Not all ink is created equal. While tattoo parlors are a dime a dozen in Los Angeles, Occidental students have scoped out some local favorites. They range from small, inexpensive parlors that focus on walk-ins to high-profile shops that service celebrities and design custom tattoos weeks in advance.
Tattoo Love is a small tattoo and piercing parlor located on Eagle Rock Boulevard and Addison Way—about a 15 minute walk from campus. The parlor is decked out in skulls and flowers. This aesthetic gives the parlor a slightly eerie and gothic vibe. Its small size and friendly employees create a comfortable atmosphere that makes it easy to feel at home in the shop; however, the parlor has gotten mixed reviews from Occidental students.
Sasha Munch (first-year) loved her experience at Tattoo Love in February, during which she got a small tattoo of a world map on her wrist. The tattoo, in part, honors her half-Czech and half-American background.
“I travel a lot, and it’s really important to me to learn about different countries,” Munch said.
Munch, who got her tattoo in early February, said her favorite part of her experience was the friendliness of the employees. She loves the way it turned out and would recommend Tattoo Love to anyone looking to get a tattoo in LA.
Laura Koeller (junior) had a more negative experience. Koeller, who is from Chicago, spent last summer in LA. Feeling homesick, she went to Tattoo Love to get small K inked on her ankle, which represents the “Kimball” stop on the “L” train that runs through Chicago.
“I was so homesick, so I did it very spur-of-the-moment,” Koeller said. “I had thought of it before, but doing it the day I did was a pretty impromptu decision.”
According to Koeller, she chose Tattoo Love because it was nearby, not because she had done research on the shop.
“I was more motivated by catharsis than anything else … and I was mostly just pissed off because of how much I hated my job and just kind of wanted to go home. I was over being an adult for the time being,” Koeller said.
Koeller’s tattoo did not heal well, and although she is not sure what might have gone wrong, she knows her tattoo did not turn out the way she had imagined.
“It looks kind of like I was branded,” she said. “When people see it, they’re like, ‘Oh my god, what is that?'”
Although Koeller would not recommend Tattoo Love to a friend, she does not regret getting her tattoo there. The tattoo still serves its purpose as a reminder of home.
Koeller warns against choosing a tattoo parlor based on pricing.
“My advice with tattoos is … it’s worth shelling out more money than you maybe really want to pay to get a good one. If it’s not worth it to you to pay a little extra money, then it probably isn’t worth getting,” Koeller said.
Tattoo Love is open Tuesday–Saturday 12–9 p.m. and Sunday 12–5 p.m. There is a price minimum of $60, and, after that, prices are set based on the size and intricacy of the tattoo.
American Electric Tattoo Company:
American Electric Tattoo Company is located on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake—about a 15 minute drive from Occidental. It has six tattoo artists and does not offer services besides tattoos. The old-fashioned script on the front of the shop and decor throughout the parlor give it a hip, classic feel. According to the owner Craig Jackman, American Electric is old-fashioned in that it accommodates walk-ins rather than just people with appointments. He considers the business to be open-minded, friendly and willing to work to meet the desires of all its patrons. Although American Electric offers all types of tattoos, the shop puts an emphasis on American traditional style tattoos, which have bold black outlines and a limited color palette.
Theodora Doyon (senior) got a red, rectangular tattoo on her arm. She says that the significance of her tattoo relates to her family and the place she calls home. Doyon loved her experience because of her tattoo artist, Julie Bolene, who was very supportive and even comforted Doyon’s friend when she passed out after getting her tattoo. According to Doyon, it was important that she found a tattoo artist that she could trust and felt comfortable with.
“I think that a lot of times it’s really hard to find tattoo artists who are good with first-timers, or even who are good about women getting tattooed,” Doyon said. “[My artist] was amazing. She’s an amazing tattoo artist, and she treated me really well.”
Soraya Sebghati (junior) has two tattoos from American Electric and loves them both. She got her tattoos because she thinks that tattoos are an artistic way to tell a story.
“I love the idea of art that becomes a part of your body. We often have scars on our bodies … it’s cool to have a sort of scar that you wanted there that’s in a shape and color that you chose deliberately,” Sebghati said.
Sebghati said she was extremely nervous before getting tattooed for the first time.
“My mom was out of town and didn’t quite know that I was going to get it, and it was my first time in a tattoo parlor,” Sebghati said. “I was concerned about not being thought of as a total nerd by the people in the shop, and I was also nervous about the pain because I don’t have a particularly good history with needles.”
Jackman was Sebghati’s artist. According to Sebghati, Jackman made her feel at ease despite her fear. He calmed her down before getting her tattoo, and afterward gave her a playful slap and a glass of water.
Sebghati recommends doing extensive research about tattoo parlors beforehand to find out what different artists specialize in and which shops receive good reviews. Like Koeller, she also recommends choosing a talented artist and quality parlor over an inexpensive price tag.
No matter the tattoo parlor though, Sebghati advises thinking about a tattoo design long and hard before making a decision. She makes herself wait at least a year to get a tattoo after she first starts thinking about it.
American Electric is open from 12–8 p.m., seven days a week. It specializes in more intricate tattoos, and the minimum price is set at $100–120.
True Tattoo is located in Hollywood on Cahuenga Boulevard—about a 25 minute drive from Occidental. It is a large shop that borrows from the punk rock aesthetic—from the music that plays in the parlor to wall to wall artwork. True Tattoo specializes in traditional sailor as well as portrait and Japanese-style tattoos, which is evident in the style of art that covers the walls, as well as the logo on the front of the shop.
Gregory Capra (junior) got the cover of his favorite book, “The Barron in the Trees,” tattooed on his upper arm at True Tattoo in January. The title of the book is written in the book’s original language, Italian, because his family is Italian.
“The tattoo represents a way of living, a way of thinking that I always want to remember,” Capra said.
Capra is happy with his tattoo, which he attributes to the skill of his artist as well as the amount of planning he put into it.
“I wasn’t nervous because I was ready, and had planned it for a long time,” Capra said. “I knew the artist was well-known, very popular and did great work. I knew it would turn out exactly how I wanted it.”
Capra recommends True Tattoo for people who are interested in more intricate tattoos. According to him, the parlor does not typically do quick tattoos, but rather bigger, more well-thought-out ones.
Although it does not have a price minimum, True Tattoo is a more expensive parlor. It is open Sunday–Thursday 12–10 p.m. and Friday–Saturday 12 p.m.–12 a.m.
Of all the tattooed students interviewed, the happiest ones seem to have some things in common: many planned their tattoos in advance, did research on their tattoo parlor and bonded with their artist. Although tattoos can be pricey, Occidental students recommend paying more money, as it often pays off in the long run. So whether the tattoo is meaningful or simply artistic, putting some thought into the process can make one’s body art stand the test of time.