Ink Therapy Tattoo has been inking Arizonans for more than a decade. But this studio isn’t just about creating one-of-a-kind custom tattoos: they’re also about showing off the talents of their artists, who dabble in other mediums as well, from oils and acrylic to watercolor painting.
“It’s as art-driven as tattoo-driven for sure,” says Rich Slay, co-owner with brother Sirris of the Glendale, AZ tattoo studio.
Sirris has been tattooing professionally for 15 years, and Rich followed him into the craft after serving in the military, attending culinary school, and working for the state. The idea of working with his brother was what first attracted Rich to coming into the business.
“Tattooing is a passion of mine now, but in the beginning it was more of a business decision,” Rich adds. “Sirris and I have a really close relationship – he’s 40 years old, and I’m 39, and the original push for me was to be my own boss and not have to answer to somebody’s office call, and to spend my workdays with my brother.”
“Sirris was wanting to open a tattoo shop, and originally, I was just coming onboard to run the shop. The business didn’t get off the ground fast enough for me to make a living at it, so I picked up a how-to-draw book and started doing little exercises in it, until my brother thought I was good enough at it to start tattooing. His words to me were, ‘You’re never going to really learn to tattoo somebody from drawing on paper.’ He saw my potential, and the effort I was putting it it, and he pushed me to try tattooing,” Rich adds. “We grabbed our youngest brother, who isn’t in the industry, and I started putting little tattoos on him. . . I progressively got better and better, and before long, I was able to design and create my own tattoos.”
Rich started getting tattooed at a really young age, and it was he who bought Sirris his very first tattoo machine.
“I got tired of going into shops and not getting what I wanted,” Rich says. “I knew my brother was a really good artist, so I wanted him to learn to tattoo so that he could tattoo me.”
Sirris, an amazing portrait artist, has won awards for tattoos in virtually every category imaginable from traditional to horror to realism. Rich is into doing ornate script, floral, and watercolor-inspired pierces.
“My passion for tattooing grew when I realized the importance of tattoos to the people getting them,” Rich says. “When you see somebody’s love for their tattoo, it doesn’t have to be explainable to you, it’s just very rewarding to see that they are immensely appreciative of what you’re doing for them.”
The Decision to Add Tattoo Removal
“Not all bad tattoos can simply be covered up. Sometimes the tattoo needs to be removed and not covered up at all,” says Rich, adding that tattoo removal can be equally as important to a tattoo shop as tattooing itself.
“Arizona has very relaxed tattoo regulations,” Rich explains. “It takes really nothing to set up a tattoo shop, so there are a lot of people with bad tattoos.”
In considering tattoo removal services, the brothers first looked into laser removal technology. But the huge investment was something they didn’t feel comfortable having to pass on to their clients. Even though laser was the only option at the time, Rich was never a fan of that specific removal method because of the potential damage it could do to a person’s body.
“We’ve known people who’ve undergone laser treatment, who’ve complained about it causing blistering and scarring, not to mention the pain associated with it,” Rich says, “and there have even been people who did four or five sessions and saw absolutely no difference in results.”
It wasn’t until a tattooer friend suggested they check out Tatt2Away that they found the removal method they could feel confident in offering to their clients.
“When I realized that it is an actual procedure with equipment of its own, and a natural method for truly removing tattoos, I started doing my homework. . . I needed to believe in it as a effective removal option for people with jacked-up tattoos,” Rich says.
“If the procedure is done right from start to finish, it’s going to work – that’s what it boils down to,” he adds. “The quality of results compared to laser are night and day. What you see is what you’re going to get with Tatt2Away – you see the circles, you see the scabs, they’re going to fall off and you’re going to have natural skin tone underneath.”
A big push for bringing on Tatt2Away was the ability to cover up a tattoo with something a person wants rather than just whatever does the trick. As Rich explains, after just a couple of Tatt2Away sessions, the old pigment can be lightened enough that an artist can literally go over a tattoo that was completely black with something like colorful flowers.
“Before Tatt2Away, there were times where the tattoos were super dark or had super hard lines, where we’d think to ourselves that sure, we can cover it, but if a certain section was lightened just a little better, we would have more options,” Rich says. “What we didn’t want to do with our cover-ups was to HAVE TO cover them with a lot of dark. Tatt2Away opens the door to multiple options as far what can be done.”
After an intense training period, Rich became a certified Tatt2Away technician. Being a tattoo artist as well, gives him the ability to work together with clients and the other artists in the studio to produce the best results.
“I’ve explained to our artists that if there’s an area of a tattoo that seems to be causing them difficulty, that we’ll work together to make it a better experience,” Rich says. “The artist can tell me on which area to focus the removal, and then I can explain to the client what I’m doing so that their artist can create the best quality cover-up.”
“We’ve always prided ourselves on not necessarily being better than anyone else, but instead we like to believe that we set the bar high enough to elevate the industry,” Rich adds. “That goes for the art of tattooing and providing the new standard of care for tattoo removal as well.”