OXFORD – Jessica Jones sat nearly motionless in the chair while a tiny, razor-sharp needle moved in rapid-fire succession, piercing her skin to inject tattoo ink. Just once, her face cringed oh-so-slightly.

“Everyone has a different threshold for pain, but women can take a lot more,” said her tattoo-artist father, Davey Jones, as he worked on the elaborate design on his daughter’s arm Thursday at Pirates Ink. “You guys have the babies.”

Meanwhile, a potential customer walked in and asked if she could bring in a sketch of a snowflake that she wanted as a tattoo. “Sure,” said Suzanne Sherman, owner of the new shop, which opened for business last week on Route 26. “Bring us some sketches.”

The shop, where numerous, colorful tattoo samples grace the walls, is Sherman’s dream fulfilled. “I was a single mom, going to school, and I always dreamed of having my own business,” she said.

Sherman, who lives in Casco and is a skilled potter, at first considered opening a pottery shop. But her son Leif’s art sparked another idea. “He is very artistic; he just draws so well,” she said. “I thought, he ought to get into tattooing. It totally made sense for his art work. If he would go into tattooing, I would open a shop.”

One day last summer she was driving on Route 26 with Jones, who has been a tattoo artist for 34 years. “He saw this building and said hey, that’s for rent,” she said. “It just sort of all came together. Timing is everything.”

Following a rigorous inspection process by the state Department of Health and Human Services, Pirates Ink became a family business, Sherman said, pointing to her 14-year-old daughter, Shelby. “She’ll be the secretary.”

Leif, 26, has applied for his tattoo license and is under Jones’s tutelage to become the shop’s full-time tattoo artist. “He’ll be an apprentice for a while,” Sherman said. Jones is working at the shop as a consultant, and daughter Jessica, a licensed body-piercer, will work for Sherman piercing ears, lips, noses and other body parts.

Once associated with bikers, outlaws and other renegade types, tattoos have entered the American mainstream. “It’s not like it used to be,” Sherman said. “You don’t have to be a drunken sailor to get one.”

Jones concurred. “I worked on one guy for 10 years. It was a complete bodysuit. He wore a suit to work every day.”

Like fashion, trends in the tattoo industry come and go, and some classics endure. Snakes, dragons, and zodiac signs are perennial favorites, as well as – for guys – naked women, Jones said.

“Bodysuits” have become vogue, a tattoo that covers one’s skin from head-to-toe in one ongoing design, theme or symbol. Jones also gets requests for “full-sleeve” tattoos where he inks someone’s arm from shoulder to hand.

“People get something that is meaningful to them,” said Jessica Jones.

There is no special training to become a tattoo artist but a class in blood-borne pathogens sponsored by the American Red Cross is mandatory. Tattoo artists also must pay a fee for a license.

Sherman has no tattoos of her own, although she’s trying to decide on one. Right now she’s focused on spreading the word about a business she feels confident will do well. “Twenty minutes after we opened, someone came in. It was great,” she said.


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