LARAMIE, Wyo. — Tattooing is about more than ink, art and rebellion — it is a visual history that needs to be preserved, Vintage Electric Tattoo owner Chad Elsasser said.
“My major goal is not just to give people great tattoos,” said Elsasser, who’s worked as a tattooer for about 16 years, “but to serve as a resource of education and help my clients understand why they’re getting these tattoos and what they could actually mean to them.”
The 34-year-old tattoo artist opened Vintage Electric Tattoo in Laramie in July after moving from Omaha, Nebraska.
“(Laramie) is my peace-of-mind place,” he said. “I love the Front Range. There’s a lot of really great opportunities for me to get outdoors to mountain bike, ski and snowboard.”
In Nebraska, Elsasser tattooed custom pieces at Liquid Courage with eight other artists. As the sole artist at his new shop, he said he is looking forward to managing his own schedule.
“If I’m going to be tattooing as much as I am, then I’m really going to have make sure there’s a balance in my life,” Elsasser said. “I spend a substantial amount of time doing art history research, primarily focused in tattooing. I need time to paint, to do research and to think.”
Previously, Elsasser said his schedule precluded him from furthering his goals as an artist. As his own boss, he said he worked his schedule to be more conducive to creativity.
“Tattooing every day is great — it really makes a better, more efficient artist,” he said. “But you do need that downtime to really focus, study and bring something to the table for your clients.”
Like many tattoo parlors, Elsasser’s shop is simple and uncluttered, creating a perception of simplicity and cleanliness. But where other artists have opted for walls covered in custom artwork instead of the classic flash pages, documents sporting several stock designs from well-known artists, Elsasser filled his business with a mix of both.
Picture frames filled with the art of Good Time Charlie, Dick Warsocki and Ed Hardy coated Vintage Electric Tattoo’s walls. But mixed into the traditional parlor décor, Elsasser displayed original paintings, Tibetan prayer flags and new-school flash pages, which emphasize only one or two sketches instead of the old-school approach of filling the page with numerous options.
“I think we all crave the idea of being original, but as we get older, we tend to realize there’s not a whole lot of originality left in the world,” Elsasser said. “All of the flash in this room is really used for inspiration. I’ve come to realize it’s the individual and how they wear things that make them different.”
Being an artist, he said it is easy to get involved in big art pieces. But as a tattooer, Elsasser said he goes the extra step to ensure the longevity of the tattoo and the medium.
“How it’s translated onto the skin is very important,” he said. “We have to understand tattooing is on a human being, not paper.”
When creating artwork for clients, Elsasser said he tries to incorporate negative space to allow the skin to breathe, and he avoids tight gray lines that might fade with age.
The meaning behind the artwork is another concern for Elsasser.
“I’m a big fan of big energy,” he said. “I won’t do anything racist, anti-Semitic or anti-gay. I try to avoid negative imagery.”
Surrounded by images of skulls, demons and death, Elsasser said avoiding negative imagery becomes a subjective stance.
“It can be a tough line to float,” he said. “There are common symbols we see and recognize as negative, but many images have more than one meaning. In Mexico, Dia de los Muertos is a celebration of the dead.”
As the shop grows, Elsasser said he hopes to become a hub for Laramigos to experience art.
“You’ll see a lot of hand-painted artwork in here, and the window art will be all hand-painted instead of neon signs,” he said. “There’s a certain visual integrity of hand-painted signs compared to neon signs. Also, I plan to bring in guest artists and display local paintings.”
Information from: Laramie Boomerang, http://www.laramieboomerang.com