Tattoo artists ink Christian designs
Jennifer Lee Preyss
Oct. 20, 2010 at 5:20 a.m.
DID YOU KNOW?Tattooing has become one of America's fastest growing categories of retail business.
An estimated 15,000 tattoo studios are reportedly in operation, and it is estimated that at least one new studio opens daily.
Approximately 15 percent of Americans, or about 40 million people, have at least one tattoo.
In 1936 Life magazine estimated that 6 percent of the population, or 10 million Americans, had a tattoo.
About 16 percent of men in the United States have a tattoo, and 15 percent of women have at least one tattoo.
Not everyone will agree with Cheryl Mallette and her daughter Christy Martin's method of Christian ministry. But for them, it's the best way to reach unbelievers, they said.
As president and vice president of Timeless Tattoo Studio in Victoria, the mother-daughter pair is determined to share God's love with clients.
"I feel this is how I was called to minister to God's people, and I feel like I have a great opportunity to reach souls this way," Mallette said.
As the only Christian tattoo studio in Victoria, Mallette, 38, and Martin, 20, said their clients can expect much more than a professional and all-custom tattoo experience in their store. In addition to Timeless Tattoo's spa-like ambience, the studio provides a Bible study and prayer room on-site, and adheres to a company policy against performing tattoos that reflect demonic, satanic, or occult messages. They also will not tattoo on private areas of the body.
Mallette and Martin are recent converts to Christianity, but their experience with custom tattoo artistry dates back nearly two decades.
"I started apprenticing when I was 21, when Christy was about 4 years-old, and at that time I only had one tattoo," Mallette said. "Christy sort of grew up around the business."
Today, Mallette and Martin are heavily tattooed and pierced, each of them inked with about 40 different designs. And some of them aren't necessarily representative of a Christian message.
"We didn't know Christ then, and we have a few tattoos that definitely reflect our previous life," Mallette said.
Some of their tattoos, she said, are risqué and profane, and they are both now considering having them modified.
"I have this tattoo that says F.T.W. and I'm not sure what I'm going to do about that yet," Mallette said, pointing to a colorful skull tattoo on her neck with the acronym F.T.W. etched below.
"We can say it means 'For the wind,'" Martin said, laughing.
Between them, they also share several facial piercings, including metal bars and rings on the philstrum, bridge of the nose, septum, upper and lower lips, and cheeks, and both of their earlobes are stretched.
The business of tattooing is widely controversial in Christian circles because of the Old Testament Bible verse, Leviticus 19:28, that states, "Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord."
Many Christians believe they should still adhere to the Old Testament laws, while other Christians believe the New Testament in the Bible is a new covenant between God and man, and therefore the Mosaic laws of the Old Testament may not apply in certain cases.
Timeless Tattoo patron Amber Kilmer, 19, a Christian who attends Faith Family regularly, said she appreciates having a tattoo studio that adheres to Christian principles.
"I think it's great," Kilmer said. "A lot of people think Christianity looks a certain way, but I think God can love all people no matter what they look like."
On Friday, Kilmer will receive her first custom-drawn tattoo from Mallette.
Regardless of whether Christians see tattooing as right or wrong, Mallette said Christians of every stripe participate in body modification.
"Prior to being saved, people would ask me whether I thought tattooing was wrong, and I would tell them there are a lot of forms of body modification that people do without even thinking about it: They pierce their ears, cut their hair, have breast implants and face lifts, they get their nails done, and some women even tattoo eye liner and lip liner on their face," Mallette said. "Society sees those as normal, so where's the line?"
For now, Mallette and Martin see their body art and piercings as a way to reach people who wouldn't traditionally be excited about God.
"I think people of all walks can be used to minister now, and God may be using us to reach people who would never step foot in a church otherwise," she said.