Tattoos are as popular as ever, and Coup De Gras Tattoo & Body Piercings is the place to get them in Shallotte.
Bobbie Greene, 50, of Shallotte, Trey Skipper, 33, of Sunset Beach and Jazmn Dixon, 23, of Little River share a fascination along with 26 percent of the U.S. adult population: They have tattoos. Once disparaged by the middle and upper classes, tattoos are now considered works of art and accepted at all levels of society.
Most of Greene’s12 tattoos Greene are hidden. They include a cluster of roses on her upper thigh, a seahorse on her other thigh and a double ribbon on her shoulder. As an administrative assistant at Brunswick County Schools, she attends multiple meetings and says the appearance of tattoos can be distracting.
Of his 10-plus tattoos, Skipper chose on his 18th birthday to have his last name tattooed in cursive on his left forearm. As a tribute to his son, Cain, now 10, he has “Raisin’ Cain” in a decorative font across the top of his chest. Of the skull and crossbones inside his bottom lip, he says, “I wanted to see what it felt like. I’m a welder. [Tattooing] is common in the construction industry.”
Dixon, assistant customer service manager at Food Lion in Sunset Beach, says she had a rose tattooed on her forearm when her daughter was born three years ago. “I was forming a new life for myself,” she says. She plans to get more tattoos.
No matter the design or symbol, most people with tattoos don’t hesitate to explain why they got them and what they mean. Few are sorry they got the tattoos, although several want to redesign or remove them because they no longer have their original intent.
To get a tattoo, a person sees a tattoo artist, who uses a hand-held instrument with one or more needles that pierce the skin. The procedure is done without anesthetics and causes a small amount of bleeding. Most say it causes some pain. Since the needles breach the skin, an infection or allergic reaction is possible.
Angie Robinson, 42, of Calabash is a barber and has 10 tattoos. She has a large butterfly on her right forearm, an owl between her shoulder blades and four squirrels, which represent family members she says she protects, on her left wrist. A massive skull with a rose on its head decorates her left thigh. “I like butterflies and owls,” she says. “I love skulls, too.”
Tattoo artist Crystal Jo Townsend, who owns Coup De Gras Tattoo & Body Piercing in Shallotte got her first tattoo — a figure of Winnie the Pooh — when she was 18.
“Since then, I’ve just started collecting them,” she says. How many tattoos does she have? “I have no clue,” she says.
Townsend, 43, explains she grew up in Conway, South Carolina, so when South Carolina legalized tattooing in 2004, she started her apprenticeship. She documented nearly 2,000 hours, which included how to administer first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and became the first woman tattoo artist certified in South Carolina. She bought Coup de Gras in October 2022 and fulfilled the North Carolina requirement to have a tattooing permit from the local health department for each artist at the establishment. She and Tori Suchy of Supply are the two artists there.
“Things are always changing,” Townsend says. “Different inks, different ways to apply the ink, different machines, different techniques and stencils. You never stop learning.”
Ashley Berardo, 34, of Calabash teaches financial software and came to Townsend for an elaborate tattoo on her left arm to honor her grandmother, who passed away this year.
“She loved birds and her swing,” she says. The tattoo is a replica of her grandmother’s swing. Bluebirds represent her mother, grandmother, uncle and herself.
The minimum cost for a small tattoo at Coup De Gras is $80. Otherwise, the cost is $150 an hour. People usually come in with their own designs, Townsend says. She, however, will not tattoo any hate words or symbols. She requires each person complete a consent form and looks for obvious health conditions, such as jaundice, eczema and thin skin that may prevent getting a tattoo.
“Thin skin is like putting a tattoo on tissue paper,” she says. “Skin can rip and bruise.”
She also provides After Care Tips. These include avoiding direct sunlight, tanning beds, petroleum products and clothing that may irritate the tattoo.
A consent form is also needed for anyone requesting body piercing. Ears, lips and the nose are the most common places for piercing.
Townsend says a favorite for tourists is to get a tattoo that reminds them of the beach, such as a turtle or a palm tree.
“We have to tell them they can’t get in the ocean, can’t submerge the tattoo in water, can’t go in the pool and can’t be in the sun,” she says. “We tell them to wait until the end of their vacation to get a tattoo so they enjoy the beach and sun and can go home happy.”
Dr. Lydia Shedlofsky, dermatologist at Summit Plastic Surgery and Dermatology in Supply, says several of her patients have tattoos. “A tattoo is just pigment going into the skin,” she says. “It can be quite meaningful. You can tattoo to fade out scars and disfigurement as well.” She emphasizes that tattoos are not a factor in rising skin cancers. “It’s due to the sun,” she says. “A lot of people are blaming tanning beds.”
Shedlofsky recommends those who want a tattoo to make sure the tattoo parlor is clean and safe and the artist is trained in the technology. Her office does not do tattooing but will do permanent makeup primarily for eyebrows, eyeliner and lips.
For Townsend, each tattoo is a work of creativity.
“I like the art of it,” Townsend says of her skill. “I like making people feel good with their tattoos.”
Want a tattoo?
Coup De Gras Tattoo & Body Piercings
5990 Beach Drive, Unit D, Shallotte, next to OIB Airport
Tuesday through Saturday 12 to 8 pm
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