The place where art work is work and comfort is commonplace
There’s a certain smell that dominates as you walk into a tattoo shop. It’s a mix of ink, rubbing alcohol, and nervous sweat. Amid this, Felix Epperson works smoothly and comfortably, as if at home. This weekend will ring in 17 years within the tattooing profession for Epperson but he looks as if he’s been doing it his whole life.
Epperson is working on a lotus tattoo for Lauren Harwood, a long time friend and customer. “Tattooing is hard,” says Epperson. “People try to act like it’s easy…you have to do research before you get a tattoo.”
Without missing a beat, the tattoo gun begins whirring again. Harwood nods her head and says, “I came back because you told me the truth, not what I wanted to hear.”
Since he was 8 years old, Epperson has known he wanted to be an artist. During college he attended an art school in Phoenix, Ariz and there he was offered his first application to begin tattooing. “I thought about it for 10 years. After 10 years I got tired of driving around in circles…I wanted to do something I could make a career out of,” Epperson says.
For 6 years Epperson has worked at Black Lotus, a tattoo shop in downtown Eugene, Ore. Prior to this, he worked in Miami, Fla. for eight years and before that, Epperson was employed in Austin, Texas – the city where his career began.
He focuses intently on the leaves of the lotus flower, continuing with the task at hand. Harwood cringes but is sure to remain stone still as the gun etches the everlasting ink into her skin. An artist herself, Harwood was raised as a southern debutante, a role where she says her “short hair and tattoos don’t fly.”
Epperson recalls being a teen in 1986 in Phoenix. “Tattoos were stigmatized” he says. “Especially in Phoenix…I had my head tattooed and people were like what the f**k?” Since this time Epperson has acquired many more tattoos and appears perfectly content with his body modification.
His practice of the art form is every bit as dedicated as his display of it. “I am just into tattooing. Not piercing, not scaring, not branding…I had the opportunity to pierce but I didn’t do it,” Epperson says. His passion for the art form is clear as he attentively observes every detail of Harwood’s lotus he says that likes to do
“cover-ups, American style, Japanese style, and traditional style, but I’m known for my cover-ups,”
Epperson says he is dedicated to changing people’s lives. “A woman walked in with this half sleeve…It was a f***ed up tattoo…Others said they couldn’t do anything,” Epperson says. The woman was desperate, according to Epperson. For years she had not worn tank tops because of the embarrassment she felt over the botched piece. “I said I was able to do something,” Epperson says. “When I was done, she started crying” Through his tattoo, Epperson had restored confidence in this woman and changed her life.
“I will do this [tattooing] for another 15-25 years…Until I’m crippled and can’t see. I don’t like moving around,” Epperson says. He adds, “It’s good to be able to see a tattoo age too…They should stay looking good.”
The buzz of the tattoo gun begins to sound like a melody, and the once striking smell of the shop becomes an aroma instead. At the Black Lotus lives can be changed and art created and Epperson will make it look like home.