At Sacred Tattoo, the designs and styles vary, but it’s always art
on December 22, 2011
On a bright stretch of Broadway in downtown Oakland, Sacred Tattoo’s blood red awning and boldly lettered windows beckon both the ink-obsessed and merely curious. “A lot of people come [to this neighborhood] to come to Chinatown,” said co-owner Allison Fudge. “We get a lot walk-ins.”
Each Sacred artist has his or her own style and specialty: Fudge’s partner James Oey is locally renowned for tattooing meticulously rendered Japanese-inspired designs. Alex, the boyish transplant from Phoenix, Arizona, specializes in “American Traditional” tattoos: stars, anchors and other Americana imagery. Eric, who got his first tattoo at the ripe old age of 27, is a generalist. And Dee, whose round, friendly face is dotted with tiny stars and topped with an ink-black widow’s peak, handles customers’ piercing needs under the watchful supervision of her pudgy French Bulldog, who spends most days contentedly rumbling around the shop.
Tattoos exploded into America’s mainstream culture long before Sacred Tattoo opened in 2000. Since the 1980s, revolutions in hygiene practices, ink making, and the advent of the Internet have propelled the popularity and growing acceptance of tattoos among Americans. Nearly 40 percent of adults under the age of 40 have or once had tattoos, according to a 2006 Pew survey. These days, the artists say, more and more customers come in with tattoo ideas that are aesthetically pleasing, rather than personally significant.
Oakland’s pervasive tattoo culture, in particular, is characterized by religious images and ornate script, say the artists at Sacred. Lowrider-style tattoos, which incorporate imagery once associated with prison culture, are also popular. “Twenty years ago they looked like jail tattoos,” said Eric Van Ophuijsen. “Now, that exact style is being done by real artists and it’s really cool.”
The artists at Sacred Tattoo get many such requests, but Fudge emphasizes the range of the artists’ styles. “We can do pretty much anything,” she said. “If you come to Sacred, you’re going to get a good tattoo.”
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