Tattoos Make you Cool – The Grand Opening of Keepsake

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

If you need a recommendation for a good tattoo artist, just ask your barber. Jake Morisse at Annex Barbershop in the Paseo told me about a grand opening flash day at a new traditional shop in the city. The shop was called Keepsake. I’m in. 

In 2006, Oklahoma was the last state to legalize the business and art of tattooing. The ban, which began in 1963, was argued and upheld for decades over public health concerns and moral disagreements.

Opponents thought that if tattooing was legalized, it would lead to the widespread transmission of blood-borne diseases. They thought it would slow economic development because nobody would be willing to hire somebody who had tattoos. They said that tattoos were simply an unnecessary fad. And they argued that it was an immoral sin.

So, Oklahomans who wanted to express themselves with body art had two choices. They could either take their money to any of the neighboring states, where tattooing was already legal. Or, they could seek out underground artists. There was obviously more money and legitimacy in other states, so the most talented and professional artists were not the ones doing underground work. I think it’s pretty easy to argue that everything is much safer when it’s legal and regulated. But what do I know, I’m not a politician. I just like getting tattoos and not getting hep C.

Since the ban was ended, the tattoo culture in Oklahoma has exploded. Having tattoos, in general, is more popular and socially acceptable than ever. Hundreds of talented artists work in a wide variety of styles to create lifelong art on living canvases. One of those styles is American Traditional.

Tattooing has been around for a long time. It was invented concurrently by several different civilizations around the world. Once we got to what’s considered modern tattooing, away from things like sideshow or circus tattooing, you get people like Sailor Jerry or Ed Hardy. Artists that your average non-tattooed person could probably recognize.

Norman Collins aka Sailor Jerry started tattooing sailors in ports in the 1930s and continued after WW2. It’s his style that the current American Traditional style is primarily descended from.

Early pioneers used tattoo flash to make their businesses more efficient, consistent and affordable. Flash is a collection of pre-drawn designs by an artist, usually kept in a book or displayed on the walls of a tattoo shop. A client would decide they wanted a tattoo, and then decide which tattoo they’d get based off the flash their artist had available. That way, an artist wouldn’t have to spend hours designing custom pieces for each client, without any help from online references or illustration software. Nowadays, most tattoo shops do relatively custom work as a standard.

But some people still think the old-school way is cool. Making a lifelong commitment with a game-time decision of “you get what you get” is, in a weird way, very appealing to dumbasses like me who like getting ink shot into their skin. It’s an exercise in choosing.

Jake told me to get there early if I wanted to make sure I got a spot. Sign-ups started at 9:30 Saturday morning. I got to the shop around 7 am. There were four others in line, all friends and previous clients of the shop owners. I made friends and shot the shit with them as we shivered in the cold.

Four artists drew flash sheets for the event. Scott Huttenmaier and Brandon Cutter are two of Keepsake’s resident artists. Alvin Aldridge was visiting from California, Danny G came up from Houston.

I didn’t see any of the available designs until about 10 minutes before it was time to sign up. I had no idea which artist would be working on me until it was my time to go under the needle. In the end, I picked one of Danny’s designs, and I happened to be his first customer of the day.

I love getting tattoos. Not just having them, but the actual process of receiving ink. When I got my first at 18, a lot of my friends asked: “did it hurt?” Yes. Tattoos do hurt. A lot. Some hurt a lot more than others, upper arms are not too bad but ribs are a short hell. It’s all just part of the fun, and it gets better after the first few lines as your skin starts to numb up from the inflammation. And tattoo artists tend to be fantastic conversationalists, I haven’t met many who couldn’t talk me away from thinking about the pain.

It’s also easier to put on a tough-guy face with four machines in the room buzzing simultaneously like the world’s angriest beehive. We’re all in this together. And everybody knows that whining makes tattoos more expensive than they already are.

And when it’s done, you get to go home with a new lifelong friend. A talisman, to your long-term decision-making abilities at whatever age you paid a man $200 to permanently affect your body with an electric needle machine.

Don’t listen to what anyone else tells you. Tattoos make you cool, and they’re a great financial investment. Everybody (over the age of 18) who thinks they might want one, should just go get one. Yes, it’s a permanent choice. But so is every other choice you’ll ever make. Nobody can change the past, but we can learn to forgive the past and accept that our choices make us who we are.

When in doubt, go to Keepsake. Let me know what you get!

Samuel Morstain

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#tattoos #art #loca #okc #peop

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