By Lisa Morgan
I have spent years contemplating getting a tattoo. Most of the people I love have them. The artwork I have seen is impressive, for the most part, and the meanings behind them reflective, meaningful and powerful. 45 million people in America have at least one tattoo. I am not one of them, at least not yet. Having investigated and researched the idea for some time, the approach for me was riddled with questions and excuses to avoid the commitment. After all, this is to become a permanent part of my person, so it has got to be perfect, and represent lifelong meaning, as opposed to regret. Now, at 47 years old, I know what things represent true, unshakeable value in my life: my faith, my children and music. I also have a very good idea of the artwork that I want to have represent these precious things. Figuring that out was only half of my battle. Where do I go? Who do I trust? As equally imperative as the artwork, is my health and ultimate, long term satisfaction.
It wasn’t enough that I had a few strong references for the shop. I wanted to know my artist’s background, the long term customer response, their attention to sanitation, detail to overall cleanliness and how they handled their customers. I walked into the TG Tattoo gallery a little after 12:00 pm on a Tuesday afternoon. I felt a little awkward; walking in alone to what was a whole new world for me. I was immediately greeted by a handshake and friendly professional eye contact, followed by a warm hug; not what I expected from the strikingly tall and sturdily built CEO, Sean Wood, who displayed quite an array of incredible artwork and color himself. His artwork represented the San Francisco area he hails from and the word “Daddy”, a title that he wears with obvious pride. As I observed, 4 clients were getting their own artwork done, sitting relaxed and calm as if they were getting a haircut sans the barber shop/salon gossip and banter. I was immediately put at ease by the professional demeanor of the place.
I got straight to the point, and asked Sean about their health record and how they complied with the regulations that would ensure that I would not be at any health risk. He literally showed me the clip boards and charts that documented the sterilization procedures and equipment with a firm word of advice: “No matter what shop you consider using, ask them to show you their sterilization room and procedures. If they won’t show it to you, they’ve got something to hide.” Sean went on to explain how he worked directly with the county health department to establish and improve the health regulations and practices that are now currently in place for local tattoo shops. This further set my mind at ease, as I found myself gaining confidence in this place at every turn. He also directed me to a link on their website where they helped develop an educational public service announcement video warning people, most especially women, of the dangers of the “garage tattoo”. “We’re here for the long term,” Sean states firmly. “We sell quality. You can be assured it will heal properly and be there for good. Good tattoos aren’t cheap, and cheap tattoos aren’t good.”
I then learned more about TG Tattoo’s lead artist and Sean’s business partner, Tony Francois. Tony has several years of hands on experience with some amazing artwork to show for it. During Tony’s apprenticeship, he was trained to learn all tattoo art forms. Yet, over the years, he has finessed the art of “full color realism”. Sean then introduced me to the other artists on staff, a group of people Sean refers to as the TG Tattoo family. Steven Belli excels in Southern California, fine line, black and grey artistry; Adam Norman focuses on full color realism, and John Fonoti brings a strong, traditional Polynesian art form to the group. Every one of them took a moment to pause what they were doing, greet me warmly and professionally with the eye contact that just seemed to tell me I was in the right place.
Another very cutting edge aspect to this place was the array of t-shirts and designs, both for men and women, representative of the artwork and culture of the store itself. Come to find out, Sean carries a very solid background in wholesale clothing, merchandizing and branding industry, having worked with brands the likes of Diesel and Levi Straus on an executive level. Again, his passion for quality and the integrity of the TG Tattoo brand was an obvious source of pride, and a priority, as he shared plans to grow the merchandise end of the business.
Sean and the team at TG Tattoo, in a matter of 30 minutes, left me with no excuses to not take the next step in this adventure. I announced that I was ready to get a tattoo. Sean politely let me know that they are currently booked two weeks out, but that we could set up a consultation with an artist and then set an appointment to get the artwork done. Then, as I left, he politely saw me to my car, ensuring that I got to it safely. Now, here I wait; “Little Miss Scared of the Tat, Scaredy Cat” counting down the days until I can scratch off one more item on the bucket list.
It is important for me to let you, my reader, know that I stand behind the words that I write. I am a promoter, not a critic; this is true. But I don’t write what I don’t believe in and can’t stand behind. Had this visit not turned out the way it did, and were I not willing to do what I am recommending my readers in the market to consider, this article would not be published with my name on it. I really do believe in this business that these two business men have basically built from the ground up with their own two hands. I will definitely be following up with another article detailing the experience of getting my first piece of body art.
You can also check out TG Tattoo’s five star rating on Yelp. The TG Tattoo studio is located at 68186 Ramon Road, Cathedral City (760) 324-9828 or check out their website at tgtattoo.com.