By SHANTEE WOODARDS
The Capital of Annapolis
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - It took Ray Bogardus multiple sessions to get a tattoo that covers his back, but that was exactly what he wanted.
The Grasonville resident planned to have a cartoon-like image of a boy holding the world in his hands, but seeing all of the bad stuff that comes with it. He gave his idea to Parry Chotipradit, owner of Lucky Bird Tattoo and Piercing. After seven sessions, the end result was a shocked blonde boy holding a small earth and surrounded by the colorful forces like skeletons, potions and other representations of evil. Bogardus is already making arrangements for Chotipradit to do his next tattoo. This one will be of a pretty person and of an ugly person.
"Because everybody has a (good) side and an ugly side," Bogardus said. "(Chotipradit) has new age type of artwork with a lot of vibrant colors."
Chotipradit has run his Annapolis shop for three years and prides himself on providing custom tattoos. He has won a series of awards _ most recently two from the Tattoolapalooza in Miami _ and aims to eliminate the stigma toward tattoo providers and receivers. His first major effort toward that will be the shop's inaugural art show, planned for June. At that time, invited artists will sell prints of their artwork and the proceeds will go to a charity that focuses on children. No charity has been selected yet, and the event will also feature live music.
"We are all artists. People don't realize we have to draw and design beforehand _ they just see a tattoo," said Chotipradit, a 28-year-old Annapolis resident. "I'm a father and a husband. I don't drink; I don't do drugs. I'm no different than a guy who wears a suit and tie, working for the government. Except (he) might drink."
A 2009 Pew Research Center survey found about 40 percent of those surveyed said more people getting tattoos is a societal change for the worse, while 45 percent said it made no difference and 7 percent saw it as a change for the better. Older Americans were more likely to view tattooing negatively, with 64 percent of those 65 and older calling tattoos a change for the worse, according to the survey. The National Tattoo Association has seven members in Maryland, including one _ Dragon Moon Tattoo Studio Inc. _ in Anne Arundel County.
Chotipradit, who is part Thai, spent much of his youth moving around the United States with his family, before moving to Calvert County, where he attended high school. He always had an interest in art and animation, but focused on being a musician. He played guitar for a band, but also designed its artwork and was getting tattoos on a regular basis.
It was suggested that he become a tattoo artist so he did his research and became a helper at a tattoo shop. He spent a year running errands, cleaning equipment and doing tasks that none of the other artists wanted to handle. But occasionally, they answered his questions or let him trace sketches.
Chotipradit's first customer was himself, which resulted in painful tattoos on his legs.
Lucky Bird Tattoo & Piercing consists of three tattoo artists and one piercer. Chotipradit charges $120 an hour, but quicker tattoos can be done for $60. Chotipradit works off of a wait list, since many of his customers come to him for his colorful, animation-like style.
Each Monday, he looks at his waiting list and tries to come up with a drawing based on the customer's request.
Recently, he spent a day completing a drawing for a client whose name was Ivy, and all that he knew of her was that she was a night owl. So Chotipradit took up a page in his notebook and designed a dark image of an owl flying through a forest, near a tree with ivy around it.
In another, someone requested a kraken, which is a legendary sea monster. He had to research that and after six hours came up with an image that he found acceptable. The kraken was going on the customer's ribs, an area he measures during a consultation.
Chotipradit still has his troubles, like dealing with the negative perception of tattoos and occasionally finding his tattoos reproduced elsewhere.
Some of his customers, particularly those who work around food, have told him that they are required to hide their tattoos while working. One waiter had a neck tattoo, but was told to cover it with a Band-Aid. He can't do much about others reproducing his work, since he doesn't have the time, energy and money to copyright each one of his tattoos.