Story last updated at 3/11/2009 - 10:58 am
JUNEAU - Tattooists Jack Marchant and Dave Lang and body piercer Shane Sewell are the artists behind the counter at New Tide Tattoo. The trio opened their shop in early March in downtown Juneau.
Marchant, a Juneau native, knew from a young age that he had an interest in body art.
"I blame Frank Fink, the janitor at Floyd Dryden Middle School," Marchant said. "He was covered in tattoos and really sparked my interest. Any time I saw somebody with tattoos I thought it was the coolest thing."
Once he was of age, Marchant began the process of covering himself in ink. He enjoyed getting tattoos and also liked to draw, so it seemed like a natural next step to learn to do it himself. He started his apprenticeship in 2003 and worked for several years in Olympia, Wash. and in the Midwest.
Sewell was born in Washington and came to Juneau in high school where he and Marchant became friends. Sewell let Marchant pierce his tongue and ears and then became further interested in piercing. Sewell has always wanted to have tattoos and be part of the industry, and he is enjoying his role at New Tide.
"Ever since I was in kindergarten I was drawing on my arms and getting in trouble for that," Sewell said.
Lang was born in Juneau and grew up in various places in Alaska. When he was 13 he moved to Olympia where he began to develop an interest in tattooing. He entered the industry with a shop broom in his hands and worked his way up from the bottom to become a tattoo artist. He returned to Juneau for the first time in 20 years to work at New Tide.
"I always knew that I wanted to come back here," Lang said. "The only thing that kept me from coming up earlier is that licensing is strict up here. It's not a bad thing, it's just really hard to prove yourself as a professional up here."
The business battled with paperwork for months and they said they are thrilled to finally have their doors open.
"The plan all along, even from the beginning, was to someday come back to Juneau and do this," Marchant said.
Said Lang: "After moving away from here and getting involved in tattooing down south, the thing that brought (Jack and I) together was knowing that we always had it in the back of our minds that this is where we eventually wanted to do it."
Merchant said he was excited to have another tattoo artist to partner with.
"I couldn't do it alone and it's just been awesome for me," Marchant said. "Finding somebody who was excited to come back to Southeast Alaska and was also a good tattooist, once I found out he was on board and felt the same way, it was great."
Marchant hopes to have a rotation of guest tattoo artists come to visit and work at New Tide in the future. It is a great way to learn from each other because every artist does things differently, he said.
"Being willing to accept criticism, have your work critiqued or work with people who can help you is really important," Marchant said.
So what is it like to be in the business of body art?
"It's a service industry," Lang said. "It's not as much about my individual art as it is about making people happy, figuring out exactly what they want and taking it very seriously. I'm up a lot of nights drawing. Every tattoo is a big deal."
Marchant said that he and his fellow artists often lose sleep at night to make sure that their customers walk out their door with tattoos that they can be proud of.
"Making time to draw takes time away from family," Marchant said. "A lot of times people don't realize how much goes into pieces. Redrawing it, making it right, there are a lot of hours that don't get accounted for."
Travel and research are also a part of the business. Tattoo expos are held around the world and they are a great resource for networking, bouncing ideas off of other artists, keeping an eye on what is going on in the industry and bringing it back home.
"The last thing I look at at night is tattoo stuff and the first thing I do when I get up in the morning is look at tattoo stuff," Lang said. "I'm constantly trying to absorb as much as I can and take it as seriously as I can. It does get stressful, for sure. If you're pushing yourself, it's always going to be."
New Tide Tattoo is located on the corner of 2nd St. and Franklin St. in downtown Juneau.