RSVP Montgomery

East Side Ink....a look into Halcyon Tattoo Studio


Ashley Whittle Tiedt
For Nate Johnson, owner and tattoo artist at Halcyon Tattoo Studio, it is all about the ritual: he smokes a cigarette before every tattoo. “It just relaxes me, because this is something permanent on people and being that it is permanent I want to be relaxed and in the right mindset,” said Johnson. He meticulously arranges his ink caps as his subject waits patiently for the tattooing process to begin. Johnson waits to pour the pigment until he is ready to start. He says there are contaminants in the air that you can’t see and they aren’t good for an open wound. 

Today, Johnson is continuing work on Bryant Bull’s forearm. It’s a tattoo six months in the making. Bull says that when he decided to get the tattoos on his forearm, he knew immediately that he wanted Nate to do the work. Bull says the personalized experience you get at HTS helpsyou to feel more comfortable and relaxed while getting a tattoo, “I didn’t see it the way he saw it...when he finished it, it was totally different than I imagined in a better way. It looks like you could grab [the grenade] off my arm and throw it. I knew from that point...I should just sit back, not look and let him do his thing and at the end I’m going to have a good tattoo. I would say he is the best tattooer here, period.”
Johnson says he always knew he wanted to be a tattoo artist. He moved around some but eventually landed in Atlanta as a tattoo apprentice. Eventually he moved back to Montgomery and realized his dream of opening a tattoo studio with his childhood best friend Drew Tileston, and thus Halcyon Tattoo Studio was born, nestled in a shopping center in East Montgomery. Through all the years and all the different tattoo shops they worked in, they built a vision of whattheir shop would be like. They realized this vision in HTS, “to have a fun relaxed environment that we wanted to tattoo in and do what we wanted, what we loved to do,” said Johnson. 
The shop has been open for roughly six months and business is booming. While walk­ins are welcome, if you want Nate to be the one tattooing you, you’ll have to wait. The list is about threemonths long. Johnson says that his shop isn’t like other shops. He wants to offer you an experience, and good things come to those who wait. He free hands all his work, and when you come in for your appointment, Johnson presents you with the drawing he created especially for you. The two of you discuss the drawing and then the process begins. You can watch TV, listen to music or just discuss what’s going on in your life. Johnson wants the customer to feel like they can talk to him and become comfortable with him during the process. And if you come in with a questionable design, he is going to question you. He says, “I care about your skin because this is permanent, I don’t know if everybody remembers that about this, but this is really permanent. In fact, it’s the only thing you can take with you to your grave.”

If you’re mulling over getting a tattoo, there are a few things Johnson says you need to remember:
1.“Listen to your tattoo artist, and if your they don’t have anything to say worth listening to, run.”
2. “If you have to do anything other than give your tattoo artist your idea, run because you’re going to get a bad tattoo.”
3. “Look at portfolios. Portfolios nowadays aren’t just in person, they’re on the Internet...most of the time in that tattoo shop everyone in there is a walking billboard for most of the artists there.”
4. “Don’t price shop.” As Nate’s friend Josh Geraldsays, “Good tattoos aren’t cheap. Cheap tattoos aren’t good.”

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