Austin is a town that wears its appreciation of the arts on its sleeve and, sometimes, that appreciation comes in the form of a sleeve… literally. It seems that most locals have a tattoo of some sort. It might be a full portrait on the back or just a simple butterfly on the ankle, but Austin is a town that likes getting “inked.” A tattoo is a personal and permanent expression. Enter Jon Reed and his new tattoo studio, All Saints Tattoo, who seeks to push the proverbial envelope of skin art.
“Before I even knew what a good tattoo was, I just LOVED tattoos,” Reed says of his preferred art form. Owner of the barely month old business on East Sixth Street, Reed is an idealist. Having previously worked at both True Blue and the renowned Electric Ladyland Tattoo in New Orleans, he drew from years of experience when deciding to open his own studio. His time with Electric Ladyland was particularly inspirational.
“How it’s supposed to be,” by Reed’s definition, is a private and creative space for both his clientele and artists. Walking into All Saints, you’re greeted by their reception staff that is always pleasant, talkative and exceptionally knowledgeable about the artwork created behind the scenes. And it is, in fact, created behind the scenes. The artist’s workspace is kept separate from the rest of the shop, a major aspect of All Saints’ philosophy.
Reed akins his private workspace and need of permanent receptionists as a seawall against the tide of downtown life.
“The other day I had a woman come in who wanted a tattoo on her side,” Reed explained in an example, “but she was wearing a dress and the only way to get to her rib was lift the skirt up. But she didn’t have to worry about some bum staring at her through the front window.”
While privacy is an important concern for Reed’s clients, that isn’t the full reason for having a separate workspace. In between appointments and walk in clients, Reed and fellow artists Chris Cotner and Chip Telano are free to create original artwork and try new design ideas. Cotner, for example, blends what Reed calls “traditional American tattooing” with mid-eighties skate culture imagery.
One particular piece of Cotner’s seemed to be a perfect melding of a Sailor Jerry panther, Independent skate deck art and Judas Priest’s “Screaming For Vengeance” album cover. The effect is awesome, to say the least. It’s this blending of old and new that lies at the heart of All Saints.
“Traditional American tattooing,” Reed says, is the kind of art that most people associate with the legendary Sailor Jerry. “To me traditional American tattooing is the foundation of modern American tattooing, and even if you’re doing something that’s not like it at all, you’re still going to use the same principles that they used.”
Reed makes a great point. The bold lines and coloring from this “golden age” of ink was intended to last a lifetime. And while being based in classic iconography, Reed and his fellow artists aren’t content to reproduce the work of other artists.
“Some people base their whole careers on reproducing other people’s tattoos,” Reed says. “They fancy themselves ‘artistes’ and are essentially just tracing. They aren’t taking the art form and evolving it.” Cotner, for example, draws inspiration in his designs from working with water color paintings while Telano’s work references his background in graphic novels and band poster art. The result is art that both familiar and new. “The rules with these old school tattoos are gone.”
If you’ve ever been to a tattoo shop, you know it can often feel exactly like any other shop. You walk in, see something that you like and you purchase it before going on your merry way. It is not unlike an ordinary barbershop. Reed presents an alternative in having his wall art as a jumping off point, something to draw inspiration from. Then it’s all about communication with the artist and conceiving ideas and interpretation. Then the image is born behind the “seawall.”
“I didn’t want all those distractions,” Reed says of his artists, “just do their tattoo — do the best tattoo possible.”
Although All Saints Tattoo is a new face among a throng of tattoo studios, it remains unique. With its friendly staff and artists, location in the vibrancy of downtown and unwavering commitment to creativity, it stands out from the rest. “If you rush through a tattoo, you might as well just quit tattooing,” Reed says.
And Reed and the other artists at All Saints Tattoo are not in a rush, by any means.