Island Ink Sets the Standard for Tattoo Artistry

By Avra Sullivan

What does “getting inked” mean to you? For the artists at Island Ink Tattoo in Grasonville, it means designing and creating body tattoos, the ultimate form of self expression. Today, tattooing is recognized as a legitimate art form that attracts people of all walks of life and both sexes. Robin Craig and fellow artist Tommy Cathers opened Island Ink in 2001 to offer clients a safe and creative place to get a tattoo. Robin has been expressing himself artistically for almost 50 years. Starting as a painter, he expanded his canvas to include the human body.

Walking into the studio, you feel as if you are in an art gallery. The walls are lined with artwork created by Robin, Tommy and other local artists. The sitting area is very inviting and includes a stage that is used for open mic featuring music, drama, poetry and other forms of expression each Friday from 5-9pm. The rooms upstairs are bright and spacious and equipped with TV’s and individual stereo systems so a client can listen to music or enjoy a favorite movie or TV show. A hospital grade sterilization container is used to sterilize all equipment, and a new needle is used for every tattoo or piercing.

The tattoo has undergone a dramatic redefinition from an anti-social activity to a trendy fashion statement and an acceptable form of self-expression. In 2002 Forbes magazine ranked tattooing as the fastest growing small business in America. Why the shift? “Tattooing is a statement of who we are,” says Tommy. Society is more accepting of tattooing, and an increasing number of operators have adopted equipment and procedures similar to those of medical clinics. Tommy says, “There was a certain “perception” of a typical tattoo client that is just no longer true. The majority of people who walk in our door are business professionals or law enforcement. And…close to 80% of our clients are women.”

Artists trained in the fine arts have embraced tattooing and brought with them detailed and beautiful imagery. This transformation from the stereotypical view of tattooing to a form of art is part of Island Ink’s mission to enhance the entire experience and create unique body art. They work with a client to customize the perfect design before beginning the actual tattoo. This also means giving technical advice on the “tattooability” of a design. Tommy and Robin are adamant that they never judge or discourage any design. “Tattoos are harder than paintings,” says Robin, “Paintings can be re-done or thrown away. A tattoo is forever and needs to be done right.”

Tattoo parties are a fad that recently emerged in the body art industry. These are usually held at someone’s house and while it may seem like a fun time, safety standards are often highly jeopardized, or altogether ignored. Island Ink just unveiled the Black Pearl, a custom built traveling tattoo and piercing trailer. This trailer is equipped with a bathroom and shower and a huge interior in which tattoos can be done in a fully sanitized area. A large TV screen on the outside of the trailer allows friends and those in line to watch the process. Tommy and Robin are strict that no one except the artist and the client will be allowed in the trailer when a tattoo or piercings are being done. The trailer is available for events or private parties and recently was featured at the Island Bay Days festival.

All the artists at Island Ink are professional and highly-trained and take great pride in making sure the client “walks out of here smiling”. Island Ink specializes in custom tattoos and piercings as well as permanent cosmetics. You can find more information and see their gallery of work on their website at or call them at 419-827-7781.