- Your News
By KALI BOLLE
While some still see tattoos as the stuff of sailors, bikers and rebellious teens, this past decade has seen the process of putting ink on skin grow from a rite of passage to an evolving art form.
Today, with television shows such as “Best Ink”(Oxygen), “Ink Master” (Spike TV), and “NY Ink” (TLC), along with celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, David Beckham, Lea Michele, Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron all donning tattoos, the act of tattooing has become a most sought after display of art.
Tattoo artist Tim Harden of Tullahoma is taking this rising interest in the business and using it to help break the stigma by showing the art that is behind the ink.
Since his days as a young boy growing up in Tullahoma, Harden loved to draw and create images of his own.
His love really began to blossom as a young teen at Westwood Junior High School in Manchester, where teachers began to take interest in his work.
“Mrs. Dotson was really helpful in showing me different techniques and mediums. She really helped me a lot and believed me and that just made me want to draw more,” said Harden.
With art as a dream for a future career, Harden was then introduced to the art of tattooing through friends, where he says he immediately fell in love.
At the age of 17, Harden received his first professional tattoo. He said it was a very special day because his mother was there with him and also got a tattoo of her own.
“I fell in love with the industry,” he added. “The art has always been fascinating to me. The whole process that goes into creating a tattoo was what got me hooked.”
Harden then began to try his hand as an artist, which proved to be harder than he thought. Although Harden’s love for tattooing was there, he says his craft still needed honing. Harden then went in search of an apprenticeship. He would find one with tatoo artist Ron Rams in Bullhead City, Ariz.
“I soaked up everything and anything that he (Rams) did. Whatever he wanted me to do, I did,” Harden said.
After two years with Ram, Harden would go on to work with several different artist at shops in Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Arizona.
“(I) Bounced around a lot because I like meeting new people and wanted to experience different techniques of different artists.”
By working with different shops, Harden says he was able to acquire his own artistic style.
After honing his skill, Harden felt it was time to return to the place he had always called home, Tullahoma.
“I felt like Tullahoma was ready for something new, something fresh and something original,” added Harden.
Recently celebrating its one-year anniversary, Harden says “Revolution Tattoos” is a premier tattoo studio in Tullahoma.
“We are a full custom shop and specialize in everything such as portraits, both ‘old and new school’ styles, and color burst,” explains Harden. “We also do piercings. We have two tattoo artists, a piercing artist, a tattoo apprentice and piercing apprentice on staff. Our shop is a drug and drama free tattoo studio and we pride ourselves on that. We take pride in all our work and guarantee every tattoo that gets done in this shop.”
Harden adds that he and his staff are versatile artists and strive to make each piece one-of-a-kind for their clients.
“When a client comes in and hands us a picture of what they are looking to have done, we then take that design and create a piece of our own based on the elements that the client is looking for, creating a piece that is completely original and unlike any other out there,” said Harden.
Harden adds that the tattoo industry is continually evolving. Advances in electric needle machines and pigments are provided artist with new ranges of color, delicacy of detail and aesthetic possibilities.
Today, most the stigma of the “tattoo parlor” is disappearing and the “tattoo art studio” is emerging.
Harden’s studio features custom, fine art design; the ambiance of an upscale beauty salon; marketing campaigns aimed at middle- and upper middle-class professionals; and “by-appointment” services only. According to tattooartist.com, today’s fine art tattoo studio draws the same kind of clientele as a custom jewelry store, fashion boutique, or high-end antique shop.
The market demographics for tattoo services are now skewed heavily toward mainstream customers. Tattooing today is the sixth-fastest-growing retail business in the United States. The single fastest growing demographic group seeking tattoo services is, to the surprise of many, middle-class suburban women.
“Where in the past one might see men as the majority of customers, I have designed and created pieces for a number of females ranging in all ages,” said Harden.
Today, tattooing is also recognized by government agencies as both an art form and a profession and tattoo-related artwork is the subject of museum, gallery and educational institution art shows across the United States.
The evolution of art
As with any artist, Harden said he is always looking to improve his artistic skills. Whether it is sketching out designs with his three sons or traveling across the country to check out other artists, Harden says he is always looking for ways to be a better artist.
“The thing about being a tattoo artist is that you are an apprentice for life. You’re always going to learn something new. I have a passion to learn and try new things. Traveling and watching other artists helps me to keep on top of the industry and my skill as an artist,” he said.
For the local tattoo industry, Harden hopes to continue to evolutionize and make the industry better for up and coming artists and provide a quality product for local clientele.