RICHLAND — Fifteen years ago, Charles Ray Weeks started collecting tattoos. Then about four months ago Weeks, also known as BigDaddie, opened BigDaddie’s Body Art Inc. on U.S. 49 South.
“I just love tattoos,” he said.
The name BigDaddie came from his real-life situation as a “big daddy.” Weeks’ daughter, Zandie Louise Weeks, was just one pound, two ounces at birth. The name BigDaddie just stuck, Charles Weeks said.
Weeks said the process of opening his shop was not a difficult one.
“You have to get in touch with the Mississippi State Department of Health and with the city to make sure you can be zoned for it,” he said. “Also you have to check that they’re (the city is) not opposed to it. Tattoo shops are sometimes undesirable.”
But, said Weeks, he has looked at other tattoo shops and knew what he liked and did not like about them, even right down to the way they were run.
“Most of the times they (other tattooists) don’t talk to you about anything,” he said. “You have to ask them questions and ask them prices and we don’t run our shop that way. We actually have customer service, which is what a lot of shops don’t have.”
Another thing Weeks is pleased about is the large selection of flashes, or tattoo designs, he has. Also, he said, people have commented on how clean the shop is.
“The number one thing we do as far as our clients are concerned is that we don’t reuse our needles,” he said. “Everything is opened from a sealed manufacturer’s package. That is the number one thing as far as sanitation.”
He added that he and his shop’s other tattooist also pays close attention to the work areas. “I put in 18 hours a day in this shop,” he said. “It’s a lot of dedication. People who work for you have to be dedicated as well.”
Weeks purchased a hospital grade autoclave and an ultrasonic cleanser when he opened up for business. Everything outside of the tubes used in the tattoo machines is disposable. Individual ink caps and disposable razors are also used.
“You have to be extremely sanitary with your equipment,” he said. “We use latex gloves and disinfect the skin before applying the tattoo.”
David Buchanan, director of the office of licensure at the Mississippi State Department of Health, said there are several qualifications a tattooist must meet before he or she can become licensed in Mississippi. First, the tattooist, not the shop, must pay a licensure fee of $150 per year. Next, the facility has to meet the state’s epidemiological standards. A nurse goes out and spends some time with the tattooist, and witnesses him or her performing at his or her profession before the license is issued. The shop is then checked at a minimum of once a year unless reports are received about unsanitary practices.
“We don’t get that many complaints on places,” Buchanan said. In fact, out of more than 120 tattooists in the state, only three have had complaints filed against them. Two complaints were for tattooing a minor and the third was for nonpayment of child support.
“They do a good job policing each other because they want to improve the image of the profession,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan said before getting a tattoo, one should make sure the artist is registered with the health department. Then make sure there is some appearance of cleanliness and sanitation in the facility. And, Buchanan said, the tattooists need to make sure that they take their own personal precautions of coming into contact with blood and other bodily fluids and practice good personal hygiene.
“The same kind of risk you run into in that type of facility you’ll run into in any type of facility like a doctor’s office,” Buchanan said.
Tattoos are becoming more acceptable these days, Weeks said, but that does not mean there is still not some discrimination against tattooed individuals.
“There is a repercussion as far as getting a job,” he said. “Ninety percent of the people who walk into a shop want it (their tattoo) somewhere it can’t be seen. That’s simply old school.”
But, he said, the younger generation seems to be more accepting of tattoos. “They’re the ones who will be in charge of hiring and firing and it’s not going to make a difference sooner or later,” he said.
For now though, many employers are asking their employees to cover up their tattoos, Weeks said.
“There are instances where people have tattoos on their forearms and their employers make them wear long-sleeved shirts or Ace bandages over them.”
Jerry McBride, president of the Mississippi Manufacturers’ Association, believes tattoos are a fad.
“I don’t think the popularity of tattoos is going to continue,” he said. “The unfortunate aspect of it is that it’s permanent so if someone decides they don’t want this at a later time it’s a rather painful process to get rid of it.”
Jeannie Adcock, administrator at the Clinic of Plastic surgery on North State Street, sees many people who come in wishing to get their tattoos removed.
“I certainly think from what I see on the streets that tattoos are becoming more acceptable,” she said. “Now you see a lot of kids and adults (wearing tattoos) as an expression of themselves.”
But sometimes people change their minds about their tattoos and may one day wish to have them removed, Adcock said.
“Maybe they got a job where they feel it’s inappropriate,” she said. “Someone may have been young when they did it and may have changed their mind.”
Dr. William Wallace has been practicing plastic surgery for 21 years. He now works at the Clinic of Plastic Surgery.
“It’s not an easy task,” he said of tattoo removal. “Taking them off is just as difficult, and as uncomfortable, if not more so as getting them on.”
For years, the only way to remove a tattoo was to excise the part of skin on which the tattoo was put. With the advent of the laser though, it has become a less painful and less invasive process. But the process does not always completely remove a tattoo, Wallace said.
“It works well on blacks, blues and darker colors,” he said. “Molecules of pigment and paint absorb heat and blow up so they’re less noticeable and your body then begins to absorb them.”
Dermabrasion is another process that can be used for tattoo removal. In the process, the skin is basically “sanded” off with a spinning diamond-covered wheel.
“Any of those treatments are going to cost more to get it off than it cost to put it on,” Wallace said. “By the time you get a facility and pay the physician, you could pay a minimum of $1,000 to $1,500 to get it removed. You might spend three times what it cost to put it on.”
Weeks believes tattoos are a form of self-expression and should be viewed as such.
“You have doctors, lawyers, business executives and presidents that have complete bodysuits or tattoos you’re simply not aware of,” he said. “It doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. I just feel it’s a way to express individuality.”
Weeks works with his brother, tattoo artist Andrew Weeks, and with tattoo artist Micah Babin, also known as “Magic Mike.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1042.