COMPITECTURE
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Art & Soul: Inkronicity Tattoo

“Wear your heart on your skin in this life.”

- Sylvia Plath, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams: Short Stories, Prose and Diary Excerpts

A punctuated buzzing rakes the air. The radio is a hushed but busy crowd in the background of a cozy downtown building. The energy in the room is soothing and accompanied by welcoming, warm smiles. Art of all sorts greets me alongside the ever-friendly and classic beauty of one, whose name says it all, Starrlene Love. I am face to face with intrigue incarnate. Welcome to Inkronicity Tattoo, where I sat down for an afternoon with artists/owners April Dawn Moore, Josh Carter, and their newly appointed apprentice, Nathan. From humble beginnings from a Calgary bedroom to the highs and lows of learning the trade. From new toys and tech to other facets of creative expression, including fire-spinning. We will cover the topics of Reiki and a rainbow-colored crossword-puzzle-adorned penis with a pot-of-gold ball sac. Oh yes, we’re venturing through one hell of a conversation!

Freshly passing the 11-year anniversary of her career as a tattoo artist, I sit first with Miss April Dawn. As Josh is amidst a fresh masterpiece in the next booth over, April and I began the discussion of where it all began. (We will interject with some of Josh’s written answers that he submitted later on for these same questions.)

“Well, when I was five years old, my mother said, ‘Never get a tattoo. If you ever want one, draw it on yourself in pen. Then, it will wash off!’ So I spent my whole childhood drawing all over everyone and everything. Somehow, my mom was surprised when I became a tattoo artist,” (laughs). “I wanted to be an actress when I was younger and then I realized that you kind of have to sell your soul to go that direction. I didn’t want to do that.”

Speaking about what a different world and atmosphere Hollywood creates versus the world of tattooing and body modification, we agree that this was the smarter choice! I ask April if she remembers what made her want to become the artist rather than get a bunch of tattoos.

“I think I wanted to be an artist before I even got one. Getting one was more my step towards becoming an artist.”

When asking Josh the same question, he fills us in on something even April did not know. He says that tattoos were not even in his vicinity, and he didn’t know about them until he was older. He had no idea there were different needles or anything of the sort. Josh explains,

“I’ve always been an artist. I was getting into punk rock and learning to play guitar when the idea of being covered in tattoos first crossed my mind. It was many years later that I got my first tattoo and it wasn’t until someone showed me how to make a homemade machine a few years after that, that I really thought about me, myself, tattooing. I saw how it was done and was like, ‘I can do that.’ A lot of people say that and it doesn’t work out, but it happened to be right for me.”

Josh’s first tattoo? Metal Rooster Chinese Zodiac. April’s?

April’s Marilyn — Face/Color Correction by Josh Carter

“I got Marilyn Monroe with angel wings. It says, ‘Carpe Diem,’ on my thigh. Four and a half hours.” (I wince.) “Up in Canada. I don’t even remember what the studio was called. The guy was named Wes. Josh finally fixed it up last year. He did a terrible job of her face, so I had a really terrible Marilyn face for ten years and now she looks beautiful again,” (laughs).

Swaying the conversation towards cover-up tattoos, I ask if this is something they do often.

“Oh, tons!,” April excitedly responds. “I would say that is one of our specialties. There’s no project too big or too dark. Usually, if it’s scarred up, we can get some of that texture to go away.”

I have spoken to other artists about cover-up work, both on a tattoo of my own and in a general sense, and the majority seem reluctant to do this kind of work because of lines, shading, scarring and other obstacles that make the process a tedious feat.

“Yes. If you’re not sure what you’re doing, then you can really make it worse. Then it’s harder to cover up again,” April offers.

Cover-Up by April Dawn

I joke about a double cover-up, raising the question if they have ever had to tackle a double.

“Oh, tons! Yes,” April says as she smiles through a lighthearted sigh.

For April and Josh, the cover-up work is a joy, but is more strenuous on the imagination and the skill set than a regular piece. Comparatively, in her experience, she explains that other custom pieces (depending on size and color) tend to take a little less time than the cumulative amount of sessions it may take to get the job done precisely on a cover-up.

Going back, April and I touch more on her beginning in this journey and where it has brought her along the way. A nurturing creative environment and positive reinforcement made for a great start! Her parents, artists themselves, made a 15-year career out of their passion for wood carving and other mediums while she was growing up. Having apprenticed in Calgary, first with two gentlemen who April says taught her how NOT to tattoo, she established an official apprenticeship and friendship with artist Chrys Goldberg.

“He taught me a lot! He took me to conventions and showed me a lot,” she says.

Josh did his apprenticeship here in Billings years ago with established artist, Cindy, at Cin City.

After some years beginning her career in Canada, April made her way to the States. Red Lodge was her first stop, making her way to Billings around 6 years ago. She hopes to make this her home-base for a good while, smiling and saying that it has grown on her. April’s son, Zenneth (6), and Josh’s two sons, Talon(10) and Tavin(14), are also drawn to the arts. Of Zenneth, she says that while he is slightly desensitized to the environment and the more artsy life, having been raised around it so much, he thoroughly enjoys the events they have hosted! Talon and Tavin are also expressing their love for art with music, drums in particular. All three boys have taken to drawing and, “other artsy things, too,” as April puts it. The love for art and a passion for creative expression is a family affair.

Cover-Up by Josh Carter

Like the three boys, April and Josh’s creativity and skill set stretch far beyond their talent for tattoos. Both fire-spinners, musicians, painters and more, I stir this into our mix here as well. We dive into the freedom of the 3-D element and the break from the 2-D element in the form of paper mache, clay sculpting and the likes. April and Josh also share a love of performance art. They both play with the local band, OnSense, and both have impeccable flow art skills. We mentioned the fire-spinning, but April also enjoys,

“Poi, flags, and all sorts of things. Rope Dart, sometimes on fire and sometimes LED.”

She talks of the first time she saw Poi in person.

“The very first time, I was 14. I saw these three girls from Sweden doing a performance with LED Poi, and I was just enamored. I went on YouTube and I looked it up.” (smiles) “And then the first image that popped up was somebody who had hit themselves in the face with a Fire Poi and was missing their face! And I saw that at 14! I was like, ‘Okay, if you ever do this, you have to make sure you have professional training.’” (laughs) “I have tons of respect for it. Then in 2008, I saw these three people doing a performance at a Halloween event, and I was like, ‘Them. I want to meet them.’ Two years later I ended up moving in with them. Six months after that was when I figured out that they were the ones that I saw.” (laughs) “So, I lived with them for a few years and then I learned to dance with fire.”

Intrigued, I ask about the first time she braved fire as opposed to LED. Laughing, she shares,

“There was actually this comedian from Toronto. An up and coming comedian guy, and he came over to the house. They were like, ‘Hey, April. You’re going to start your first burn tonight.’ And I’m like, ‘In front of the comedian guy?’ Like, ‘Aaah!’ I was so terrified! I was like, ‘Okay we’re just going to go… a little bit backwards… forward… okay, we’re done!’” (laughs)

She says the nerves helped her keep focus. Although now, nerves are not something she often encounters in her performance art. Josh says that while he doesn’t steadily practice any other forms of art, aside from music, he is gaining interest in painting with acrylics and oils, spray paint art, sculpting and says that he is,

“Very excited to get into the 3-D printing revolution.”

Tattoo by Josh Carter

We talk about how performance art brought the two of them together. April first began working for Bre at Copper Cat Tattoo when she moved to Billings. Two years later, she would open her own shop in a rented area of Limber Tree Yoga Studio, called Inspire Ink. Josh, at the time, was running Great White Tattoo, which sat merely buildings away from Inspire. April was hosting the first of their now infamous events, this one being the Equinox show at Limber Tree, where Josh entered as April was midway through a dance number. Having heard a lot about April before meeting her, Josh spotted her at once.

“She was in costume when I met her, but she was stunning even through the make-up and apparel,” he says. “I would see her around and started seeing some of her work in person. That’s when I realized I had finally found someone who tattoos very similar to me and can tattoo in the style that I want.”

April tells,

“Yeah. Then at Masquerade, like, two weeks after that he said, ‘Do you like fractals?’ And I went, ‘Do I like fractals? Have you met me?’” (laughs)

We will touch back more in depth on fractals momentarily. Going back to Josh’s side of the tale, he says of that moment,

“I asked her one night if she likes fractals and I could see the sparkle in her eyes as she gave me the biggest smile. That was it. I was in love. Before too long, we were dating and working in two separate shops and living in two separate houses. So we decided to join forces entirely and open Inkronicity Tattoo.”

Joking about the decision to stop competing, April quips,

“ Yeah. exactly! And we got sick of running a block in between for lunch.”

Watercolor Fairy Wings — April Dawn Moore & Josh Carter — Dual Inkronicity Tattoo

The obvious and clear synchronicity (*wink*) between April and Josh is glaring and truly something joyous to witness. April credits Josh with naming the current shop Inkronicity, something she calls a perfect fit. They have even tackled tattoos together!

“Well, there’s one in particular where the girl got her whole back done, fairy wings, watercolor, and she had both of us doing it at the same time. It was pretty cool,” she says. “We each did one side and you could not tell the difference between the two sides.”

Having had most of her tattoos planned for the majority of her life, April has one special tattoo that serves as a day to day reminder. Her knuckles across both hands read, “Viva Amor” (“Live Love”) with symbols for “Spirit” and “Breath” underneath the lettering.

“Why I got my knuckles tattooed was so that I would never work for the man again. And it did inspire me, like, at any point in my life when I felt like I have not been living love. I look at those knuckles and think, ‘Hey, you’ve got to change things.’”

I have an abbreviated “FBB” (Free Bitch Baby) tattooed right below my belt line for a similar reason, to serve as my wake up call when I feel like I am not living up to my courage in my fullest and most honest potential. Asking Josh if he has any tattoos in particular that he looks to for day to day reminders or inspiration, he offers a grander perspective.

“There isn’t one particular piece for me except the universe in its whole. Us as a giant fractal being with only parts of our being poking through into this 3-D existence, in an attempt to view and experience everything from every different point of view. Pretty fuckin’ inspiring”

Another personal piece that April shares with me, is a dragon she had Josh tattoo on her side for her birthday this last year. The one, stand-alone rib tattoo she has, its outline was a four-hour sitting. She retrieves a drawing of the piece to show me, explaining,

“I drew this for my Auntie 8 years ago and I tattooed it on her when she was 45 with a huge plume of pink smoke around it. So, she passed away this year and our birthdays are a week apart. So, for my birthday I got the dragon. We’re both dragons.”

I tell April how beautiful I think the piece is, and we discuss our mutual admiration for tattoos that expressly mean something to the client and/or artist or both; the ones that are to be an extension of yourself that would otherwise go unnoticed to the naked eye.

“That’s how I feel about it, too! This little old Asian man once told me when I first started tattooing, ‘When you give a tattoo or get a tattoo, it opens up a piece of your soul’. I was like, ‘Whoa! So that needs a lot more respect than some people give it,’” she says. “My teacher, he said, ‘People keep getting older, but tattoos stay the same. As you would run into people you’ve tattooed 10 years prior, they’ve gone across the world or had kids, they do all these things and when they come back, they still have this piece of you that’s the same as when you left it.’ It’s crazy. So I guess that’s a really rewarding part of it, too, is being able to see the journeys that these tattoos go on and people come back. You get to be a part of their life. It’s amazing.”

Cover-Up by April Dawn

We circle back to touch on fractals, and she explains a bit what about them that inspires a spark of creativity.

“Well, for those that don’t know what a fractal is, a fractal is a mathematical equation that represents a repeating pattern. Sometimes they are very organic and in nature. So a small piece of something represents the entire whole. So a tree is really good example of a fractal where a tiny little twig looks like a whole tree. If you take a piece of the root, it looks like a whole tree. The veins in the leaves look like a little tree. Our bodies are fractals, too. If you think about atoms and the structure of them, then the solar system structure, they are a fractal of each other. So, it’s kind of, I feel like, the building blocks of the universe.”

Tattoo by April Dawn

It’s clear how provoking this topic is for both thought and creative expression!

“I feel like where science and religion and philosophy overlap, we find these little nuggets of truth. That’s one of those little fundamental truths that you can apply to anything in life and it’s infinite. The connections you can make using that, I mean, you have a thumb print and it looks like a galaxy,” she says laughingly. “So it’s infinite the little inspirations you can get. I like to put it into tattoos where you have like, the seed of life and then the flower of life and then you have Metatron’s Cube. All of the different levels of something where you’ve got a seed and a tree and a leaf and a flower or whatever it might be.”

I share with April that I am a person who is strong in the belief that all matter in this life is interconnected and the universe is one beating entity. She, too, shares in this philosophy, having led a meditation group at MSUB, Barjon’s Books, and at Limber Tree Yoga Studio. Her sessions were all based on the idea that everything is vibration, that which connects us all. Asking if investing time and focus into her own wellness has helped her creativity as an artist, she says,

“Oh, hugely! Absolutely. I don’t think you can really have one without the other, if you don’t tend to all sides of you. We have a mind, and we have a body, and we have a soul and if you don’t take care of all three aspects, you are probably going to suffer in some way.” (laughs)

We touch on this sentiment again when I inquire about whether April and Josh feel like they have found what they are supposed to be doing with their lives. Josh says,

“Absolutely. I love tattooing and have turned out to be very good at it. I will always be learning from everything and everyone, and striving to be better every day. It also helps me afford my hobbies of music and fire-spinning. I love my life and I hope that everyone can find their path to happiness.”

April shares,

“Yes. Definitely. I feel like tattooing is such an ancient art form. It goes way beyond these last hundred years of American Traditional tattoos. Even in Egypt, they dug up priestesses, mummies, who had their knuckles tattooed. So people were using them! Like Native Americans were using them, putting ash on thread and sewing it under the skin to leave lines. It’s such a deeply rooted part of our culture. And your body is something that’s going to be with you your whole life that you get to carry with you on every step of your journey. I don’t know that I will do it forever. Tattooing is very hard on the body. Yoga has been a Godsend for that! But, it seems like there’s a time limit. You don’t see 70 year old tattoo artists, you know? Maybe in, like, the Himalayan mountains.” (laughs)

When we speak later on about the lengthier sessions they have gone under themselves and put in on other people, Josh offers a similar note.

Tattoo by Josh Carter

“I have done quite a few 10-hour sessions, but that’s in the past. I would still do it for the right price and only if we had to get it done, like, yesterday. It is so hard on both the client and my back. After a while, I end up fighting the client’s movements more and more as it goes on. It’s tough. I would say my biggest challenge and ongoing challenge has been to, at first get, and then stay healthy enough to keep my body from breaking down. I always want to do the best work I can on my clients and I can’t do that if I can’t move properly.”

Speaking on his own experiences in the chair,

“My longest sessions have been six hours, but I sat for five hours on my side once. That is another type of pain that most people will not have to endure. I like to keep my sessions about two to three hours if we are working in the same spot. If we are covering some ground and moving along, four to six hours isn’t so bad.”

April talks of her longest session on someone else in her chair topping off about 14 hours! One sitting, a half-sleeve of midnight blue tribal flames,

“…all the way around and all the way up his neck and everything! It was probably only about two years into tattooing, so I wasn’t as fast as I am now. The guy woke up the day before and was like, ‘I’m gonna buy a Harley.’ Then woke up the next day and was like, ‘I need a half sleeve of tribal flames to go with my Harley.’ I said, ‘Sir, are you going through a mid-life crisis?’ And he said, ‘Absolutely.’” (laughs)

Of the longest sitting she has ever had to undergo in someone else’s chair, she says she has a plethora that took around five hours for the one sitting. Her thigh piece, rib piece and calf were all around four hour sessions. Having already spoken about the ash-and-thread method of tattooing, I ask April and Josh if they have any interest in other methods of tattooing besides the modern machines they are used to. While Josh expresses one side, saying,

“No, I just want to do the best work I can and that is looking like rotary machines all the way. Trying to hang onto old traditions that have already been improved, or proven not to be the best way, just to preserve the ‘old school’ is foolish. We are supposed to be improving this world. I’m not sure where all that got lost.”

Tattoo by Josh Carter

April expresses another side. First, when I ask if she has ever gotten a tattoo by any other means than the modern machines, she says she has none at the moment. She would not shy away from the idea of getting a traditional tapped tattoo in Hawaii. They know some artists down in paradise that do this work, so she feels it won’t be long. April asks if I would ever do this, and while I am curious about it, I share that the timing would have to be right and that it would have to be a personal, spiritual experience. That kind of tattoo would have to be by the right hands in the right place at the right time. She laughingly jokes,

“Yeah, maybe one day when I’m old, I’ll move up to the Himalayan mountains and just have a little cabin and do poke tattoos. I would like to dabble in it. It’s not something I would like to do all the time because it is very time-consuming,” she says. “I mean, if you want to sit for double the time.” (laughs) “I did just recently get a new machine. They have upgraded. They came out with rotary machines, like, 10 or 15 years ago, but now they are finally up to a place where they are as fast a regular machine, and they’re almost silent.”

April demonstrates this shiny, fantastical hush-puppy of a new machine for me. *Nothing but a whisper.* She tells me that the machines have been getting better and better over the last decade, but this little slice of Heaven is where it’s at. The maker? FK Irons. (You can learn more about these silent but sexy’s at: https://www.fkirons.com/) I ask if she always uses the same supplier for her machines, she smiles bright with,

“I will now!”

April and Josh have both been using traditional coil machines for some time, up until they made the recent switch to FK Irons’ rotary machine a few months back. The majority of April’s own tattoos were done with a traditional coil machine, though her calf and palm were done at the mercy of the comparatively newer rotary machines. Talking about the different kind of machines and upgrades there have been, I am curious to know more about the first time she used one.

“I tattooed my own foot for the first time. I had about 10 guys standing around me saying, ‘You’re a girl! You’re a pussy! You’re not going to do it!’” (laughs)

With a “Watch me,” attitude, she humbly proved that a thick dose of shit-talking is nothing but fuel for a girl on a mission. Through a brief moment of inner battle, she persisted and still persists. Seven times on herself, to be exact.

“Well, there’s a level of masochism when you do it on yourself where your brain is like, ‘Put the line there.’ And your body is like, ‘What are you doing?!’” (laughs) “‘Don’t put the line there!’”

This is not the one, single comfort zone she has had to work herself up to. Some struggles are lingering even today.

“I mean, there’s a lot to learn about sterilization and the precautions. There’s definitely been certain sessions that feel more awkward than others. If you’re right in the person’s face working on their chest all day long, or their neck, or you know?… Or, like, butt tattoos.” (laughs) “Stinky feet. Stinky breath… Yeah, not everybody is super considerate. I think that bothered me more than the blood. I realized about 5 years into tattooing that I’m glad I’m not squeamish” (laughs) “I will say it is harder to tattoo people you are close to. So, like, you tattooing your brother is like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m hurting you.’ Whereas, if it’s somebody you don’t know, and they’re asking for it, it makes it a little bit easier. I definitely had more nerves tattooing Josh or people I really, really care about.”

These nerves stem from both wanting the tattoo to be flawless and not wanting to hurt them.

“…so you try to do fast, perfect work.” (laughs)

Tattoo by April Dawn

Of whether it’s more nerve-racking to tattoo on one’s self or on somebody else, Josh says,

“Someone else for sure. I get nervous with a lot of pieces up until I get to tattooing. It’s like the stage fright I get every time I’m about to get on stage. It goes away in about two minutes, though, and then it’s all good. Unless I am trying to tattoo myself in some fucked up spot. Then I get scared.”

April and Josh both have an express adoration for all styles of tattooing and are both eager to continue expanding their skill and keen knowledge of varying style. I imagine the road to their level of talent was not always full of confidence or comfort. I ask April if there’s any style she has struggled to overcome more so than another.

“Probably American Traditional, just because I have hard time staying that simple.You know, like, I’d want to put three colors in where they put one color. So then they’re like, ‘That’s not traditional!’” (laughs)

When talking about not being able to pinpoint their exact style, she says,

“I would say that both Josh and I like the challenge of doing every style.” (laughs) “We like to do fine line black and grey. We like to do watercolor. We like to do some neo-traditional stuff, and we like to do really abstract sometimes. You know, we’re not gonna box ourselves in.”

We both agree that in defining a niche or having tunnel-vision for one style, the challenge to continue to grow becomes more difficult.

“It really blows my mind, actually, sometimes. People will have only seen the black and grey stuff, and they’ll come to me and say, ‘Do you do color?’ And some people will come to me and say, ‘Do you even do black and grey?,’ and we’re always like, ‘Yeah!’” (laughs)

Inkronicity Tattoo — Billing, MT

An accomplished painter by the age of 9, and having had her hands in the realm of body painting since 2001, April is no stranger to color. Though, black and grey work has equally enjoyable challenges and outcomes.

“I feel like I’m pretty confident in it now. Black and grey has the challenge of making sure you have every element to differentiate so it doesn’t all wash together as one. Whereas with color, you have different colors! You have a whole spectrum! I don’t mind either way. To go back to the cover-up thing, I definitely prefer to do a cover-up in color. Some of the richness stays better, I feel like. Some artists will disagree and say you have to do black all over but…” (laughs) “It’s actually detail and saturation. Black and grey is faster. So in that way, it’s kind of nice. But color just has that beautiful pop to it. I did a dragon llama on a guys leg one time. It went from hip to mid calf, and we did these big teal wings. Shaded them in like 15 minutes. It was Calico colored and had deep red hooves. It had a nuclear green comet-loogie that it was spitting out and a rainbow ball of energy.” (laughs) “Dragon Llama. Which, you would think, would be the most unique thing you could possibly think of. No! You type it into Google and there’re hundreds of dragon llamas!”

Tattoo by April Dawn

Talking about surprises in art, I ask about the most interesting piece she has ever had to cover. She says among the countless, namesake tattoos are what they see more often than not. She tells of a lovely gentleman from California who sought her out while he was in the area.

“He had this half sleeve of just names across his arms with a banner around it and a couple little images. Super scarred. About 30 years old. He had been looking for years to find somebody to help him cover it up. Because I started in Canada, where there’s a huge African population up in Calgary, I had worked with that kind of skin for a long time. And I was actually able to do a half-sleeve cover-up in two days on him where it was yellows and whites. We did, like, a bull skull, and we did the bone tone on his dark skin, and we got it to stay. Just because darker skin tends to be a little bit more sensitive, some artists that aren’t familiar with it think, “Oh, you have to press harder because you can’t see what you’re doing.” No, you actually have to be more gentle. If you are more gentle, you can get more ink in. He was just so floored. He was like, ‘There’s color on my arm!’,” she says.

People’s reactions, the moment they look in the mirror and almost cry from happiness is what stands out as the most rewarding part of her career. When I ask if she could pick one instance as the most emotionally significant, one seems far too few.

“Oh, there’s so many memorials that are just heart-wrenching to hear the stories. It’s amazing. There’s too many to pick one.” (laughs)

We move around the building to take a gander at art they have collected and chosen to display in the shop. This prompts us to also move the conversation towards other artists that have inspired her work, both in painting and tattoos.

“Ka Amorastreya is one of them. She did those two there and most of the ones in the front room. This hummingbird. She does oils too! So I might try oils soon.”

April’s preferred choice in paints are acrylics and watercolors.

“This one is Simon Haiduk. I met him in 2008 at a music festival, and he really inspired my art. Along with the more obvious ones, like Alex Grey and Android Jones and those guys. But tattoo-wise, I would say Guy Aitchison. He wrote the book called “Reinventing the Tattoo,” and he talks a lot about color, lighting and shadow, line weight. Yeah, he was kind of the Godfather of color lines and that kind of stuff. Michele Wortman is his wife. They have Hyperspace Studios out in Illinois.”

Having never been to Hyperspace Studios, the brief mention of the idea provokes an ear to ear smile. Of any artists she is pining to get work done by, she says,

“Oh my gosh, that’s so funny you say that! Right before you walked in, I commented on this girl on Instagram. Just found her. Her name is Sandra Daukshta, and she uses these FK Irons. It’s like a photo! Her realism is just on another level. She’s got, like, huge patches of white, I don’t even know how it’s a tattoo. Just amazing! She’s over in Europe, so I said, ‘You’ve got to come to America!’” (laughs)

We begin to discuss conventions and the bigger tattoo events and expos that happen all around the world.

“I attended a bunch up in Canada,” she says. “I actually helped put on some of the Alberta Bound Tattoo Conventions up there. They are huge! I was just volunteer level really! I would love to host a tattoo convention here. It is something that hasn’t been done in Billings in 10 years. 12 years now. Long over due. There are tons of good artists here and if we made it Montana wide we could bring in the artists from Blaque Owl in Missoula, the ones from Bozeman, make it an arts convention too, not just tattoos. Have bands.”

Her first convention was where she learned the cardinal rule to,

“Never call the machine a gun. That’s one that a lot of people say, ‘Whoa look at your gun.’ My first convention, a giant man said to me, ‘It is as much of a sin to call the sacred machine of tattooing a gun as it is to call one’s mother a whore.’ I said, ‘Okay, sir!’ That’s one of those things for sure. We stab people not shoot people.” (laughs)

Having been a part of 7 Downtown Art Walks here in Billings, April hopes to bring that same kind of public attention to world of tattoos. She hopes to work towards getting the surrounding Montana communities and their local artists involved in existing or brand-new conventions for our area.

On the subject of common mistakes they see in this industry, she says placement is a big one!

“If you’re doing a cover-up tattoo, say the structure of the tattoo is good and placed right, you’re not going to have a hard time fixing it up and making it better. It’s just the bones of it and you build from there. If it’s placed wrong, and you try to do a cover-up, you have to move the whole flow of the tattoo, which is incredibly harder. In Guy’s books, he talks about 3-D figure eight. If you imagine a coil of yarn all wrapped up on itself, that’s how each of our body parts is. A half sleeve, if you design it with an infinity sort of shape to it, it’s going to match the body part. Same thing here and here and here and here. It allows you to grow into the tattoo. As you change and shift and age and get weird muffin tops and stuff, it’s going to grow with you. Whereas, if you get a tattoo on your armpit, nobody’s armpit looks good when you’re 60 years old.” (laughs) “If you’re going right for the armpit, cool. But if you’re doing a sleeve and put a big chunk right in this area, it looks weird after a while. Especially, too, with distance. Distance makes such a huge difference because it changes the shape of the body. There’s also a lot to consider when you are doing somebody’s face. A lot of people don’t even care if [a tattoo] is facing the right way even. There are rules to where you’re supposed to have animals facing.”

Tattoo by Josh Carter

Hydration is another big mishap they often meet. The effects of which can differ based on levels before the tattoo session, during the session and during the healing process.

“Hydration helps so much! I tell people to drink water before their tattoos. A lot of artists don’t know this. It took me about 7 years of watching people in different stages of coming back and not taking the ink properly. We can do about three times the amount of work in the same time if the person is well hydrated. They heal faster. They don’t feel as much pain. They don’t swell as bad. A 60-year old can have the skin of a 20-year old if they drink enough water and vice-versa. A 20-year old can have 60-year old skin if she is dehydrated.”

We get on the subject of tattoo scratchers, or people who continue to tattoo without any apprenticeship or proper training, and without any proper licensing. 99% chance that this also brings with it massive and threatening sanitation issues. April’s second tattoo, meant to be her “throw caution to the wind,” tattoo, was done in a basement by a guy who she jokes probably learned in jail. She assures that she has learned a lot since then and cautions anybody who is debating getting one of these tattoos.

“I would say cover-ups are a lot more painful and a lot more expensive.” (laughs) “So, you may be getting a $20.00 tattoo, but someday you may be paying $2000.00 to get it covered up and that’s not fun,” she warns. (This, too, is assuming the body part or area of skin survives.)

As for any tattoos they regret, April says she regrets the font she chose for her knuckles. “Masculine,” and “Bold,” were the words used to describe the piece that she wishes was, “Feminine” and, “Dainty.” Josh told of a time he had a stubborn-ass apprentice tattoo on his leg. The unnamed apprentice proceeded to tell Josh that he wasn’t going to listen to him, because the apprentice doesn’t tattoo the same way Josh does.

“I was like, ‘That’s funny, because you just started learning! Damn straight you don’t tattoo like me and you never will if you won’t listen.’ Anyway I covered it myself,” he writes. “Aside from the scarring that’s still under the new tattoo, it’s not too much of a regret. We can fix anything!”

Cover-Up by Josh Carter

Remember that rainbow dick we mentioned at the very beginning? Here is where we learned all about the other “No-No’s” for the Inkronicity crew. Among hatred/racist imagery or words and gang tattoos, this list also contains the request for their signatures, and even their band’s logo art. April says she has had people ask her to sign their tattoos when they are finished.

“People ask me that, too!,” Josh laughs. “A lot of people. I don’t want to sign! Sometimes the pieces aren’t even our art work. I mean, it is, but it’s mixtures of other things. What they want is not always something that came directly out of our heads. So it’s not always something we want to sign.”

April returning, “Yes! It’s for you! And sometimes they’ll say, ‘Oh, it’s your arm now.’ And I’m like, ‘No, it’s still your arm! You’re going to take it home with you!’” (laughs)

I joke, “Yeah, you’re not my bitch or anything. You don’t have to, like, get my laundry and stuff.”

“This is like Idle Hands,” she laughs.

“Had a couple people want my portrait or wanted me to sign their tattoos, and a lot of people want the band logos, which is awesome!,” Josh says. “But sometimes they are, like, really old ladies, and we’re like, ‘Um, you might want to listen to the band first. Figure out if you want to represent us.’” (laughs) “But they’re usually like, ‘We love it!’”

Beware: if you’re looking to get your good ol’ bad place all colored on here, you will need to bring at least $1000.00 to spend for every hour you are in the chair with your jimmy out. April tells the story of a gentleman more than willing to oblige the $1000/hr fee.

“He wanted the cock done as a rainbow with a dirty word search on it that had different words when it was short vs when it was long, and the balls would be a pot of gold.” (laughs) “Then, he wanted his asshole to be a Mario brick with Mario jumping up and punching it, with a mushroom coming out of the top. He was gonna pay $1,000.00 an hour to have this done!”

Josh explains that it’s the process that’s not fun. That goes for every party involved. He quips,

“‘I knew we should’ve put the stencil on first.’ Yea, you don’t free-hand a cock tattoo.”

April rapidly returns in her manliest voice she can muster,

“”Well, I was going to get ‘Deliverance’ but I got ‘Delivery’,” she laughs.

So if you are going to go that route, rule of thumb: make sure the text is stenciled and that it all fits. April shares a story from early on in her career.

“My first week of tattooing, I saw this guy get a cherry on the tip of his penis. It looks… I mean, they had to smash it flat,” she says. “Then, after I saw a picture of it, it looked like a sore! It didn’t even look like a tattoo!” (laughs)

“Oh, that’s bad,” says their apprentice, Nathan.

Before we move on, in conclusion to this cautionary tale, I leave you with another good rule of thumb for genital tattoos: make sure it reads like it’s supposed to. (as in no small red fruit!)

Tattoo by April Dawn

Nathan has been hard at work drawing like a madman since I walked in the door. He is their newest apprentice at Inkronicity and April says among drawing, drawing, drawing, there is a variety of jobs Nathan is tasked with. It will be around six months yet before he puts his own hands to the test with a machine. Nathan is tasked with scrubbing tubes through sterilization and handling the autoclave, sweeping and mopping, studying the process of sterilization and set-up to assure he is learning the proper and safest ways to prepare/practice, he is painting, and more drawing, drawing, drawing. In the short time Nathan has been with Inkronicity, he has already completed more artwork than any of their earlier apprentices, none of which are now with the shop. The crew is participating in an upcoming Downtown Art Walk in the month of April, where Nathan will also have a chance to display some his work that he has been toiling away at. One piece I see him sketching is what the looks like the head of a penis on top of an octopus’ body, aptly named, “The Cocktopus.” I ask him to please save this for me! It, as Marie Kondo would say, “Sparks joy,” in my life. Among his smaller sketches, April shows me some work he had done a few days prior of pig butts and curly tails. She says that Nathan has shown improvement and is learning a ton by focusing so much energy on drawing as often as possible.

“I wasn’t thinking about apprenticing when it started. I was doing a lot of art, and they saw my art. They offered me the position and I thought about it for a while. It grew on me and it wasn’t something I jumped on right away,” Nathan says. “I’ve surprised myself a lot by my progress. I’ve been drawing every single day.”

April and Josh are extremely invested in their careers and knowledge of their craft. April shows an almost maternal passion for wanting to help her apprentices achieve beyond what they intended and beyond the hurdles they will inevitably face.

“If you want to be a tattoo artist, start by drawing, drawing, drawing. My teacher told me that you pretty much have to eat, sleep, and breathe it if you want to be good in this industry. And I would agree with that. You have to dedicate a few years solely to that to perfect everything, but it’s a really rewarding career! If you can find a good person to teach you, then stay dedicated! It will test you! There were times when I wanted to quit. I owned my own tattoo shop in Canada in 2009 and my investor was a con artist. He tried to screw me over and take all my equipment. I learned a lot. After that, I was feeling like I should give up tattooing, because I didn’t have any equipment. I was just a year and a half into it. I thought, ‘I should just give up.’ My friend, Lee Robertson, came to me and gave me power supply for tattooing. He was like, ‘You are not quitting!,’ and slammed it down in front of me. I was like, ‘Okay? Okay!’ And I’m so glad that I kept going! It’s been so, so much more rich of an experience since then. Like, wow! I can’t imagine if I had quit then,” she shares. “I had two apprentices that didn’t finish so far. I realize that it’s a little bit trickier to get into than I thought. I understand why my teacher was like, “Oh, you want to be a tattoo artist, huh? Let’s see what you’re made of!” (laughs)

Among the buzz happening at Josh’s hands, a bigger buzz is about the place regarding upcoming plans.

Inkronicity Tattoo — Billings,MT

“Well, of course we plan to have more events in the future. We hope to have another silent auction with some pieces and people can have a bit more of a bidding war over things. The recording studio and Fretless Music. The whole music side of things. So we’re going to do repairs and lessons and recording studio and all that fun stuff. So that’s a huge part of what we are moving toward.”

Of anything in particular Josh wanted people to know of the shop and what they offer at Inkronicity, aside from tattoos, he says,

“We sell artwork. We can do graphic design for album covers, t shirts, logos. People are always asking around, and we’re like, ‘Duh! That’s what we do!’ Just call us!” (laughs)

“I Am Enough” & Tattoo by April Dawn

April also wishes to voice that she is actively participating and promoting the “I Am Enough” movement. For the entirety of 2019, April will be offering $50 “I Am Enough” tattoos! This movement began, as she so wonderfully explains,

“In hopes of starting a ripple effect to heal the very source of our brokenness … because when we know we are enough, we automatically have enough energy to give to others. I didn’t start the ‘I Am Enough’ movement, but I want to wholeheartedly embrace it. As an extension of the semi-colon movement for suicide awareness, but with a broader scope that encompasses all the things that make us feel like we are not enough and the strange ways that plays out in our behavior. (As in over-working, over-eating, over-apologizing, whatever it may be)”

To find out more information on this movement and the ideas/practices behind it, I suggest the same video that April directed me to. “Through touching stories of helping burnt-out Hollywood celebrities, regular clients, and even her own family, Marisa Peer teaches us how to feel ‘enough’ and shatter our limitations.” I do not own this video and give full credit to Mindvalley Talks. Here it is:

Another future adventure we dive into is the process of creating ink. Of that process, she explains,

“I looked it up about six years ago before I moved to Montana. You just need a sterile facility.” (brings me over to her station and shows me a paper bag of pigment powder) “This is powder that will be made into the ink. There are different compounds for each color. Then you have to emulsify it. I would probably use henna-type beads as the shakers in the bottom so that they get charged up and magnetized. We do a lot of intentional work with it.”

While the beads inside the ink exist for the purpose of mixing,

“…why not put something that you could infuse it with, say, rose quartz. Or something different?”

Of the different pigments and colors, April has researched like madwoman and has compiled a list of all the different elements that could be used to create them. They have contacted different companies about acquiring some of these and are not shy at the idea of starting a line of their own, if formulas all go as planned.

It’s quite clear that the experience of tattooing runs deeper than ego and far beyond selfishness for the Inkronicity crew. Not only is the warm and inviting embrace of comfort ever-present in from the moment you enter the building, but the Inkronicity family has a certain way of making sure that feeling lingers and expands throughout your visit with them, and well into your life beyond. April has a particular interest in creating an even deeper experience for those who are interested in a more spiritual journey when getting work done.

“My entire life, I’ve been really interested in doing shamanic tattoos. Some session have definitely gone more that direction. It’s definitely something I’m going to be moving more towards. It’s something where you honor the whole moment and create, kind of, a ceremony to go with it. Anoint with essential oils, use crystals, sound therapy, a bunch of different modalities in conjunction. I’m also a Reiki Master.” April has been a practicing Reiki Master for over 10 years since her first attunement and it has been five years since being ordained a Master. “So using that with healing techniques for the tattoo. I’ve done a few like that, really sacred. So, I really like to do that.”

In discussing our shared affection for parapsychology and the unknown, I dig into where April’s gifts with Reiki began.

“I didn’t really know what it was when I was kid. I would, like, play with energy balls and stuff like that.” (laughs) “Then it was like, ‘Oh, hey, this is Reiki! I’ve been doing this stuff a really long time!’ It just means life-force energy, so… It’s a hard thing to want to share with people. In some ways, the world isn’t ready for it and in some ways you can’t not share it. I love the scientific aspect of it! I’m trying to prove it. My mom is a very big skeptic.” (laughs) “I’ve spent a lot of time trying to prove it to her. I think it all comes down to vibration and the measure of hertz on the human body. The effect that crystals and essential oils have on that.”

Tattoo by April Dawn

A good friend of April and Josh’s, whom she has worked with on numerous occasions for various projects, DC Courtright, does Aura Photography. April partnered up with him, on one occasion where he took aura photos on a friend of April’s while she was practicing Reiki. The changes in energy were all visible and were able to be captured as they happened! If you are curious to know more about what Aura Photography is all about, D.C. is currently at Barjon’s Books on Thursdays.

Clearly swaying into a whole other interview we are going to have at a later date, we decided to wrap our discussions here. We talk over a cigarette for a little while longer of our own tattoos, plans for more, and the character behind them. One of my favorites we talked about was Josh’s chest piece: a penis and a vagina, robed and dancing gracefully. After our cigarette, we shared some off the record experiences and ultimately concluded a marvelous day of insight and intrigue. To say that Josh and April are both astounding in presence and in performance would not begin to crack the surface of truth. Humble through and through, bright-eyed and eager, skilled, intuitive and selfless. The list goes on and on and on and on. If you have had the joy of meeting them in person, then you know exactly what I’m talking about! I urge those of you who had not had the pleasure of stepping into the world of wonder that is Inkronicity Tattoo, to do so and do so soon!

Inkronicity Tattoo — Billings, MT

April, Josh, Nathan and Starr were all fantastic throughout this process, and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to sit down face-to-face! I more than appreciate the chance to dive into the world that they are not only a part of, but the significant and unique world they have created with Inkronicity Tattoo. If you would like to learn more about or see more of the team’s work, click on the Facebook or Instagram link below! Be sure to like and follow and check for availability! Art & Soul is extremely proud to welcome Inkronicity Tattoo to the family!! Looking forward to seeing more truly spectacular work from these awe-inspiring super-humans, I hope nothing but the best for this team!

Scan For A “Thank-You” Surprise From April & Josh!!

Thank you for taking the time to read through this extensive edition! Your continued interest in Art & Soul and in your local art community means the world and then some!! I hope you continue to check back with us, as we will be releasing a rapid-fire round of 20 questions with the Inkronicity Tattoo family in a few short weeks! I also hope you continue to investigate the amazing-ness that is going on under their roof! April and Josh are eager to welcome any and all who are seeking new or cover-up work. Again, there is no job too big or too dark that they can’t tackle and turn into a masterpiece! Thank you a million times over! Be kind. (Rewind.) Sharing is caring. Love, love, love. Stay gold.+

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Intimate one-on-one insight to the many mediums and magic of local art.

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Cain Flores

Cain Flores

At the tippy-toes of my 20’s and the chase is on. Hoping to inspire and be inspired, I am an open book. Art and Music are my very soul. Write on. ❤

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