Memories kept through permanent ink

(Ian Akerson)

Ian Akerson

A cold breeze begins to fill the room as the air conditioner rumbles to a start. In the sterile, flourescent-lit room, the air causes your freshly shaved skin to goose bump. Isopropyl alcohol and acetone scents mix with the cool breeze. Rock and roll music combined with the whirring of motors and battery boxes play a duet of calming background noise.

This is when the incessant scratching of a tattoo gun has begun.

To Nicole Regalbuto 20, arts, this is nothing intimidating, nor is it new.

“Ever since I was little I have loved tattoo art,” Regalbuto said. “I feel it in my soul. They are meaningful and get you through hard times.”

Regalbuto has a foot adorned with a tattoo of the word ‘imagine,’ and her ribs are decorated with a vibrant colored flower piece.

Many first timers allow their nerves to ruin their future body art experience, but Regalbuto explains that any feelings of regret or fear should be left at the door.

“People always expect to regret getting tattooed, but it’s refreshing,” she said. “You can’t psyche yourself out. You know it’s going to hurt, but its just pain and it’s not a big deal. You’ll get through it.”

While some people are on their way to an amazing collection, others are just getting started.

“I like that tattoos are permanent,” said Haliegh Foutch, 21, theatre, while showing off her three-month-old tattoo with the saying ‘this too shall pass’ on her left foot. “They should mean something.”

For some, the process of getting inked is not only meaningful but a learning experience as well.

“I started focusing on how every different part of my foot felt as it was tattooed, and how it differed from line to line,” Foutch said.

She went to White Lotus Tattoo in Laguna Hills, and recommends the parlor to anyone who is concerned about the cleanliness of the environment.

“I liked how the shop looked: simple and clean,” she said. “The artist seemed like a clean freak, which helped me make my decision.”

Kris Stencil, owner and artist at White Lotus, opened the shop in January of 2005.

“I spent most of my life getting tattooed and was already heavily tattooed at 18,” said Stencil. “When it came time to open my own place I knew what I didn’t like about tattoo shops and changed it.”

Stencil shattered the mold of the usual tattoo parlor by providing a welcoming environment and holding a belief in good customer service.

“Who wants to be tattooed by a scum bag?” said Stencil, whose business relies completely on its reputation by word of mouth. “I ask myself, ‘are my artists capable of treating customers like a person and carrying on a conversation?’ As artists, we are ambassadors to the industry and our shop.”

While Stencil turned tattoos into a career, Bree’ aun Francis, 23, nursing, uses them to look back at good times.

“I was having the best vacation of my life and wanted something to remember it by,” Frances said, who has a custom neck tattoo from Hawaii. “I was nervous and excited, and laughing the whole time.”

Some people get tattooed to make a statement, others get them to remember a particular time in their life, and a handful of people love them so much they make a life out of them.

But whether you are an artist or a canvas, every tattoo has a story.