For millennia tattoos have been used for decorative and spiritual purposes. Almost as soon as primitive man discovered the tools to do so we immediately began painting our bodies and scarring ink to skin. Given this historical context it’s surprising that only recently have they been considered appropriate by civilized (square) society. But with more and more people canvassing their bodies with water colored murals of relatives and passionate lettered messages of reassurance, not much is said about the men and women behind the needle. That’s why we’ve scoured Columbus to give you a look at the local talent and a bit behind why they decide to ink.
Featuring Stephen Janusz
White Raven Tattoo Studio can be found in the uptown suburb of Westerville above a beautiful venue of restaurants and artisan shops. Much of the main thoroughfare of the town is left in its original historic context. Old style lamps and potted plants hanging from street banners give off an old familiar americana feel. It’s at once vintage and nostalgic without feeling stifling. The parlor takes advantage of that comfort, to get there you first to turn down a charming brick alleyway alcove, climb a long flight of metal stairs, before finding yourself at its entrance.
The inside, however, balances on the edge of rustic and modern. The floor and furniture are all simple wood but well made. The angles are well thought out and an ornate chess set sits prominently in the middle of the waiting table. Everything gives off a gentle but solid and comfortable feel.
Stephen Janusz sat behind the reception desk and rose to greet me warmly. On the profile of his website he describes himself as “one of the tallest tattooers in the world, but I’m still pretty friendly!” and it couldn’t be more true. He is a towering man of arms, height, beard, and smiles and he was kind enough to answer a few questions.
Zoey: What are some reasons your clients get tattoos?
Stephen: All kinds of reasons. Mostly because they’ve wanted tattoos their whole lives and now they all have careers and jobs and they can get it and not feel bad about it.
Z: Does it ever sadden you to see your work go out the door?
S: Our business promotes itself. People go out and they tell their friends. We draw all day every day so we can have all that.
Z: Why do you feel tattooing is so important to people?
S: Well, I think that it’s important to our species. Like our ancestors, across all the continents, even back to the stone age they did this. There is something about it that [makes] important to our species. It’s weird that it even works anyway. So many people in so many places have done it.
Z: How would you describe your personal art style?
S: I’d say cartoony realism? I really like doing cartoons.
Z: Did you like cartoons growing up?
S: Yeah, I always wanted to be an animator.
Z: I was gonna ask, if you weren’t a tattoo artist, what would you be?
S: I was a freelance sculptor for five years. It’s kinda hard to do in Columbus and make money.
Z: What inspires your work?
S: People. I always like to look at the best artists and see what they do and watch my work slowly try to catch up to them.
Z: As you were getting into it, were there artists that you were really into?
S: Yeah, like, Dave Tevenal. He got me back into it because he draws similar to what I do. And anyone I follow on Instagram I use as inspiration. Anyone really that’s good at it.
Z: Instagram must’ve changed the game a bit
S: Oh yeah, haha, it was almost built for tattooing.
Z: How much do you hate the question; ‘how much does it hurt’?
S: Meh, it just depends. Different areas hurt more or less. And women can always handle it better. I never have to worry about the women.
Z: Okay but, really, how much does it hurt?
S: Haha, well there’s a reason why people are coming.
Z: For the most part do people come in knowing exactly what they want to get? How often do people come in and have you do something of your choosing?
S: Um, it’s about fifty-fifty right now. They usually have an overall idea and that usually gives the best results, but sometimes people come in and kinda hold your feet to the fire and get you to do something.
In a world of indifference and intolerance, it’s reassuring to know that there are nice and very tall people out there, willing to create beautiful things with their hands, just for you. And maybe hurt you. You know, just a little.
Click here to check out more from White Raven Studio.
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