Steadfast Rules for Maintaining Your Ink

Whether you're preparing for your 1st tattoo or your 10th, you want it to look perfect. Louisville tattoo artist Anne Epiphany shares her insights on the best ways to care for your tat and gives us a tour of her studio along the way.

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From the outside, something feels not quite right about From the Beyond Tattoo Gallery in Louisville's Butchertown neighborhood. The place looks like a house you could've grown up in—a classic example of Southern architecture, complete with ornate window framing and a big red door. But as soon as you walk in and are greeted by co-owner Anne Epiphany's amazing rainbow hair and tattoos, you know you've come to the right place.

Anne (left), Rachel, and Valentine on the couch in the reception area. The couch, along with the studio's knickknacks, make it feel homey.
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From the Beyond started running out of this home-turned-studio last August and officially opened its doors in May. The staff includes Anne, co-owner Valentine, and Rachel, the apprentice. The shop, according to them, is still a work in progress, but that's the beauty of running your own ship: not everything has to go according to a plan.

This caged bird skeleton is one of several relics peppered around the space.
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"We opened the shop so we could have a little bit more control over what we can do—a little more freedom," Anne says in the shop's waiting area, which looks like a living room. "We'd both been tattooing for a while," she says. "Valentine's been tattooing for around 14 years and I've been for around 8—it was time for a change." Thus the creation of the gallery, which was named by Valentine, who liked the idea of getting inspiration from the intangible or "from the beyond."

The waiting and reception room, complete with a fireplace.

The house magically fell into their hands as they were looking to start the business. "It was zoned right and everything!" says Anne. "It was built in the 1800s, so there's been a lot of stuff we've had to do to try and get it together as a shop without messing too much with the aesthetic."

Beyond this door is one of Louisville's coolest tattoo shops.
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Louisville's tattoo scene includes plenty of shops, and the small-business community flourishes here due to locals' acts of kindness. "Word of mouth is a lot of it," Anne says. "People from local businesses end up spreading our word wherever they're at, so we end up getting a lot of clients from that, which is great," she adds. "We do one tattoo on them, then they show their friends, and then the friends come out [to the shop]."

Valentine concentrates on drawing a large figure on a customer's back.
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Anne describes her colorful art as a new-school style, and after years of training and interacting with customers, she's a true expert. We asked her about the things we should keep in mind when getting a tattoo.

See her tips below to learn how to maintain your next (or first!) tattoo!

1. Do Your Research

If you're committing to a tattoo, you've likely considered what kind of art you want and the spot where you want it. But there's more to getting a tattoo than just booking your appointment.

A few of Anne's sketches and designs.
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"It's best to look through an artist's portfolios," Anne says. "Check out the work of the artist you're going to and make sure their style matches what you want, so that you know you're going to be happy with the tattoo."

2. Grab a Bite to Eat—Seriously

Sure, you may be squeamish when it comes to needles, but the light-headedness that arises during the tattoo process may have to do with your food intake. "Before you come in for the appointment, eat some food at least an hour beforehand," Anne says. "While you're getting the tattoo, your adrenaline picks up and your endorphins kick in, which can drain blood-sugar levels." When that happens, you could pass out.

Art done by Louisville artists (including From the Beyond's apprentice, Rachel) hang around the shop.

3. Clean, Clean, and Clean Some More

The healing process will run smoothly if you stick to the recommended cleaning schedule. "You want to wash it at least two to three times a day," Anne says. "If the tattoo is on your hands or feet, wash it a bit more as those touch more bacteria." She suggests gently cleaning the area with your fingers using an unscented antibacterial soap and lukewarm water. You can use an aftercare cream, but put on a thin layer once a day as the formula can trap sweat and cause the skin under and around the tattoo to swell.

Anne surrounds her work station with ink, of course, along with sketches, personal trinkets, and inspiring images.

4. Suspend All Summer Activity

Although it sounds like a bummer to forgo a beach weekend with your pals, you only have to follow this rule for about three to five days post-ink. "Keep your tattoo out of direct sunlight for long periods of time," Anne says, "and avoid swimming, because those things can irritate and burn it." You'll also want to keep any dirt from getting into the fresh design, so no dirt biking or camping for you! If you really need to be outside, Anne suggests a product called Saniderm, which will keep particles and irritants out of the tattoo.

"Check out the work of the artist you're going to and make sure their style matches what you want, so that you know you're going to be happy with the tattoo." —Anne Epiphany

Anne's drawing of a Bob Ross-meets-squirrel hybrid.

5. Take Care of the Color

The key to keeping your tat looking nice and new is wearing SPF. "After it's healed, you can use a sunscreen—that will keep the color bright," Anne says. "When the sun hits, it can change the color of your skin tone, which also changes the tattoo." That means once you're tan, the tattoo can fade, although with good SPF coverage, you should be fine.

Two shelves of ink (out of many more) that encompass the entire rainbow spectrum.

If you don't use sunscreen, you might be due for a touch-up about six months down the road. And if your artist advises you to come back for a touch-up, make that appointment so you don't experience any color decay.

For more, or to book an appointment, see www.facebook.com/fromthebeyondtattoogallery.

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