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Tattoo artist: He gets onto your skin
Vern Ring focuses on the tattoo of a customer. For the last several years Ring has been doing studio work at The Parlor serving local patrons out of Downtown Manteca and striving to better himself as a tattoo artist. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

The tattoo on Vern Ring’s lower left shin stands out.

It’s not that the others that cover a large portion of his exposed skin are bad – the intricate detailing and the varied designs down his left arm undoubtedly draw awkward stares of admiration.

But just two weeks ago he grabbed his tattoo gun and a fresh shipment of black shades – yes, there is more than one color of black when it comes to the ink that goes under your skin – and went to work on what, one would think, be a part of the body that drew pain with every poke and vibration.

It’s right on top of the shinbone. The nerve endings there make it a nightmare to bang it against a table, so purposely puncturing that skin repeatedly requires toughness – especially when it’s coming from your own hand.

And the end result was a beautiful meld of function and form – the bold, unmistakable outline of a skull together with a strikingly realistic looking rose and a dose of shading that makes it look like it pops from his skin.

One way to show prospective customers that you’re serious about your work is to flash them the canvas you have to look at every day. It shows artistry. It shows confidence.

“Once you’ve got that confidence man, it’s hard to knock it down,” Ring said, working the intricate lines of a cheetah on the upper arm of a customer that was no stranger to the needle or the chair. “That’s really a big part of what goes into doing this. You have to have that confidence that you can do anything.

“But you also have to know what your limitations are and respect those. There are some things that I’ve only been at for a year now, even though I’ve been tattooing for more than 10. There are things you’re going to be more comfortable with. And you don’t want to send somebody away with something that they aren’t happy with, because that will come back against you.”

When Ring first started tattooing more than 10 years ago, things started off light. He never thought he’d one-day be doing studio work, and viewed it more as a hobby and an extension of his creativity than anything else.

But he got better. People began to talk about this guy and what he could when he hooked up his gun and dipped the needle into the ink. And before he knew it, people were coming to him to get things done – first planting the idea that this could be something he could pursue.

One thing he was always attentive of, even back then, was his reputation.

While there are a hundred professions where somebody can jump onto a website and slam you – a lot of times by name – for the job that you did, the work of a tattoo artist is (more often than not) on somebody’s skin forever. It’s a living business card. It’s something that will be attached to your name for as long as you walk the earth, and then afterward.

Worrying about that too much will paralyze somebody, but Ring knows that he has to make sure that the person who climbs into his chair slides out of it happy. And that means taking his time.

“I knew when I saw people coming around with work that they got done at studios that I could do better – I knew then I could do this,” he said. “And it’s all about taking your time. Going slow. If you rush something just to get somebody out the door, that’s going to show and then somebody’s going to trash your name and in this industry that will absolutely kill you.

“Word of mouth is everything. You want people to come to you based off your reputation alone. You have to work to get there, and you have to work to make sure that you stay there.”

The Parlor is located at 259 W. Yosemite Avenue in Manteca. Ring is available by appointment and during select walk-in hours. For additional information, call (209) 824-5424.

209 staff reporter