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Ink in their Blood: Business aims to change perceptions

Jason Bratcher has his passion, and as part-owner of the newly opened Vidal Image Tattoo & Piercing, he's able to act on it every single day.


Part-owner Jason "Doughboy" Bratcher works on a tattoo on the chest of Lonnetika Franklin.
Jason B. Smith
"I enjoy the art of it," he said. "Ever since I was nine, this has been my thing."

Mr. Bratcher, who has been a tattoo artist for five years, opened his business on Washington Road -- along with Doug Joyner -- close to I-20 around two months ago to provide a clean, safe tattoo alternative for McDuffie County residents.

"The main thing we want to do here is change the image of tattoos," he said. "We're trying to change the image of being 'the bad place.' We're trying to make it a good place, a decent place."

And he's serious about it. For example, Vidal Image opens late and closes early on Sundays. A move Mr. Bratcher said, "is to show a little decency."

He also said that anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult on the premises. Vidal Image also strictly prohibits drugs and alcohol from being anywhere near its doors. He also requires blood and urine drug testing for all employees. Tattoos are also only by appointment after 6 p.m.

Running neck-and-neck with giving a makeover to the perception of a tattoo establishment at Vidal Image is the importance of cleanliness. Mr. Bratcher said that Vidal Image takes great lengths to ensure that all materials and the workplace itself is clean at all times.

"Every needle is brand new for each customer. Ink is never used, and we use hospital sterilization. We keep an autoclave in our shop at all times. We keep everything very clean. We want to make it safe," he said.

An added emphasis on cleanliness allows artists like Brice Denton to concentrate more on his work, who said that often customers come in and let the artists come up with an interesting design themselves.

"They'll tell you, 'Just make it look good.' We love that because we can put our own thoughts into it, our own color," he said. "(Being a tattoo artist) comforts me and relaxes me. It keeps me from being completely stressed out. It just calms me down."

Customers look at potential tattoo designs on the wall of the Washington Road shop. In their effort to try and eliminate some of the taboo that surrounds tattoos, Vidal Image has workers who love what they do -- a sentiment that always seems to be on the tip of Mr. Bratcher's tongue.

"It's the same thing as someone who likes to work on cars. Why do they do it? I do it because I like tattoos. It's addictive."

Customer Lonnetika Franklin said she always wanted a tattoo and got a heart on her chest.

"It was better than I thought," she said. "It didn't hurt."

Web posted on Thursday, February 12, 2004

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