I still remember the conversation I had with my mother after I got my first tattoo. It went a little something like this:
Me: So, I need to tell you something.
Mom: What happened?
Me: Nothing happened. I got a tattoo.
Me: I said, I—
Mom: WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!!
Me: I just wan—
Mom: THAT’S JUST STUPID! You know those things never come off!
Me: Yes. I know, but—
Mom: So, now you drink beer AND have a tattoo?! Well, you’re just white trash!
Me: (Trying to withhold laughter) Okay. At least it’s a cross, right?
Mom: Well, I hope you still like it when you’re old and wrinkly and out of shape.
I was twenty-three years old when we had that conversation and, mind you, was married and owned my own home. But I still got the lecture about my tattoo because moms will be moms when it comes to some things—tattoos being one of “those things,” apparently. I guess there were certain stigmas regarding people with tattoos when my mom was in her twenties and thirties and forties . . . and fifties. Luckily for me, the generation in which I grew up much more readily accepts the idea of permanent ink on one’s body. Since my first tattoo thirteen years ago, I’ve added four more to my collection. The two most recent pieces were by Chad Newsom at Hybrid Moments Tattoo here in Jackson.
Chad has been tattooing full-time since 2009. In order to get a license to tattoo in the state of Tennessee, an aspiring artist has to be trained as an apprentice under a licensed tattoo artist for at least a year. Chad began his first apprenticeship at Legendary Ink in Jackson before moving across town to Budo Tattoo to finish. In July of 2015, he opened Hybrid Moments Tattoo on Carriage House Drive across from Sakura.
Recently, Chad traveled to Virginia Beach to take part in the Virginia Beach Tattoo Festival. As an artist, he has gained a following at different festivals across the country including cities like Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Seattle. Not only has Chad gained a following at festivals in the United States but also overseas. In 2013, Chad traveled to Doncaster, United Kingdom; London, England; and Avion, France. The show in France is exclusive and only certain artists were invited. The festival used their Instagram account to poll attendees about an artist they would want at the festival and Chad won the vote. They gave him a free booth, and he got to spend a couple of weeks in Europe.
Growing up, Chad was into drawing a variety of things, but “nothing too serious.”
“I always knew if I wanted to draw something, I could,” he said. “I never really pushed it until I got into tattooing.”
Now, instead of drawing cartoon characters, he works with clients to plan whatever they want etched onto their bodies. And some of the pieces can take quite a while.
“I’ve done full-leg sleeves and pieces that cover the whole back. Some of the bigger pieces may take seventy to eighty hours to complete . . . full, saturated color. I had girl from Chattanooga who would come here for a year or year and a half to finish the piece,” he said.
While Chad’s reputation carries far beyond Jackson, one of his goals is to make Hybrid Moments an extremely successful commodity here in Jackson. He thinks the location is a perfect spot. Walk-in customers are welcome, but time is limited because they stay pretty booked with appointments. “We take walk-ins if we can. Hopefully, in the next year we’ll be able to take more walk-ins.”
When people ask me about my tattoos, the first thing they ask nearly all the time is, “Did it hurt?” I tell them that none of mine actually hurt. It’s more of a dull, persistent tapping for a few hours. Since I can only really communicate the feeling of a tattoo as I’ve experienced it, I asked Chad if there was any advice he could give a person who was interested in getting their first tattoo.
“Everybody’s so different. Some people say it hurts, and other people say it doesn’t. It just depends on the person and their pain tolerance. The only advice I’d give is don’t let pain factor into location. It’s all going to hurt when it’s over and done. Don’t get the tattoo in a place you don’t necessarily want it just because you think it’ll be less painful. When you wake up the next morning and look in the mirror, you’ll be glad you got it where you wanted it.”
Once the pain is over and your new tattoo is fresh on your body, it takes a few days for it to settle. You’ll want to avoid soaking it in water or exposing it to sun. Not that it’ll wash off or anything, but it can affect the healing process of the initial wound. Since I had never thought about how a tattoo actually stays permanently on your body, I asked Chad to explain the process as he tattooed a man’s elbow. (Which, despite all my faux toughness and pain tolerance, there’s no way in hell I’m getting a tattoo on my elbow. It hurts to think about it.)
“All tattoo inks are metallic,” Chad explained. “They’re made out of metal. So usually when the body receives a foreign object, white blood cells filter it out of your body through waste. Since the metal is so heavy, though, the cells can’t grab the ink. That’s why tattoos fade over the years because your body never stops seeing tattoos as a foreign object. The cells are constantly trying to pull the ink and, every once in a while, it’ll catch a piece and get rid of it.”
The tattoo business is growing and has been over the last several years. No longer is there a stigma attached to body ink the way there was a generation ago. In fact, I would venture to guess that at least half the people I know have at least one tattoo or more. Chad believes that television is a big reason for the broader acceptance of body art. “Miami Ink and Ink Masters were shows that helped bring tattoos to pop culture. Everybody that comes in here asks me if I watch Ink Masters or Miami Ink. At first, we thought it would fade, but it hasn’t.”
If you’re thinking about getting a tattoo, though, it’s important that some thought goes into it. Whatever you decide to get, it will be there forever. One of the things that made my experience great at Hybrid Moments is that the piece that I wanted was truly a collaboration between the artist and myself. See, I have no visual artistic ability—none. But as I described what I wanted, Chad listened and came back with the design that I had in my head. It was wonderful. After it healed, it looked exactly how I pictured it.
Everyone has different reasons for getting a tattoo (or five). I get mine because they are something I can help create and because they can mark passages of time in my life. My daughter, Jordan, has designed the next one I’m going to get, and she constantly is asking about when I’ll get it. I’m not sure when I’ll get it, but I know who will do it.
Gabe Hart is an English and Language Arts teacher at Northeast Middle School. He was born and raised in Jackson, graduating from Jackson Central-Merry in 1997 and Union University in 2001. Gabe enjoys spending time and traveling with his daughter, Jordan, who is eight years old. His hobbies include reading, writing, and playing sports . . . even though he’s getting too old for the last one. Gabe lives in Midtown Jackson and has a desire to see all of Jackson grow together.
Photographer Josh Garcia is a commercial photographer who landed in Jackson in 2008. With a B.A. in English from Union University in his back pocket, he’s abandoned other adjectives for “home” when describing this city. He enjoys reading, writing, photography, and cultivating community around the dinner table. #INFJ