EAST LIVERPOOL-Those looking to get professional quality tattoos need look no further than the city's East End, where Lionheart Tattoo Co. recently opened for business.
Those interested in finding out more are welcome to an open house March 9, according to owner and operator Matthew Backus.
Backus, a 2006 Beaver Local graduate, has spent the last few years, he says, eating, sleeping and breathing tattoos. Backus has been drawing since a young age and attended the Pittsburgh Art Institute for graphic design after high school.
Matthew Backus (left) tattoos a client at his new shop, Lionheart Tattoo Co, located on Pennsylvania Avenue next to the Fire Street Grill in East Liverpool’s East End. Backus specializes in vividly colored custom tattoos. Lionheart will hold its open house 2-6 p.m. March 9. (Submitted photo)
"I've always wanted to draw," said Backus.
In 2009, he moved to Denver, Col., where he began his tattooing apprenticeship. The rigorous apprenticeship took two years to complete. He describes the apprentice as "old school," complete with rites of passage, such as hazing and marathon tattooing sessions.
"It was rough but it was fun-I feel like I did it the right way," said Backus.
He moved back to the area in 2012, and began working at a local tattoo shop. Despite being gainfully employed at this particular business, Backus knew he always wanted to operate his own shop.
Backus says his love of tattoos come partly from his passion for metal music and culture, of which body art is a big part. Backus has spent many years playing in various metal bands and carries the fiercely individualistic spirit of metal music into his tattooing.
"We trying to lean the tattooing more toward originality instead of having the tattoo that everybody in town has," he said.
Backus is a versatile tattoo artist, but specializes in a number of different styles. For those looking to go the conventional route, he offers work done in popular styles such as old school, new school and traditional.
"Anything colorful," said Backus, when asked to describe his favorite style. "I like black and gray, but I'm more of a color artist."
Backus specializes in less common styles, too, such as biomechanical designs and organica. Whatever style one may be interested in, Backus will use his mastery of his craft to make sure the tattoo fits the client. At Lionheart the emphasis is on custom tattoos.
"We're trying to stay away from the 'google- tattoos' and be original," said Backus.
He says his goals with the new shop is to cater to the increasingly diverse demographics now getting tattoos, while staying true to his metal roots. He hopes that by making whomever walks into his shop feel comfortable, he can help shake the stigma that surrounds tattoos.
"You don't have to be a biker or a rock star to get a tattoo," said Backus.
Part of making sure clients are comfortable comes down to the facility and equipment. Backus keeps the shop and the tattooing equipment clean and sterile. He uses all brand new coil tattoo machines with disposable tube. Both inks and machines are top of the line. He says the top quality equipment prevents skin reaction and keeps colors bright and vivid. Backus envisions Lionheart as a drama-free environment that is all about tattooing and tattooing only.
"You're not going to come here and get lectured on all the other tattoo artist in the area," said Backus. "We support the industry and the community, so we don't want to known as the drama shop."
For now, Lionheart Tattoo consists of Backus as the primary tattoo artist, while his girlfriend, Taylor Wright, takes care of the desk duties. He expects to add the expertise of several experienced tattoo artist in the coming months.
Lionheart Tattoo hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday, Noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. Friday and Saturday are walk-ins only, and the rest of the time is by appointment. There is a $40 minimum on tattoos. Sunday-Thursday clients can pay $500 for all day sessions for large tattoos, such as sleeve and back murals. Backus offers 30 percent off civil service discount for policemen, firemen, EMTs and active and retired military members.
The open house is 2-6 p.m. March 9 at 1575 Pennsylvania Ave., in the former Thrifty City Plaza. There will be a drawing and free tattoo giveaway.
For more information, visit their Facebook page or call 330-932-0542.