The Anchor Ink Crew (L-R): Thomas “Buzz” Busby, Jake Goss, Jon Poulson, Steve Tippetts, Jeana Perry and Jason Thomas. Photo: Gage Thompson
Drop into any halfway hip spot and you’re diving into a veritable sea of ink. It’s a sea into which I just recently dipped my feet when I got my first and only—so far, that is—tattoo.
A couple of months ago I waltzed into Anchor Ink. Opening the door to the busy shop, I looked around: clean, tile floors, white walls garnished with examples of the artists’ work—solid drawings abounded. Convinced and reassured that I wasn’t about to make a permanently regrettable decision, I set up an appointment with artist Jon Poulson, and a week later I had a rad gonzo sword and circle-A on my arm. Sure, getting a tattoo hurt, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as scraping up your shin with a skateboard. Poulson was nice as hell, as all the other artists working in the shop seemed to be, and I was crazy about the job he had done the second he finished.
For a while, I felt like I had a new, alien part of my body. Having a new tattoo was like sprouting an extra wiener. I mean, it was awesome, but every time I looked in the mirror it freaked me out a little bit. After a couple days, I was totally accustomed to seeing it, and now I can’t imagine being without. I don’t know how I lived life before having two wieners. Er, a tattoo, I mean.
Anchor Ink, located at 1103 S. State Street, is celebrating its fifth anniversary this October. Five years surviving on a street lined with about a million competitors is no small feat. But for the shop that claims to employ “the most regular people in the tattoo industry,” their success comes from their ability to create all kinds and styles of tattoos. Among the six artists working at Anchor Ink, any customer will be able to find their ideal match. Besides Poulson, there’s owner Steve Tippetts, who has been in the game for a decade; Thomas “Buzz” Busby, who doubles as the shop manager; Jeana Perry, who apprenticed under Tippetts and is now a full-fledged professional; Jake Goss, a referral from the widely respected shop Painted Temple; and Jason Thomas, the face-tatted transplant from Northern California who has been tattooing for nearly a decade.
Shop manager Buzz explains what keeps Anchor Ink well respected and in business in a saturated market. “A lot of these other shops want to stand out by specializing in something. Some shops prefer to do traditional type tattooing. Others prefer to do portraits,” he says. “We’re here to do whatever we can—custom work, portraits. There are six of us, we’ve got six different flairs, and everyone here is universal. We’ll do whatever, and it’ll be a high-grade tattoo.”
For Tippetts, a man who rarely takes a vacation, this year’s anniversary represents five years of serious work. In that time, Anchor Ink has seen some artists come and go, the building in which the shop is located has expanded and the shop’s clientele has grown. “This building has a lot of history,” says Tippetts. “For me, it has kind of come full circle. I got my first professional tattoo here, and now I own it.” That was back when the building still housed ASI Tattoos. Tippets chose Jack Eldredge to give him that first tattoo and would later complete his apprenticeship under Eldredge’s supervision.
Even before his apprenticeship, Tippets was already giving tattoos. He started inking unprofessionally when he was only 15—mostly skulls and flames, he admits. “Growing up, all my favorite musicians and skateboarders had tattoos. I was drawn to it,” he says.
Buzz agrees. “I wanted to be an illustrator. I think what really turned me onto it was when Sepultura put out their album Arise,” he says. “The graphics from that just blew me away. But then I started going to hardcore shows, and all those dudes were tattooed. And I was already into art, so slowly I started leaning toward it.”
Friends asked Buzz to create some artwork for their tattoos, and after seeing the tattoo artist’s shoddy interpretation of his original idea, he decided that he could do a better job. After some practice tattooing his tag on himself, he became a tattoo artist, a gig that he says, when you stop to think about it, could be much worse. “I’m a 37-year-old man who draws pictures for a living,” he says, grinning.
To celebrate the anniversary, the Anchor Ink crew will be gathering at The Republican on Saturday, Oct. 22 with music from Ugly Valley Boys and some heavy partaking of libations. If past parties are any indication, the five-year is sure to be a rager, leaving attendees in a groggy state of recovery for days following. Tippetts describes one of the past year’s fiestas. “We sold more whisky that night than they usually do on St. Patrick’s Day,” he says. With any luck, this year’s celebration will be the wildest so far, and tattooed types can look forward to more anniversaries to come.