Artists have always been able to express themselves in so many different ways, from poetry to painting, sculpture work to fashion, and yes, even tattoos.
Those such as Stacy Lucas and Olivia Whan have trained to manipulate ink to create artwork on the human body and now are seeing their dreams come to life not just on skin.
Lucas is the owner of Youniquely You Tattoo studio at 104 E. Second St., Seymour. She held a grand opening event April 22. Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, Lucas moved to Seymour when she was 14 and was introduced into the art of tattoos.
As someone with a pen or pencil always in her hand, Lucas developed a love for drawing and eventually was able to sell her artwork to a tattoo artist at Mystic Ink, another Seymour tattoo studio, to be used for flash pieces.
“He was putting my artwork on people, and I started seeing it,” she said. “That just really opened up my passion for tattooing.”
Lucas started tattooing at 17, and in no time, she was hooked. By 19, she was able to put herself through school at Ohio State University with her tattoo apprenticeship with Nate Perry, former tattoo artist for Skeleton Crew in Columbus.
“We didn’t grow up with money, so it was my boost to get me up and going,” she said.
After achieving her bachelor’s degree in marketing and sales and a master’s degree in business management, Lucas took on many leadership positions over the years, including one at Rightway Fasteners Inc. in Columbus, but her dream was still to open her own tattoo studio someday.
Now at 37 with her dream becoming a reality, Lucas said she hopes to create something “Younique” for anyone who comes in her shop.
“For me, it’s about creating something nobody else has. I love creating custom pieces,” Lucas said. “Whenever a client sees something, I helped create for them and they get excited about it, it brings me joy.”
She said before she started tattooing on people, she practiced on oranges and learned to draw with the vibration of a tattoo machine using an ink pen attached to the machine.
“Sometimes, I use stencils, but most of the time, I draw straight onto the skin because I have taught myself to draw with the vibration,” she said.
While Lucas has a passion for tattoos, she doesn’t have many on herself, except for her first tattoo on her ankle. That was completed by her niece, Kyra Klossner, when she was only 5 and another one on her lower back done by Perry.
Lucas said she loves that tattoos can be placed anywhere, but with working in the corporate world, appearance is still a factor.
“Being in the corporate world, having tattoos is still something that can affect business deals, clientele and other factors depending on the kind of business,” she said. “It has stopped me from being able to express art on myself, but with this business, I hope to slowly transition out of the corporate world.”
Lucas said there are still people who classify those with tattoos as rebels or delinquents, but she has seen a change in organizations and businesses being open-minded to tattoos.
Another problem that Lucas mentioned is people not being able to afford the tattoos they want. She said with her business, she wants to help those get the tattoos they want and when they can afford it.
“Say someone wants a memorial piece, but they don’t have the money to afford the whole thing. I start with 50% down and help get them started. Then we work together as they can afford it,” she said. “This allows for someone to be able to get the art they want and not miss out on something just because they can’t afford it.”
Lucas said she didn’t start her business for the money but for the passion of creating something new for her clients to enjoy on their body.
“As a tattoo artist, you never really know everything. You can never stop learning,” she said. “There are so many genres, techniques and styles that it’s impossible for someone to know it all. I am constantly learning and want to be the best for the people that come in here.”
Lucas hopes to be all female operated with the help of her family, Stephanie and Kiersten Anderson, as well as her niece, who will start an apprenticeship when she turns 17.
“All of this wouldn’t be possible without the support of my family and my fiancé, Josh Conrad,” she said.
In June, Lucas hopes to have the studio open from noon to midnight Monday through Saturday and offer a “get what you get” gumball machine filled with tattoo designs for $50.
Whan was gifted with the talent of drawing ever since she could pick up a pencil.
The 20-year-old moved around some as a child, spending time in Nebraska, before moving to southern Indiana when she was in fifth grade. Whan then went to live with her mother, Natalie, in Brownstown when she was in eighth grade.
Her mother kept Whan’s first childhood drawing on a piece of cardboard along with other mementos.
Whan then started going to a few art classes but was not able to express her full creativity in a classroom setting.
She said it wasn’t until she saw the show “Ink Master” that she discovered the wide variety of art on people’s skin and how that could allow her creativity to thrive.
Whan said her mother already saw the potential artist in her and decided to give her a tattoo machine for her 12th birthday. She first started tattooing on fake skins and fruit as well as teaching herself from watching other artists work.
Whan remembered when she first knew tattooing was something she could do as a career when she was 14 at a summer camp.
“My friend wanted me to draw something on her with a Sharpie, and then another person wanted a drawing, as well,” she said. “Then all of a sudden, I had a line out the door with people wanting Sharpie tattoos. Even the counselors were wanting them.”
Whan knew then tattooing was something she could do and find pride in when one of the counselors who received a Sharpie tattoo later asked Whan to tattoo her.
“I like the permanence of tattoos, which not a lot of people like, but it shows growth and I get to see steps in my life through art,” she said. “It’s like time stamps and a way to express yourself.”
Currently, Whan is working with black and grey as well as traditional tattoos, but she also enjoys neo-traditional tattoos involving cartoons, anime and dark horror art. However, as an artist, she is open to many different genres and styles.
The first tattoo Whan tried was a small heart on her ankle, which she then added on to by drawing a blade that went through it. Whan said it’s hard to pick a favorite tattoo out of the 29 on her body, but she loves the many cat tattoos and a recent piece by fellow artist Slater Adams.
Whan will be joining Adams and another artist, Travis Harrison, also known as “Chappie,” at a new tattoo studio in Columbus called Bankai at 2428 Beam Road.
Whan said creativity, open-mindedness and determination are what make a good artist, something she hopes to strive for in her career.
“You really want your own work to get out there instead of something that’s pasted,” she said.
Whan hopes to see the artform of tattoos become more accepted in corporate and business environments, as a person’s appearance does not define the person’s character.
“I know a lot of people who are just as business professional that are covered in tattoos, and they are some of the kindest people I have met,” she said.
Whan said the support of her mother and her friends throughout the years as she has grown her skills has been instrumental in landing her dream career.
“I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” she said.
As these artists continue to pursue their dreams in artistic expression, it goes to show that even humans can be the canvas.