The dull whirl of the gun can be heard when entering the shop. Light pink walls are lined with a wallpaper trim that looks like ocean water. The art choice: anything and everything. Flowers, frogs, females, and felines cover the walls.
Two girls stand in front of the counter discussing with each other, and the man behind the counter, about how the image will turn out and where it will be put on the girl getting her tattoo this sunny day in the Lakeside community in Duluth.
Josh Crotty is 20 years old and has been tattooing at Studio 7 almost since its beginning nearly two years ago. While the drawings on the wall serve as options for people coming into the shop, Crotty prefers keeping them on the walls and off the customer’s body.
“I like doing custom art much more than something I have been looking at all day, you know?” Crotty says.
Today, Crotty has an appointment with 18 year-old Emma Larson. She has chosen a Tiger Lily flower. While she comes in with the idea of the flower, it is Crotty who creates the final design that will go along the left side of her rib cage.
“The rib cage is getting popular with both guys and girls,” Crotty says. He is hunched over Larson and pulling her skin tight in order to trace the light gray lines that are about to become thick, permanent, black lines on her body.
Larson is laying on her right side. In order to keep the skin that is getting the design tight, Crotty has asked her to slide a complete roll of paper towel underneath her making her body lay abnormally arched on the dentist-like chair.
Studio 7 is the only tattoo parlor in Lakeside. It sits among many other shops in the community. While most other tattoo parlors in Duluth are located downtown, Studio 7 sits in a part of town that many people wouldn’t think a tattoo parlor would be. Amanda Bowman is the wife of Scott Bowman, the owner of Studio 7. She says this was exactly the reaction they received when they first opened the shop in Lakeside.
“At first the reaction was, ‘You can’t have liquor in Lakeside, but you can have a tattoo place?’ But since then we really haven’t heard anything,” Bowman says.
She says after a while the community came to appreciate the fact that they were there. Bowman says that having the shop in Lakeside meant that people, like the “stereotypical soccer mom,” don’t have to go downtown to get a tattoo.
“They don’t want to go downtown. They can still be those kind of people, and still want a tattoo,” Bowman says.
Crotty takes a break from the tattoo he is embedding on Larson. It will take about four hours to complete the entire thing. Crotty says that his interest in tattooing has been there since he was a little kid.
“I got kicked out of school for drawing on kids,” Crotty says. Crotty finished high school in Silver Bay and actually helped to produce an independent study for students interested in arts. After high school, Crotty became an apprentice of Scott Bowman, the owner of Studio 7. Crotty asks Larson to lean back toward him and continues the thick black lines on Larson’s side.
“The apprenticeships are long and grueling, but Scott was really good to apprentice under,” Crotty says. Crotty has six tattoos; four of which he has done himself. “How are you supposed to know what you are doing to someone else unless you have done it on yourself?”
Crotty takes four breaks throughout Larson’s tattoo session. Sometimes it is to answer the door, get a drink, or just give both of them a rest. This isn’t Larson’s first tattoo. She has an inspirational saying on the back of her right shoulder.
“It’s something I believe in, and try to live by,” Larson says. The lilies she has picked out for today however, are simply because she likes the flower. She has brought her friend Tiffany Norick, 19, with her today. In a few weeks Norick plans on getting her own flower tattoo. Today however, she is simply here for moral support.
Both Crotty and Bowman believe that by opening a tattoo parlor in Lakeside the workers and customers would not have to deal with some of the situations that tend to happen downtown.
“It gets so busy down there and at points when it gets like that they don’t get the chance to sit down and spend time with the client,” Crotty says.
Crotty and Bowman agree that Lakeside was the best place to open up the kind of tattoo parlor they were looking to run.
“We don’t have obscene music. When people come here and want to get tattooed, we help them make the best educated decision,” Bowman says.
As Crotty finishes up on Larson’s tattoo, he lets her know he has decided to leave the stems of the Tiger Lilies like they are, instead of adding the colors he had originally planned.
Larson gets off the dentist like chair and looks in mirror. She smiles.
“I like it. It looks good,” Larson says.