SIDNEY — Jason Lawson, of Sidney, has been a tattoo artist for 32 years.
He recently opened a new studio here. Bombshell Tattoo, at 1455 N. Main Ave., offers tattoos and piercings by appointment and to walk-ins.
Like many another 1987 Sidney High School graduate, Lawson went to work after graduation in the plant where his father worked. In his case, it was Stolle Precision Tool.
“But I was watching the industry change,” he said. “It was going to CNC instead of making things by hand.” He wasn’t wrong. Eventually, Stolle Precision Tool closed. But before that happened, Lawson had begun to put his drawing talent to work airbrushing and pinstriping vehicles and helmets.
“A friend who was a tattooer wanted me to do him,” Lawson said. That’s how he learned what has become his lifelong trade. He first worked at a tattoo studio in Piqua part time. He bought the shop and then one in Dayton.
But one evening, on the drive home to Sidney, he got caught in a snowstorm.
“I came home and said to my wife, ‘I can tattoo anywhere? Where do you want to live?” A move to West Palm Beach, Florida, happened soon after.
“I had been at a convention in New York and met a guy who had a shop there. I called and asked if he needed help. He said, ‘Do you want to come manage it for me?’” Lawson said.
He gave it a two-week trial and loved it. He ran the studio, then became part-owner and then opened another three shops.
“I was working all the time,” he said.
Realizing that he needed to slow down, when family issues gave him an opportunity to return to Sidney, he took it. For the last six years, he has been working in another local tattoo studio. But the time felt right this summer to open his own. He has customers who travel from Germany, the upper peninsula of Michigan, Kentucky and Missouri who have followed him from shop to shop.
“I’m an artist that tattoos. This is more an art studio than a tattoo studio,” he said. In addition to creating body art, Lawson paints guns as a hobby using Cerakote, a paint that binds itself to metal. He creates fine art on canvas using acrylics.
“I like to mix mediums like watercolor and salt. I’m all about experimenting with stuff,” he said.
Some of his tattoo customers through the years have been into experimentation, too. He has been asked to tattoo all possible body parts and to create tattoos for all kinds of reasons.
“I had a kid come in. He wanted ‘Esmerelda’ across his back in big Old English letters and under it, ‘My one true love,’ in script,” Lawson recounted. He finished the tattoo and his customer asked what time it was.
“I told him and he said, ‘Good! She hasn’t left for work yet. I know she’s going to lift that restraining order when she sees this!’” Lawson shook his head at the memory of it.
Bombshell Tattoo is fully licensed by the health department. Besides Lawson, individual contractor Ben “the Hobbit” Davis, of Sidney, and apprentice Jeremy Bayless, of Piqua, also see clients there.
“We are certified in blood-born pathogens and first aid,” Davis said. “We are the only totally disposable, non-reusable shop in Sidney.” That means that all tubes, needles and forceps are discarded after each use instead of being resterilized for continued use. Even the sinks have been fitted with no-hands faucets.
The men will turn away would-be customers only if what the customers want would not turn out well.
“We don’t have any flash (patterns),” Davis said.
“Everybody gets online. They come and say, ‘We want this,’” Lawson added. “We prefer to work off real pictures rather than something already done. If it’s already been done, then we don’t want to do it.”
“That’s Kinko’s,” said Davis.
“Plagiarism,” said Lawson. “We look up real flowers or whatever. Then, we’re artists. We draw it up.”
Both tattooers prefer consulting in person with clients.
“A big part of our job is being able to interpret what people ae trying to tell us and then getting it on paper. Most people don’t speak tattoo,” Lawson said.
Bombshell Tattoo is open from noon to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from noon to 6 p.m., Saturday. For an appointment, call 937-710-9103.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.