“I got this a while ago,” said Carvajal of the rainbow-colored crescent and three stars. “But I had a lot of people ask me if it was a real tattoo, so I decided to add (a flowering blossom) to it. I didn’t want it to look like a lick-n-stick. So I came here, and I love it. It’s my permanent pretty.”
Ten years ago Carvajal would have been considered the exception to the tattoo rule. Long viewed as the choice of bikers, pirates and other rebels of society, tattoos today are a generally accepted accessory for enthusiasts of all backgrounds and philosophies. All of which, said co-owner Colby Protsman, is good news for the industry and the Flying Dutchman in particular.
“There’s still some hesitation with people when it comes to tattoos, but nothing like it used to be,” said Protsman, who sports no tattoos of his own. “Today it is generally accepted, and cool, to have tattoos. And that’s the kind of client we cater to. We’re a custom shop, which means that you’re not going to see your tattoo on anyone else. When we finish with your design, we throw away the artwork. It’s uniquely yours.”
Open just two months, the upscale tattoo and piercing studio located on G Street is getting plenty of traffic, making Protsman very glad he jumped off the corporate bandwagon and convinced lifelong friend and tattoo artist Leif Youngquist to join him. Together they run the studio along with Protsman’s ex-wife Amy, who handles the piercing, and girlfriend Darlene Somers. Well-known East Bay artist Sasha (“she gives us a lot of credibility,” said Protsman) handles the needlework along with Youngquist.
The studio – don’t call it a parlor, Protsman half-jokingly warns – is a sanitized study in clean: a sterile environment second only to a surgical suite. Each of the three stations is wiped down with a medical cleaner and wrapped in a protective plastic wrap prior to each client appointment. Tools (other than the needles, which are thrown away after each use) are scrubbed, soaked and heated in a variety of medical sanitation machines following each use.
Cleanliness is something Protsman is adamant about. “We might be a little over the top when it comes to the clean end of things,” he said. “But I feel that taking the extra precautions to ensure the safety of the client is just what we should do. It’s super important.
“I’ll tell you what: if a client walks into a tattoo studio and doesn’t see all that (sanitary procedures), they should turn right around and walk out.”
The sprawling storefront of the Flying Dutchman is decked out in pirate paraphernalia and artwork, most of which was done by Youngquist. “I’ve been obsessed by pirates since I was a kid,” said the artist. “What’s not to love? They’re the original anti-social, romanticized figures who, yes, have a lot of tattoos.”
As does Younguist, who learned the art of tattooing from bikers when he lived in East Los Angeles – but not before he honed his craft at the Academy of Fine Arts in San Francisco.
“I’ve had other jobs that I was good at, but nothing that filled me up like this,” he said. “I have an awesome job. I get to wake up every day and color on people.”
As the partners continue to learn the business and adjust to their clientele, they also plan to maintain an active role in the community. An on-site gallery is in the works as a way to spotlight local artists.
“Helping local artists is one of our goals,” said Protsman. “They’ll be able to hang their work here and we’ll charge them only for handling, if at all. We’re not doing it (hanging local art) to make money; we’re a people-oriented business. We’re having a lot of fun.”
The Flying Dutchman, located at 310 G St., is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sundays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. To make an appointment or for additional information, call 925-470-3850, or visit www.dutchmanstudio.com.