towards their work space, I observed Chris and John in their creative state, both working meticulously on new designs, as if they were drafting skyscrapers, and am soon greeted by them. After a brief conversation with the two, I hand John the set of three logos, and receive the same treatment as before: “Come back tomorrow and I will have some concepts." The following day I was bestowed with concepts fitting and meaningful to each symbol, shortly after making my way through the doors, I was again permanently and professionally tattooed.
Jordan Can't Help But Tell You To Go To Iron Cypress
Throughout the years that Iron Cypress has been open I have seen their shop grow and thrive, even adding a third artist to their ranks; Ross Dickson who specializes in realism and grayscale. Anytime someone brings up the subject of wanting to get a tattoo, I can’t help but to recommend and inform them about the great Iron Cypress. Though there are agents and methods of removing tattoos, they should always be taken seriously no matter the content, and I want you to have the best experience and outcome. I truly have faith in this trio of great artist and believe they will do you justice. On a daily basis, through their social media page, I am visually treated by their recent works and delightful comments on how much they enjoyed performing the work. Everyday the mass population of this country goes to work, typically unhappy with their jobs trying to achieve the “American dream.” With their hard work and sacrifices, I believe they are of the few who actually feel as though they are achieving it. The dream, to be freely creative and have a prosperous hobby. Acknowledged for being one of the most renowned shops in Lake Charles, their talent will surely drive them to national recognition. P.S. John, I’m about ready for that Marvel comics panel sleeve.
Photos from Iron Cypress.
To see more of the Iron Cypress crew's work (we should've put more in the article) go to www.ironcypress.com
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