Shawnee tattoo artist makes mark in business
In February of 2020, Shawnee resident and tattoo artist Jason Baker opened his shop Squid Ink, which he hopes will support both tattoo artists and other local artists in the area.
Baker has been a tattoo artist since 2006 and decided to open a business to support not only his fellow tattoo artists, but also other artists in the area such as T-shirt designers, painters, jewelry makers and more.
"We're unlike any tattoo shop I've ever been in thus far. We've got tattoos and piercings," Baker said. "We're working on getting clothing lines that are geared toward tattoos."
Baker said while he's currently trying to expand the retail side of his business by reaching out to local artists, he's trying to find a happy medium between expanding his products without becoming a boutique.
The business owner said he opened shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic and though it was a struggle, in the end Squid Ink remained open.
"We opened up to shut down. We survived; 2020 wasn't great by any means, but we made it," Baker said. "There's been a couple of months when it was really good and there's been a few months when it was really bad."
The tattoo artist said he hopes 2021 will be better for his business.
In addition, Baker said an aspect that makes Squid Ink safer amid the pandemic is the fact that tattoo shops are already required to sanitize everything and take extra safety measures against the coronavirus.
"(We're doing) pretty much the same thing everybody else is doing," Baker said. "The only difference is the stuff we use to clean our stations pretty much kills everything."
Along with the constant sanitation, Baker said both customers and tattoo artists are required to wear masks.
Originally from Florida, Baker said for the last several years he's lived on and off again in Shawnee with his wife and four children.
He explained he chose to open his shop in Shawnee because there's not as many tattoo businesses in the area and he knows people in the industry.
"It was really just the best option as far as being in a place that's not overcrowded with tattoo shops," Baker said. "It's somewhere I've tattooed for a long time. It doesn't make sense to be anywhere else really."
Baker he began his career in 2006 tattooing part time in Washington while he was in the Navy.
"It wasn't until 2013 when I became a full-time artist and it was all I did," Baker said.
Before opening Squid Ink, Baker said he owned another tattoo shop with three other people but it didn't work out because of creative differences.
Baker said after leaving his first tattoo business, he moved to Florida with his family for a little while but then returned to Shawnee and opened Squid Ink.
"Through a weird series of luck, I ended up with this place," Baker said.
Baker said prior to acquiring Squid Ink he worked at a tattoo shop in Oklahoma City that was robbed and then burned down.
The business owner said he was unemployed from November 2019 to February 2020.
"The last few years have been a real struggle trying to get ahead," Baker said.
However, Baker said he's happy to own his own shop even though it can be challenging.
"I love having my own place. I love having the ability to put all of my ideas to work but it's a lot of work," Baker said. "It's a lot to take on."
For Baker the best aspect of being a tattoo artist is being creative and making art.
"It's not like any other job. The better you are at the more places it'll take you and the more fun you'll have with it," Baker said. "It's something you can set your own hours. My goal is to be as good as I can be."
Currently there are five tattoo artists working at Squid Ink as freelancers, one piercer, an artist working apprentice, an artist becoming an apprentice and a piercing apprentice.
"Without them I probably wouldn't be where I am. Everybody has pitched in and helped either with build out or getting the store to where it's at," Baker said.
The veteran said he feels the community has responded positively to Squid Ink.
"They made sure we survived 2020, that's for sure," Baker said.
In the future, Baker said he hopes he can find more local artists such as painters, sculptors or jewelry makers to feature in his shop.
In addition, Baker said he hopes Squid Ink will become more involved in the community.
"We try to do as much as we can to give back," Baker said. "I don't want to be just a tattoo shop. I want to do as much as we can."
Squid Ink is located at 1127 N. Kickapoo Ave and is open Tuesday to Saturday from noon to 9 p.m.
For more information visit squidinkmerch.com.