Hidden Hand Tattoo in Seattle’s Fremont district is, well, hidden. The casual passerby would likely miss it’s quiet alley entrance, despite the best attempts of a helpful sandwich board. Once inside, however, the atmosphere is clean, calm and welcoming; the staff friendly and open. This is where Saturday found me, breezing through hand-painted saloon doors to the back of the shop with owner/artist, Jeff Cornell.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. Of course I was. Someone was about to stab me thousands of times with a rather large needle. In the ribs. But they were surface nerves, easily reined in by excitement and knowledge of long planning. Better still, I knew I was in good hands. Jeff not only has an impressive portfolio and a wall full of national awards, but has inked a good friend of mine. I’m all about word of mouth.
Without further ceremony, it was down to business. With swift, practiced ease, Jeff transformed the room into a sterile environment, prepped his instruments and stenciled me up.
Ribs are reportedly one of the most painful areas to tattoo, as well as rather difficult for the artist. Ya know, all that pesky breathing. The intricacy and size of the text I’d chosen meant I would have to stay as still as humanly possible. Following orders, I breathed evenly and slowly, drawing on all my yoga tricks.
And off we went.
Did it hurt? Yes, but not near as badly as I’d been bracing for.
There were certainly points that reduced my world to just my breath (in…out…), or had me cataloging ever detail of the wall in front of me.
An interesting wall it was, too.
I loved the collection of dolls (Army of Darkness, anyone?) and evil monkeys.
Slowly but surely we made progress.
About half way through Jeff got up to change the music (from Cypress Hill). “I might date myself here,” he warned. Can you guess what he put on? No, I wouldn’t have either. It was Journey’s Greatest Hits. Yes, this heavily inked, bearded man with a soft spot for skulls enjoys his Journey folks. And I couldn’t have been happier. Doesn’t “Any Way You Want It” seem perversely appropriate for a tattoo parlor?
When “Don’t Stop Believing” came on he asked me if I watched Glee. Glee! And then began crooning along in a gravely, husky voice without slacking on the pace. I’m telling you, darlings, Jeff is the man.
Towards the end, I tried to feel out the letters as they were etched into my skin in steady flourishes. It was like a slightly disturbed version of the game we played as children; guess the letters as a friend’s fingertip traces across your back.
I hardly noticed when Jacob slipped out to feed the parking meter. Twice. Nearly three hours had flown by as Jeff put on the final touches.
And then we were done. Slightly unsteady and awash with endorphins, I got my first look at me new ink.
I could hardly believe how much I loved (love!) it. Truly, it is everything I’d hoped for, and better. We were all three beaming, and Jeff and I high-fived. “You know,” he confessed, “call me crazy, but I’ve seen a lot of ink done and if you fight it, it goes poorly. It bleeds. You were so calm, it didn’t bleed a drop.” Thank you, Jeff! Seriously though, I cannot recommend him enough. If you’re in the market for a tattoo and are even remotely near Seattle, go to Hidden Hand. You won’t regret it. And isn’t that what a good tattoo is all about?
Photo by Hannah Wahl
Now, several days later, my excitement hasn’t waned a jot. I still surreptitiously peek at it when I think Jacob’s not looking. Just to make sure it’s still there.
All photos by Jacob unless noted.