West Knoxville body art studio feels like a spa. It features Tebori or hand poke tattoos applied one dot at a time.
Tattoo technique does not use a machine and allows the artist to apply ink one dot at a time. Emily Stroud and Kevin Umberger
(WBIR-West Knoxville) It's a studio where you won't get a manicure or massage."We have a very spa-like environment. We try to be more relaxing and a little bit more calming than other studios can be," Bryan Thomas said.
Welcome to Born This Way Body Arts. It is owned by a longtime professional body piercer who has explored other forms of art, Bryan Thomas.
"I began painting and really fell in love with doing pointillism," he said.
His pointillism art displayed on the wall is made up of thousands of tiny dots. That evolved into an interest in Tebori tattoo also called hand poke tattoo.
"With the hand poke tattooing it's basically created one dot at a time because I'm just pushing one at a time like that. I'm using just those series of dots to really create that overall image," he explained.
The rooms where the work happens are quiet because hand poke tattooing doesn't use a machine.
"Most people use an electric machine and that machine is going to drive the needle up and down into the skin to put the pigment into the skin. I take that factor out of that. Now the machine is actually my hand. I use my hand to drive the needle into the skin. It sounds much more painful than it actually is. It's actually a little more gentle on the skin and less intense," he said.
No complaints from Fletcher Burkhardt whose elbow was under the needle.
Bryan remained focused, concentrating on every precision move.
He said very few people in the US practice hand poke tattooing, something he learned about only a few years ago.
"I stumbled upon some people online in the UK who were actually doing it all by hand. They were not using a traditional tattoo machine," he remembered.
Bryan Thomas prefers geometric images. His photo book shows even more examples of his work.
"With traditional tattooing your lines are going to be a lot more crisp and solid. Everything is going to look a little more sculpted. With hand poke tattooing it's a little bit softer around the edges. It's a little more organic in nature feeling," he said.
That organic process is not fast.
"With the machines they are running and hitting the skin at hundreds of times a second. My hand just doesn't move that quickly. So it's definitely a longer progression. A lot of the pieces I work on take many sessions to complete," he said.
It is body art created by hand one dot at a time.