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2014-02-06

Inkhoggs - an unexpected answer to prayer

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

When Tattoo Chris prayed for God to "get me off drugs" he wasn't expecting to get an 18-year sentence in the Texas prison system. Chris had hit bottom with a life that had spiraled out of control in 2008 when he sat on his Harley in a convenience store parking lot and put his life in God's hands.
"One week later I was in jail on a no evidence charge," he said. "I had friends who offered to bail me out, but I said no. I wasn't guilty of that charge, but I was guilty of a lot of other things and I knew it."
The long sentence surprised him but "I wasn't mad. I knew I was a drug addict and I needed to get clean." He also said he learned a valuable lesson about prayer - "When you pray, be specific!"
No only did God send Tattoo to prison to get straight, He incarcerated him in the middle of what's called a God Pod, a group of prisoners who have a pretty serious relationship with a higher being. Which explains the well used Bible on the desk in the shop. Tattoo served almost four years of that long sentence, which is almost unheard of, he said, "But I did everything right."
Now he's been clean and sober for six years and his life is back on track.
Members of his family helped him set up his own tattoo shop and he's never going back to that old life, he says.
Tattoo Chris hosted the grand opening of his shop, Inkhoggs, last month with a ribbon cutting attended by a large crowd of locals and about 25 of his family and friends from all over the state who showed up to support him. In fact, the owner of the first shop he worked in came with good wishes.
The name, Inkhoggs, was inspired by his two passions, tattooing and riding his Harley.
After being released from prison, Tattoo moved to Houston, planning to open his first shop. Before that could happen he was in a serious traffic accident that left him permanently injured. He spent the time in recovery rethinking his business plan.
"Everybody who rides talks about Bandera," he said, "so that's how Bandera came into play."
Chris has full sleeves (arms covered with tattoos), along with ink on his neck and head and probably on parts of his body not on display. He also has stretched ear lobe piercing. In other words, he doesn't exactly look like a Bandera cowboy.
But his friendly, common sense manner couldn't be improved if he wore a Stetson, Levis and a pair of well worn cowboy boots.
"Not everyone has been welcoming," he admits, "but I've really met a lot of good people here already." In fact, business has been much better than he expected for his first two months.
Tattoo was 24 when he got his first job in a professional shop, but he confesses that he has been doing tattoos since he was 13. "I got my first tattoo when I was 11 or 12," he said. "My sister's boyfriend did a tat on me. My mom was so mad, so I got him to do 'Mom' the next week, but that didn't work!"
Mom remained less than thrilled as Tattoo continued to accumulate more ink but "20 years later, she gets tats from me!"
Chris did his early work on friends and family who started calling him "Tattoo."
He already does tattoo removal and is taking classes to be certified to do cosmetic tattooing by summer. Cosmetic tattooing can include permanent makeup and scar coverup. He will have a private space set aside for anyone wanting privacy.
What was the worst piece of art he ever had to fix? He somewhat sheepishly admitted that it was one of his own. "I did it years ago. I did a fairy on my cousin and I don't know what I was thinking when I did it. It looked like one of those Japanese manga characters, all spike haired, like Yu-Gi-Oh, or something!" Judging by his sample books on the front desk, Tattoo has come a long way in technique and skill since those amateur teenage attempts.
He looks forward to getting involved with the community. "We'll be in the parades and participate in events," he said.
He tries to make his prices affordable. Rates depend on the time it will take to do the tat, the amount of detail, and "the customer's attitude." He loves spending time with a client to develop a custom design, and he's happy to work with a customer's budget.
If you show up on your motorcycle, or if you are in law enforcement or the fire department, you'll get 20 percent off of a tattoo worth $100 or more. Inkhoggs is also running a Valentine special - a name or a ring, for just $25.
Chris has three children and his clean and sober life is in part due to them. "I can't wait to bring them up here to see the gunfighters on Main Street," he said. "They'll love it!"
He looks at his new venture realistically. He knows that some of the cutting edge tats, piercings, scarifications and other techniques that are done in Houston and Dallas probably won't be in big demand here. But he wants his shop to be one of the best in the area, a place where a broad range of customers will feel comfortable.
"You've got to take a chance," he said. "I've got goals. I've got dreams."
Inkhoggs is located at 606 Hwy. 16 South. Call 830-328-5014 for the shop, or Tattoo's cell at 832-914-5580 for more information or to make an appointment. Inkhoggs is open Monday through Thursday from noon to 10 pm; Friday and Saturday from 1 pm to midnight. Hours on Sunday vary.