For 5 Questions this week, the Herald speaks with Bryon Burdick, owner of The Darkside Tattoo, located off South Washington Street in Grand Forks.
Q: How long have you been a tattoo artist, and what got you interested in it?
A: I started in tattoo shops just a little over 20 years ago. I actually started tattooing or messing around with it when I was about 14. I built my own tattoo machine at 14. I was always into art, always into drawing, and I had a couple of cousins that were tattoo artists. Back then they didn't have all the tattoo magazine stuff, they had Easy Rider. They would have quite a few competitions in it, so I just started drawing everything in there and just fell in love with it.
Q: What are trends in the industry now? What do people want?
A: It changes quite a bit, especially like placement areas, but I would say the trend right now is probably the watercolor-type tattoos. It's kind of hard to say right now because I get stuck in one genre, kind of heavy black and gray stuff. Portrait work is what I'm known for, so that's usually what I do a lot of. Religious tattoos have always been popular.
Q: What can tattoo artists do if they want to develop their skills? Is there a school?
A: I would say watch other artists. It always helps to have something else in heart. I airbrush and paint as well, and that's always helped make me a better artist, for sure. And then you kind of bring that into tattooing. Nowadays, it's more of an apprenticeship thing. Basically you bug the heck out of somebody at the shop until they agree to an apprenticeship, and you learn from them. Then you start learning from other artists and there's conventions you can go to that teach classes on different things. There are like, pop up (schools) all over the country that guys will go to, seminars and that kind of stuff.
Q: How has it been working on people up close during the pandemic?
A: We really didn't change much, and we've never had an outbreak in the shop. The only thing that really changed for us was wearing masks, everything else we already did, as far as the hand washing and the sterilization of all the surfaces and everything. We've been truly lucky throughout this whole year. Our shop manager had gotten it from a significant other, but all the artists have been safe. We haven't had any clients call back saying that they got COVID.
Q: What would you say to somebody who is on the fence about getting a tattoo?
A: If they're on the fence about it I would tell them to wait until they know for sure. It's a lifelong commitment. The people I get are heavily tattooed before I get to them, but still, I’ll try to talk them out of a name, like significant others. The best thing to do is just give your suggestion.