Culture Undiscovered: Q&A with a Tattoo Artist

Sometimes, I’m selfishly finding out about things that I’m interested in when I realize that they’re too good not to write about. I’ve had tattoo artists on my brain lately, as I’ve been vaguely interested in getting my first tattoo (don’t freak out, mom). In the course of asking around I kept hearing the name Electric Haven, which turned out to be a classic tattoo parlor and barbershop just off campus run by two very talented tattoo artists. I decided to ask the shop’s K.C. Lange a few tattoo-related questions out of curiosity, and if his answers don’t make you want to go get tattooed right now, well, maybe you’re not as impulsive as I am.

Some of K.C.’s work. Image from electrichaven.com.

What’s your favorite tattoo you’ve ever done?

Well, that can go a few ways. I have a favorite tattoo that I love to share the story of with my clients, of a man who rode a bicycle to the shop with a flat tire and asked me to put “fuck friends, god bless my momma” across his stomach in big block letters. It’s my favorite simply because the man was such a character; his story became one of my favorite to tell. However, it wasn’t my favorite tattoo I’ve ever done. As for my most favorite tattoo, I try to make sure that the most recent tattoo that I’ve done is my most favorite. If I keep that mindset, I’ll constantly be challenging myself to become a stronger tattooer.

Have you ever passed up designing a tattoo for someone because you didn’t like what he or she asked for?

All of the time. There are a lot of tattoos that I know I’m not the best at. I’ll always suggest a client go to another tattooer that’s specialized in a specific style. My first priority is to get people good tattoos — even if it means I won’t earn their money, I’ll earn their respect.

What was the first tattoo that you got?

My very first tattoo is a shameful cliche first tattoo. I got a weird tribal design from a well known chain shop in Denver. It’s a spiral on the back of (my) leg. I’m glad I have it, though, because it’s been a wonderful aid in helping customers pick their first tattoo wisely.

What does getting a tattoo feel like?

It’s a feeling that’s really difficult to describe, and as you ask around everyone has their own opinion on what it feels like. I gave a 76-year-old woman her first tattoo and she described it as being bitten by ants. I suppose the only real way to know how it feels it to experience it first hand.

Do you have a routine for preparing yourself to give a tattoo?

The only thing that really matters to me before I get into a tattoo is that I’m in a good mood. I think that attitude will show through work and I want my clients to have a great experience. So if I’m dragging my feet or feeling sluggish, I’ll take my client out for ice cream or something before the appointment and just take an extra minute to get the right headspace going.

Think very carefully before asking K.C. to tattoo your face. Image from holytaco.com.

Face tattoos: love ‘em or leave ‘em?

My take on them is leave them. The face, throat, hands, knuckles, fingers, are all tattoos that are great to have when you are 25, but as you age they are sometimes the most regrettable decisions you can make. They have earned the monikers “job stoppers” and “life ruiners” because tattoos like that are likely to do both. I will refuse to tattoo a customer’s hands or face unless they are already heavily tattooed. I believe having these highly visible tattoos is a right that has to be earned. The urge for tattoos that will alter your demeanor by making your look more “tough” or “sexy” or “thug” is very juvenile, and will fade long before your face tattoo ever will.

Find out more about K.C. and Electric Haven on their website, or drop by and visit them at 3402 S. McClintock Drive.

Email me at jlpruett@asu.edu.