Needled Art

Stefanie Buhrman

The needles aren’t visible when anyone walks in, but everyone knows they’re there. Covering the walls are artists’ licenses and pictures of previous work.

While it could be one of the most painful experiences of a person’s life, being tattooed is a rite of passage for some 18-year-olds in Iowa. However, the other side of the needle offers a different experience.

“I’ve been an artist all my life,” said Bob Parr, owner of Jaded Angel, 122 Welch Ave. “The thought of making people hurt for a living really sealed the deal, and I’ve always been into tattoos.”

Parr, an ISU alumnus, has been leaving his mark on people for nine years, starting just before he graduated. Another artist at the shop, Jeff McDaniels, has been working with ink for about three years.

“Obviously, I love and [have been] into tattoos since I was 18,” McDaniels said.

“I went to a shop with my artwork, and I was going to get some designs out of my book done on me, and [the artist] asked me if I had ever thought about being an artist – and I said no. He said he would teach me.”

Tattooing isn’t something you can learn in a day, though.

“There is a usually a year of studying under a working artist – watching other tattoos being done,” Parr said.

Apprentices practice on fruit – you can’t erase your mistakes in this business – and have to prove their devotion to the art.

“At first you have to work for free,” Parr said. “You are working a lot of hours and not getting paid – It really proves your dedication to it.”

This long commitment forces some to tap into other financial resources to pay bills.

“I put in nine months without getting a dime,” McDaniels said. “Luckily, I was getting unemployment from my other job.”

Finally, before being allowed to ink customers, an artist must obtain a permit from the Department of Public Health.

Despite possible social and personal drawbacks, both Parr and McDaniels said they regret nothing.

“From my family, everyone’s been super supportive,” McDaniels said. “Old bosses have called me to come back, but I am a tattoo artist now and I’m loving it.”

Tattooing is about passion and art and is a job that leaves lasting memories.

“The best part is being where I am now, being a full-blown tattoo artist – putting my work on people,” McDaniels said.