Sunday, August 16, 2009

Simple Life

For one artist, life is more than computer graphics - he prefers to see the wires.


He puts on latex gloves and wipes down a chair and his work surface with a pale yellow liquid, from a clear squeeze bottle marked with the words antiseptic and swaddled in plastic cling wrap.
He changes his gloves.
He then wraps the arm of the chair in clear plastic cling wrap and covers his tray as well.
He changes his gloves.
Placing a small glob of Vaseline on his tray which he uses to assure the seven tiny plastic cups he is positioning, will not wiggle or tip.
He then fills each of these cups with beautifully colored polymer paints which he mixes to make the perfect shades he is picturing in his mind.
He changes his gloves and this time he picks up his tattoo machine and turns it on.
A loud buzzing fills the air, jarring at first but quickly the noise becomes part of the environment.
Needle to skin, he starts to tattoo.

***

When Joby Dorr, 30, of Sacramento, saw his first tattoo machine at the age of 19, he wanted to know everything about it.
This particular machine was homemade, “jail-house style,” from a BIC pen, a motor from a Walkman and a guitar string and Dorr was at a party, in an altered state.
“It was incredibly fascinating to me,” he said, “I have no clue that tattooing was going to go down that day.” But, with encouragement from the guests at the party, Dorr made the decision to perform his first tattoo - on his own leg.
“I was pretty proud of myself,” recalled Dorr. “The tattoo came out looking totally decent.”
It was apparent to him and everyone else at the party that Joby Dorr had real talent.
Dorr recalls that moment as shift when he suddenly had the realization that he wanted to be tattooing for the rest of his life.
Previously, Dorr’s art had been a very private undertaking and he never imagined that he would be able to turn his love of art into a profession while still being able to maintain the same level of independence, free reign and self-determination he found in his artistic hobby.
Dorr received a very positive response to that first tattoo though and successfully turned his talent into a profession by tattooing people in his community.
Dorr knew he wanted out of California and, after moving around a bit, he received a call from a friend asking if he’d like to move to Seattle.
“She said she could get me a job at a tattoo shop in Seattle,” Dorr said, “She called on a Monday and I left that Friday.”

***

Dorr has worked at several shops in the Seattle area. He even moved around a bit to areas of the country where money could be made quickly, like at Mardi Gras. After he made a good amount of money at events like those he would move to an area where he could work in an obscure tattoo shop and just enjoy the art.
While working in a popular tattoo shop in Seattle, Dorr met Atom Messmer, 33, and Christopher Gay, 37, who were discussing starting a venture of their own.
Dorr knew he wanted to stay in Seattle so when Messmer and Gay asked him to be a part of their new tattoo shop, he accepted.
In March 2002, Artcore Studios opened in the South Seattle neighborhood of Georgetown. Dorr, Messmer and Gay have been working together ever since.

***

Being friends for seven years now, Dorr, Messmer and Gay talk and pick on each other together like family. There seems to always be a joke to laugh at or a situation to reminisce about. When Messmer tries to think of three words to describe his friend Dorr, they all laugh, “Just three?” He asks, “You’ll have to give me time to think.”
Dorr lives a self proclaimed simple life. Besides tattooing, his love is bicycles. When visiting his MySpace page (www.myspace.com/joby) his passion for bikes and bike riding is obvious.
“Skinny,” says Messmer starting his description of Dorr.
Dorr also enjoys reading books about quantum physics, learning useless knowledge, and watching Sesame Street.
“Boring,” Messmer laughs, for his second descriptive word.
To Dorr, Sesame Street represents a simpler time.
“Everything now is done with computer,” he explains, “Sesame Street still uses coat hangers and wires.”
Oscar the Grouch and Slimey the Worm are Dorrs favorite characters on Sesame Street.
Dorr hopes that he can tattoo for the rest of his life but knows that there is always a risk of losing his tattooing ability through injury. He also expressed concern for a declining economy where people can no longer afford to be tattooed.
“Neurotic,” Messmer adds to the descriptive word list after deciding that uptight is too generous to describe Dorr,.
Dorr’s tattooing style cannot easily fit into a category but he finds inspiration from comic books, Japanese and Americana tattoo styles as well as art nouveau.
“Joby definitely has a unique style.” adds Messmer.
The tattoo artist Dorr most appreciates is Grime, a talented California tattooist who some have said to be one of the most notable tattoo artists ever to have lived.
“It’s obvious how much work he put into being a tattoo artist and how it’s paid off,” Dorr says about Grime.

***

Now living in South Park, Dorr currently tattoos 10-20 people each week. He spends roughly the same amount of time drawing tattoos as spends actually tattooing.
“Thorough,” Messmer adds and explains that being thorough is a great quality in a tattoo artist.
The majority of Dorr’s clients are returning customers. He does little to no advertising and says that most of his clients come to him because he tattooed someone they know. Word of mouth is high praise in the tattoo world.
“Cynical” says Messmer.
Dorr’s most memorable tattoo was a large chest piece which contained “an artichoke heart with angel shrimp and condiment bottles.” Dorr admits that his preferred tattoos are anything bazar but admits that he enjoys it all. As he puts it, his favorite tattoos are “nouns.”

Artcore Studios is located at 5501A Airport Way S, Seattle, WA 98108. They are open Tuesday through Saturday 12P - 9P and Sundays 12P - 7P. Call ahead for appointment times (206) 767-CORE (2673).

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