Tattoos have been taboo in McAlester –– until now.

Skin illustration, practiced across the globe for more than 5,000 years, is now available at the city’s first tattoo studio. Skin Art Studio is now open at 1010 South Main.

“There was a real need for the shop in McAlester,” Mike Anderson, the shop’s owner, said. “A lot of people are doing tattoos out of their houses. There’s a real need for it on a professional level because of health concerns.”

Senate Bill 806 passed in May making Oklahoma the final state to legalize tattooing. Anderson said he believes the state finally saw the need for health standards and regulations in a cultural phenomenon that’s thriving and showing no signs of slowing.

“Business is really picking up and we stay booked,” Anderson said. “We’ve done about 500 pieces since we opened in June. It’s important people know their artist and make sure they use all the necessary health and safety precautions.”

Anderson said health, safety and quality are the top priorities at Skin Art Studio. The artists use sterilized, individually wrapped, one time use needles. Ink comes from individual tubes and there is an autoclave, a machine used to sterilize medical equipment, on site.

The two artists who work for Anderson, David Fugate and Tim Morris, have completed blood-borne pathogen training.

The training teaches the artist how to prevent cross contamination and spreading any prevention.

Fugate and Morris also have more than 10 years of combined experience.

“It might cost a little more than at your buddy’s house,” Anderson said. “But our guys are professional artists who do excellent work; and you don’t have to worry about your health.”

McAlester resident Jesse Miller said these are the main reasons he decided to go to Skin Art Studio. The 18 year old said he’d always wanted a tattoo as he proudly showed the fresh ink of a Kanji symbol near the bottom of his calf.

“It means good luck,” Miller said as he eyed the new piece in the studio last week.

Miller said he knew Anderson and his artists and was familiar with their work. He said he felt comfortable, and since he’d always wanted one, what better time than the present?

“It’s my first one. I know Mike and he’s a good guy; I knew I was in good hands so I wasn’t too nervous,” Miller said.

But does it hurt?

“It didn’t hurt too bad,” Miller said. “It stings a little, but I’ll definitely get some more.”

However, Anderson says pain is relative. He said it’s different for each individual. Some spots may not hurt at all, but if the needle moves a fraction of an inch the pain can become quite intense. Skin art hurts, he said. There’s no way around it.

He’s found one general rule about the pain of tattooing to be true.

“Women take it better than men,” Anderson. “I’ve seen grown men start crying when they have a back piece done. We do more tattoos on women. In fact, lower back pieces on women are probably the most popular piece we do.”

Skin art is known to date back 5,000 years since the 1991 discovery of an ancient frozen body with several primitive tattoos. The discovery, made on a mountain between Austria and Italy, offered proof that tattoos have been a part of man’s history for longer than previously thought.

So what draws people to skin illustration?

“For me it was the mysterious culture,” Anderson said. “I was interested in something that had been taboo for so long.”

Skin Art Studio specializes in portraits, Japanese art, traditional and custom tattoos. The shop is open Monday through Saturday. For more information, contact Anderson at 424-8288.

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