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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: The Art Of Tattoos

Jutta Wilberding
Cutler Valley Photography

It’s Valentine’s Day and you’re thinking about immortalizing your big love with a tattoo on your arm. A bit scary, but hey, it’s BIG love. Forever. What next? Where do you go and how is it done?

Raven, a licensed tattoo artist based in Otsego, who has created art on human bodies for 30 years, tells how it all began.

“It’s funny, but when I first got into tattooing, it was stepping out into the unknown,” Raven says. “Here I had this job I knew I wouldn’t lose, a constant paycheck, but I went out on my own, in my own business.”

A conversation with tattoo artist Raven

Raven has become one of the region’s best-known tattoo artists since 1991.

“The tattooing just took over,” she says. “So many people wanted custom designs. Back then it was pretty much just flash. It was sets of drawings you bought for the express purpose of doing tattoos for people. There wasn’t a whole lot of custom drawing like there is now.”

Credit Jutta Wilberding / Cutler Valley Photography
Cutler Valley Photography
Tattoos by Raven

Raven says she’s always had a passion for art, beginning with her doodles on the back of placemats in diners when her father took the family out to eat. Later, she took art classes at Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Western Michigan University.

Raven attributes tattoo magazines for firing up interest in body art. What began with a small group of people eventually has taken over the larger population.

“When I first started, I would do maybe two tattoos a week,” Raven says. “Now I’m booked out a year and four months. We’re talking teachers, doctors, low-grade politicians…” She laughs. “And I’ve worked with a couple millionaires.”

While primarily a tattoo artist, Raven has also painted more traditional paintings and wall murals, detailed cars with her artwork, created sculptures, and more recently she painted the stage for the Kalamazoo College Festival Playhouse for an upcoming play, Silent Sky.

And if your "big love" changes by next Valentine’s Day? No problem, Raven says. She also does what she refers to as “regret repair.”

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

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Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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