Salt Lake City has fostered a steadfast tattooing scene for a couple decades now. It seems like no matter where you go within the city limits or beyond, there is an established shop to be found with committed, knowledgable, skilled and wise people on the tattoo machine. So you may have time to plan your next custom piece or esoteric flash once the heat dies down, SLUG has compiled images of tattooers’ work and their thoughts on their craft. Since it’s impossible to include everyone involved in local tattooing in one issue of SLUG, we’re mixing it up with a range of tattooers from different shops with a range of professional backgrounds, experience, etc. to depict a segment of the current local-tattooing mosaic of SLC/Utah.
Shop: Black Thumb MST • 131 W. 2100 South • 801.419.0724 • @blackthumb_mst
Years tattooing: Eight.
Where you apprenticed and for how long: I apprenticed under the late Jesse Bruner in Salt Lake for a tiny sliver of time—only about 11 months. Not very impressive compared to the traditional two years.
What styles of tattooing do you favor/specialize in: My work has catered to my clients so much over the years that I can manage any style and would describe that as big, bright and bold. I am hoping to push my tattoos into larger versions of that “3Bs” philosophy. With the race to be the most tattooed person in any friend group, tattoos become bigger, bold will hold, and the eye is attracted to what’s bright, am I right?!
Favorite subject matter: I love tattooing anything organic: animals, trees, food, plants, clouds, elements, stones, life cycles, various stories of spirituality or mythology. Get deep with it, or get a fucking doughnut, whatever your truth is.
Favorite flash: Flash seems almost dead these days. But you’ll never beat that old Sailor Jerry sparrow or his roses or his anchors. Classic. What’s that quote from him? “My work speaks for itself,” or something? Fire.
Favorite custom piece you’ve done: I have had so many life-changing experiences tattooing that I could not pick my favorite moment, client or piece. That is a humbling thing to say, TBH.
Tattooer you admire: My biggest tattoo/artistic inspiration, hands down, is Jeff Gogue.
Other visual art you make: I also paint, dress in drag, sing and cook. Who’s hungry?!
Tattooing guilty pleasure: Sacred geo and mandalas. Why? Because I like to punish my hands.
Nerdiest thing you know about tattooing: Nerdiest thing I know about tattooing? The things we use to make tattoos are not guns. No tattooer anywhere tattoos with a gun. The technical term is “tattoo machine.” Tattooing can get nerdier than that, but let’s just start with Tattoo 101: The Machine.
Best tattooing tunes to play in the shop: I tattoo the best to mellow electronic stuff.
Shoutouts: Shout out to Black Thumb MST crew! Oak Adams, Walt Watts, Jesse Carlton, Bonnie Seeley and Ryan Cumberledge. Thanks for putting up with my nonsensical singing every day and pushing me to be a better artist. Mad love! And shout out to SLUG Mag for keeping Salt Lake informed and for creating spotlights for local artists like myself. Love and light, and may we all continue to shine. Thank you.
Find a selection of Loke’s works below:
All photos courtesy of Tori Loke