More and more people are gravitating towards tattoos as society becomes more open-minded. Bordentown-based tattoo artist Chris Seldon has seen that firsthand.
“Generations change,” he said. “Tattooing has gotten popular on TV. Its come a long way. I’ve tattooed people in their 80s. I just had these Vietnam vets here who started talking about Vietnam, and I was like, ‘Wow.’”
Seldon’s station at Timeless Tat2 is a peaceful, artistic space. There’s his client’s chair, the table where his paints are set up, his swivel seat and plenty of soothing art and music. There’s a painting high on the back wall that his own father, who’s in the marble and tile business, painted. His girlfriend, Amber, helps him out in the shop as he opens up about art, Timeless Tat2, and how he got in the body art business.
“This shop is really a great environment,” said Seldon, a Bordentown resident. “I was bouncing around from shop to shop. Doing pop ups. [Timeless Tat2 owner Chris Stumpf] created an environment here that even if I tattoo only one person or two people a day, putting all my talent into it and making sure it’s right is the priority over volume. Having Chris as a boss is a blessing.”
Seldon, 41, was born in Trenton and grew up in Princeton. He has been in the tattoo business for a little longer than 11 years. He apprenticed at Burning Monk Tattoos and Art Gallery in Toms River. He’s been at Timeless Tat2, located on Mission Road in Bordentown, for six years now but didn’t realize he was really an artist at first. He drew a lot, and many people told him he was talented, so he jumped in. He’s not an art snob though, and is open to all styles and genres.
“I don’t have a favorite genre,” he said. “If a piece is interesting, that’s where my interest lies. I’m always looking for new ideas. I learn as I go. Andy Warhol style is popular now. The technology is changing as we speak. The needle’s getting better, the ink is better. The machines are a lot better. The healing process is better. We’re using second skin now, no bandages anymore.”
Seldon is adamant about working with a client to really understand what they want and to understand what issues someone may have that may make the process more complicated. Sensitive skin, the way a tattoo will look in a certain area versus another, or the tendencies of some clients to form scar tissue all factor into his consultation process with clients. Therefore, his clients really appreciate his gentle and patient approach, especially if they’re getting their very first tattoo.
“At our first meeting, we discussed the vision I’d had for a few years of a tattoo I wanted on my upper back,” says Dawn Daloisio, 48, a Bordentown resident of 13 years. “Chris spent a decent amount of time with me, listening, talking, and looking at pictures, helping me bring all the pieces of everything I wanted together. He drew something up for me and it was really great, I was super excited. When all was said and done, my actual tattoo far surpassed my expectations. It’s so beautiful and I get tons of compliments on it. He really is such a talented artist.”
Seldon, extremely mindful of skin issues and of personal taste, likes the environment that Timeless Tat2 provides because there are fewer regretful tattoo incidents there than at other places. There’s a percentage that the shop takes out of the artist’s fee, as the shop provides many of the supplies the artists go through, like the paper towels, medical soap and disinfectant. Timeless Tat2 requires a new client put a deposit down before the work starts.
“My nephew is a keloid former,” Seldon says. “And it all depends on how deep you go with the needle. You can definitely get tattooed if you scar, just as long as you don’t go past the dermis layer of skin,” he says, which is why mentoring is very important in the body art business. “There are a lot of people who lie about their experience and slide into the business.”
A new client must be 18 to get tatted at TimelessTat2. Many have stories about someone who had a spontaneous drunken night or was too young to make a solid tattoo decision because the mature brain wasn’t fully formed yet. Lasers are used for tattoo removal and it’s more painful than the tattoo process. That’s why Seldon studied how to do tattoo coverups.
“Tattoos are so personal, each one unique and special,” Daloisio says. “Some are tributes to loved ones, some are expressions of oneself, some are representations of strength and courage. All are equally important and you want yours to be perfect, so the artist you choose is so important. Getting a tattoo really is an intimate experience, and you have to truly trust and feel comfortable with the artist. I couldn’t imagine anyone not feeling that way with Chris. He’s such a nice person and has an easiness about him that puts you at ease. He is super professional and made me feel totally comfortable. As long as he’s doing tattoos, he’ll be doing mine.”
Daloisio met Seldon two years ago when she was referred by a friend who’d gotten a tattoo on the inside of her forearm from him. She fell instantly in love with it and knew she needed to book an appointment. Seldon says that women have a higher tattoo pain tolerance and that belly, throat, foot, hand and butt tattoos are the most painful with all the nerve endings that run through those areas. He’s doing more free hand drawing too and less tattoo stenciling, which doesn’t complement the body the same way. Placement is a learning process and Seldon sees that the increase in free hand tattooing is a part of the natural evolutionary process of tattoo culture.
Seldon’s favorite tattoo artists include master tattooer Nikko Hurtado, from Los Angeles, for his use of vibrant color, and graphic tattoo artist Jeff Gogue for his use of traditional Japanese free hand tattoos and old paintings. When he’s not working he likes spending time with his seven-year-old daughter Alaya, painting and playing the guitar. He’s enthusiastic about the future and paying it forward.
“I do eventually want my own shop,” he says. “Now I’m just focused on growing as an artist. My passion is painting. I should have a studio in the future where I paint and tattoo. And passing it on to other a couple people I know who want to become tattoo artists.”