Artistic designs, a variety of ink colors and buzzing sounds greet customers when they walk into Forever Tattoos in Copperas Cove.
Chris Bailey, the shop’s owner, is an Army veteran who made a name for himself as a tattoo artist in Central Texas after being stationed at Fort Hood.
“I started drawing when I was younger,” he said. “When I was in the military, I drew after hours and worked as an apprentice for free for six months and it just took off from there.”
Like most tattoo artists, Bailey’s workday is packed from morning until evening. He and his girlfriend, Jordan Bruze, a body piercer at Forever Tattoos, wake up at 8 a.m. to round up their five children.
“I get ready and discuss with her what her day is going to be like and what my day is going to be like so we can plan with the kids,” he said.
On Friday, Bailey was at the shop by 10 a.m.
“I did some drawings and sterilized some stuff that I needed to sterilize and made sure I didn’t need to order anything or pay bills,” he said, detailing the logistical tasks that must be done before he gets to work at his station.
The 15-year tattoo veteran received his first customer an hour later. First, the customer picked out the tattoo design, then Bailey quoted the price. The customer signed a disclaimer and waiver of liability form.
“I then set up my station, put the stencil on them to see or marker on to give them a base idea of what they are getting, and I just start outlining, shading and coloring,” Bailey said.
Once the tattoo machine makes contact with the skin. Bailey must stay focused.
“You have to have your mind in a place to where when you sit down and give that first tattoo, that you are where you need to be,” he said.
Bailey usually handles several clients in one day, barely finding time to grab a quick bite to eat.
“It can be hectic at times,” he said. “In the middle of all that you are still answering questions of people that walk in and make appointments for next week and making notes on drawings I need to do.”
Dealing with customers who have a weak threshold for pain is another element Bailey has to work around.
“We are not able to numb them but there are different gels or sprays to help out a little bit,” he said. “But most of the time we keep it to the amount of time that the person can handle. If they are getting a whole back piece and can only handle an hour a time, then that’s what we do. But if they can handle five hours then we’ll do it.”
At the end of the day, Bailey cleans up the shop. Sanitation is important in his line of work, he said.
After their 12-hour workday, Bailey and Bruze go back to caring for the homefront before preparing for another busy day at the shop.
“We’ll even set up the night before and talk to each other about what we are doing,” he said. “But it’s about being able to have the long hours of the job and still balance family.”