For more than 13 years, Topnotch Tattoos' team of artists has been adorning bodies with vibrant custom artwork. The tattooing trio—composed of Andrew Mullen, Steve Sims, and Nate Bjork—boasts a range of stylistic tendencies, from Steve's mastery of the iconic sailor jerry style to Nate's portraiture of Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney in their classic horror-film makeup. Resident piercing expert Oscar Martinez has made a study of all types of body modification, including surface-to-surface piercing, scarification, stretching, and permanent hand raising.
Ageless Arts Tattoo’s licensed tattoo artists are enamored with the concept of permanence. They know that their detailed, custom artwork will function as meaningful signifiers in their clients’ lives for years to come, and they don’t take their job lightly. For evidence that their work is top-notch, look no further than the studio’s gallery of carefully drawn designs. From breathtaking portraits in black ink to cartoonish renditions of video-game characters, these designs showcase a high level of artistry and, in some cases, a sense of humor. Not to be outdone, the studio’s piercers use only surgical-implant-grade materials for their body piercings. Their jewelry ranges from traditional hoops and studs to more radical selections, such as spikes and dangling vials of zombie blood.
Since the mid-’70s, Tattoo Factory’s crew of tattoo and piercing artists have been a fixture in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. Examples of artists’ work and suggested tattoos line the roomy studio’s exposed brick walls as neon signs and glossy wood floors add color and retro flair. Clients lounge in black salon-style chairs as the skilled artists carefully create vibrant, long-lasting pieces of body art, such as the name of a loved one or a list of must-buy grocery items. Customers can also download the business’s recently launched iTunes app to get more information about tattoo and piercing artists, as well as glimpses at their portfolios.
Tattoos start at $60 (prices vary by size and complexity). A number of smaller designs (one to three square inches) fall in the $80 range. And, of course, you can apply your $80 credit toward a more involved endeavor, like a full arm sleeve of your ex-lovers’ skeletons suffering in Hell. Or a big daisy. Piercings start at $55, and the rest of your Groupon $80 value can be used toward jewelry or jelly to fill the piercing.
In 1980, tattoos were still the sole province of the slightly edgy, and standards for tattoo parlors varied widely. Even so, when "Fat Joe" Scapini opened Jade Dragon Tattoo, he sought to set a new benchmark for cleanliness as well as quality, inventing a "toss-a-tube" system that begins each tattoo with fresh ink and a brand-new barrel and tube. Though Joe passed away in 2007, his wife and children continue to work with the shop's 12 artists and six body piercers to maintain the high standard of sterility, still using the same system the founder invented. Tattoo seekers work with the artists to develop custom designs, or they can choose to reference one of more than one million pieces of flash, or premade designs. The shop also performs traditional and dermal piercings on ears, noses, lips, or other creative places, such as the ear but a little off-center. While their bodies are being turned into works of art, clients can gaze at the riot of designs and other artifacts—animal masks, neon signs, golden dragons, and a jackalope among them—that cover the shop's electric-blue walls.