Tattoos a sign of the times - 710 INK. opens in Sunnyside

Jason Stalksleet (R), one of three owners of 710 INK., inks the outline of a tiger onto Javier Ruiz of Sunnyside.

Javier Ruiz sat in the chair shirtless and looking down at his chest.

"He does good work," he said, nodding his head in approval of the work Jason Stalksleet was doing.

Ruiz was in the middle of a very long session at 710 INK. in Sunnyside, a professional tattooing and piercing shop located at 522 S. 7th Street.

Stalksleet, one of three owners of the tattoo and piercing shop, was tattooing a tiger over the shoulder and on the chest of Ruiz. He had already put a dragon on Ruiz's other shoulder two weeks previously.

Ruiz explained he wanted to represent his family with his tattoo. He has four sons and their names will also be inked forever on his skin underneath the dragon and tiger.

710 INK. opened Nov. 1 and shares building space with DC Northwest, formerly Digital Creations.

Dennis and Vicki Welch opened Digital Creations in 2003. Their business? Every type of graphic art imaginable. They did vehicle graphics, all types of signs for businesses, trophies for sports teams and tee-shirts.

Digital Creations was housed on Edison Avenue but with Dennis spending most of his time at the home shop working, he was never around the office so Dennis and Vicki closed the front area but kept the back area.

Enter Stalksleet, who had grown up with and known Dennis for more than 20 years. When he came on board there wasn't any space for a tattoo shop so the Welches and Stalksleet partnered up and moved to the 7th Street location.

"We're doing well with the tattoos," Dennis Welch said. "We do a lot of shirts, too."

Stalksleet has been tattooing for eight years.

"I've always done art," he said. "I met a guy in the Tri-Cities and he really got me interested in tattooing. I just picked it up from there."

"The thing that sets Jason apart from the others is his attention to detail," Dennis said.

Ruiz backed up this claim, showing the detail of his dragon tattoo. Attention to detail is obviously in Stalksleet's and the Welch's blood. Vicki Welch has degrees in mechanical and chemical engineering from Montana State University and Stalksleet holds a degree from the Seattle Art Institute.

Why open a tattoo shop in Sunnyside?

"This town needed a good tattoo shop," Dennis Welch said.

Stalksleet said he does three to four tattoos a day except for when he has big jobs like the one he was doing for Ruiz.

This is also the only tattoo shop in the Lower Valley. People either have to go to the Tri-Cities or Yakima where the average price for tattoo work is $100 an hour. Dennis Welch said 710 INK. charges $65 an hour. The owners are hoping the cheaper price and centralized location will attract customers wanting body art.

The clientele looking to get some body work done range from students and business people to policemen.

It wasn't always that way. There was a time when tattoos were looked down upon. They usually showed up on the bodies of sailors, bikers, convicts or rock stars.

Not so anymore.

"Tattooing has become mainstream," Stalksleet said. "A lot of people have them now."

Dennis Welch agreed. "It's almost strange if you don't have one," he joked.

Still, there are people who don't have tattoos who think lesser of those who do.

"There is discrimination," Dennis agreed.

Stalksleet said tattooing has been around for literally thousands of years. He said there have been bones of cavemen found with markings on their bones. A sign that maybe they went a little deep with whatever was used to tattoo the skin.

With tattoos becoming more and more mainstream, a big chunk of business is from people wanting their first tattoos.

"They always say it hurt a lot less than they had heard it would," Stalksleet added.

He prefers to have customers bring in their own ideas but he does have between 1,200 and 1,600 designs available to look at.

For now it's just Stalksleet who does the tattooing but Dennis is planning on learning. He will be doing piercings, as will Stalksleet, but Welch is hoping Stalksleet will be too busy doing tattoos to worry about piercings.

"Piercings go hand and hand with tattoos," Stalksleet said.

He says he is open to doing all kinds of piercings, even the stomach churning Prince Albert.

There are some things Stalksleet doesn't like to do. He said he won't tattoo someone on their head, unless they're at least 26 years old.

"All the requests have been from people younger than 26 and after I've told them no, they have to be at least 26, they've never been back," he said.

He also said he gets requests from people for tattoos with their boyfriend's or girlfriend's name. He makes a small effort to talk them out of it but says once they've gone that crazy about a tattoo there is no way to talk them out of it.

"Every time you see someone with a name tattooed on them it's always an ex," Stalksleet added.

He said he has noticed a new trend among people getting tattoos. He said younger girls are wanting tattoos on their feet. Tribal tattoos are still pretty popular as well.

710 INK. is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Welches and Stalksleet are also available Monday and Tuesday by appointment only.

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