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Passion for drawing leads to career as tattoo artist
Lucky McGovern looks over the artwork of tattoo artist Israel Jacobo inside his Manteca studio. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

Lucky McGovern can’t retrieve a single conscious memory where drawing wasn’t a huge part of his life.

With artwork providing an avenue for expression, McGovern almost seamlessly traded in his sketch pads for skin at age 14 when somebody gave him a homemade tattoo machine, and he has been entranced with the body canvas ever since.

And for almost a year, McGovern has used his steady hand to create a reputation as a certifiable artist in and around the Manteca area – taking the time to reach out to people and attract a strong following to his throwback Manteca shop.

It’s almost hard to believe, he says, that so much in the industry has changed since he first got into the scene – predominantly the widespread acceptance of tattoos and the emergence of mega-conventions that put some of the best tattoo artists in the world in one place and enables them to showcase their work live and in person.

“So much about this has changed since I first started in it,” McGovern said. “We get mothers, daughters, and grandmothers all down here getting tattoos at the same time, and that’s something that you just wouldn’t see happen just a few years ago. People recognize the art in it, and that has really changed the perceptions about tattooing in general.

“The stigma that so many people tried to overcome is slipping away more every day, and that’s good for the artists who are doing what they love to do in an accepting environment.”

Last February, McGovern figured that he was ready to start his own shop somewhere in the Northern Central Valley, and began inquiring in Stockton – his hometown – and Lodi about how much it would cost to get the necessary permits to open the doors.

Greeted with a cold shoulder in both locations, he was relieved when he came to Manteca and found the staff to be courteous, professional, and most of all accommodating.

Lucky 7 Tattoo Studio was then born.

For the last 10 months, McGovern has been putting the finishing touches on the space at 181 W. Alameda – complete with a station border made of the leftover stencils from various tattoos, and pieces of tattoo-related artwork – and has been working to build a word-of-mouth reputation from people in town that visit his shop or see the work he has completed on people that they may know.

He’s happy to call Manteca his new second home.

“People here are just nice, and going through the process of getting here was a whole lot more pleasurable than what I was looking at in other towns,” McGovern said. “People here appreciate what it is we do, and we just want to keep offering that same level of professional, sterile tattooing that we have been since we opened our doors.”

And a sterile environment couldn’t be more important when you’re talking about dropping ink into somebody’s skin with the aid of multiple needles.

McGovern likes to display both his autoclave and his ultrasonic to customers as they walk back into the tattoo stations, and likes to let his customers know that they’re getting brand new, unopened needles each time he tattoos somebody.

While he’s been in the business for a fair period of time, McGovern does wish that there would be stricter enforcement of the rules and regulations in an industry that relies on mostly self-policing.

“What doesn’t make any sense to me is that a barber will likely have more health code violations than a tattoo shop, and that tattoo shop is doing things that are far more dangerous than leaving a comb out,” he said. “If we do the things that we’re supposed to be doing, we really don’t have anything to fear. It’s all about creating an environment where the client feels safe, and that’s something we strive for here.

“If a customer isn’t comfortable, it doesn’t matter how good the artwork is. They won’t ever want to come back.”

Lucky 7 Tattoo Studio is located at 181 W. Alameda Street. The store is open Monday through Saturday from noon to 8 p.m., and Sundays by appointment. For more information, call 823-3138.