Nothing gets in the way of downtown Duluth inkster

By Dane Hanson Rain is drizzling down on the taped up windows with a large turquoise and orange sign reading tattoo. Cars are driving by through the rain in downtown Duluth. One would think that this place was closing but this is far from the case for tattoo artist Dave Zappia and his company Dominics Tattoo.

Dominics Tattoo is currently switching buildings in downtown Duluth and is going under construction to make a bigger shop. However, Zappia doesn’t let the construction get in the way of his ink.

“You know sometimes I think I have these really good big ideas and then of course they never go the way I wanted them to,” he said with a tiny smirk, “but I am going to keep my appointments with my clients even in a half-assed tattoo shop.”

As he finishes joking around with a buddy on the phone, the crème-colored front door swings open and in walks a college-aged male with a smile from ear to ear. His name is Chris Dingmann.

“Hey Chris, 4 o’clock is already here, huh,” he said. “Can I take a look at the outline?”

Dingmann lifts up his white colored shirt and exposes his right side. Running from just below the armpit all the way down to his hip bone is a giant tattoo of an angel with many different elements to it.

“You notice those four dots in the middle of the angel’s body, I realized that I have four siblings including myself so maybe you could do those a different color or something,” Dingmann said.

“Oh that’s a really neat idea and I can definitely do something special there,” Zappia said. “Why don’t you just hang tight here while I get some things set up.”

The loud thud of Zappia’s boots echo throughout the half-remodeled shop. Zappia opens up the black with red trimming curtain to unveil what he calls his sanctuary.

“I could be in this area forever but I guess there is something that they call the real world out of these curtains,” Zappia said with a smile.

Behind the curtain sits a tiny black desk with a desk lamp that shines brightly on a blank piece of white paper. Left of the desks sits a tattoo bed that is completely covered with dust. It looks like it was brought down from the attic of an old house.

“During the move from our old place a few things got a bit too dusty but nothing a little cleaning can’t do,” said Zappia.

Zappia sits down in his squeaky sliding chair and puts his right hand on a poorly sharpened pencil to develop a shading plan for the angel tattoo for Dingmann.

He starts to set up his needles and prepares the ink that he is going to use. He makes sure that his foot pedal and the needle are on the same page and working correctly.

He dips his tattoo gun into the small containers that holds black ink, rubs the needle point on to a paper towel to make sure the ink is running clean and how he wants it.

After cleaning up the bed with a rag and warm water, he signals Dingmann over with a slight hand gesture. “You ready to get this baby done?” asks Zappia.

With a half smile of excitement and apprehension Dingmann replies, “Let’s do it.”

As Dingmann removes his shirt and adjusts himself comfortably on the bed, Zappia makes sure he has his tunes blaring when it’s time for him to ink.

He yells to his apprentice, “Hey man, put some rockin’ tunes on the stereo.”

Within minutes the shop fills with the rock music by Staind.

Zappia reaches in the metal container holding rubber gloves and gingerly puts them on. He makes sure his client is in the best position for him to start the shading process.

No matter who he’s tattooing, musician Seether or just an average college kid, Zappia sticks to his routine.

“I have a routine that I do for every client no matter who it is,” said Zappia, now with an intense look on his face.

Then with precise movement, Zappia grabs for his needle and dips it in the black ink and begins the shading process.

His foot gently presses down on the foot pedal and the needle presses down on the skin of his client.

Every few minutes Zappia stops applying pressure and wipes the tip of the needle with the use of a paper towel and dips the needle back into the ink.

“The beginning is the toughest part but then the bones become numb and then it’s a breeze,” said Zappia as he sees Dingmann wincing in pain.

After two hours of tattooing the skin of Dingmann’s back becomes so tender blood starts to run down.

“I think we are going to have to call her a day, it’s just too tender right now,” said Zappia. “That was a tough one but I will hopefully finish it the next session.”

Nothing seems to get in the way of Zappia when it comes to tattooing, not even an under construction building with barely anything in it.

“I just love to tattoo and won’t let anything get in my way of doing what I love to do so much,” said Zappia.

Inkster at work - Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

A Lifetime of belting out the blues

Everyone is family at West Duluth's Salon in the Valley