Matt Waitkus knows a thing or two about ink.
He’s been tattooing for over 11 years in the Storrs area, serving University of Connecticut students, professors and Mansfield residents alike.
“It’s a trend that’s acclimating to interest.” said Waitkus. “It’s boosting the art culture… I tend to see people with tattoos to be a little more approachable at times. To my knowledge, there’s a professor around here with a full-body tattoo, aside from his neck and hands. You’d never know.”
Waitkus has been running Pandora’s Playground, a tattoo and piercing parlor in Storrs Center, for nearly three years now.
Before getting licensed as a tattoo artist, he had to undergo a period of apprenticeship with a licensed artist.
“There was a lot of observing, watching, tracing… sterilization and cleaning processes.” Waitkus said.
“These days, you have to go through CPR certification, a blood-borne pathogen and AIDS course… it became [more] regulated in the past two years, [now] you have to complete a certain number of years of training. When I started, I was ready when I was deemed ready by the artist who was training me.”
A typical day for Waitkus usually involves tattooing clients, talking and going over design ideas.
“There are vast personalities from every spectrum that you need to communicate with.” Waitkus said.
With the large population of students in his clientele, Waitkus has seen a large variety of designs in his career, to the point where there are no truly ‘weird’ tattoos to him.
“ ‘Weird’ is a little out of the norm.” Waitkus said. “It’s an idea that's much more fun than a stereotypically overdone tattoo.”
Stereotypes are indeed common among designs, with the often-derided ‘Pinterest Tattoos’ becoming more and more popular.
“Lettering, infinity knots, little mountainscapes, anchors, dreamcatchers, dandelions, little feathers transitioning into birds…” Waitkus said. “I see a lot of it. I try and steer [the client] off it the best I can. The one I’m less fond of doing is the infinity knots… there’s just so many of them. Just when I think to myself, ‘I haven’t done any in awhile’, I’ll get two of them.”
Stereotypes aside, many clients come in seeking to remember a loved one through a tattoo.
“I had a mother and son get tattooed on the death day of his brother and her son... they took some time out of their life to bond over the loss of their loved one.” Waitkus said. “I had two girls come in and get tattooed on the anniversary of the death day of their father... They got a quote of something he used to say.”
The key factors in getting a good tattoo, Waitkus says, are consideration and proper skin care.
“Give it some thought. I enjoy spontaneity, but it’s a permanent procedure,” said Waitkus. “Everyone’s skin is different…it takes time to get a feel for it. Sun is the number one killer of tattoos. If you don’t take care of your skin, it’s going to end up fading at a quicker rate. Use sunscreen and you’ll have a fresh-looking tattoo for a long while.”
He also encourages couples to avoid getting ink of their significant other’s name.
“I tend to steer them out of it.” Waitkus said. “If they’re that dedicated to getting something dedicated to [their partner], then I encourage getting something that reminds of that person [like a picture]... there’s usually more room to work with it, then.”
Overall, according to Waitkus, the key to a great tattoo artist is patience and communication.
“It was a long process to establish myself.” He said. “The market for artists was saturated when I started out… now it’s flooded. Patience, comprehension and communication is definitely key. I definitely enjoy what I do. I find it rewarding… everyone has their days, and everyone has to deal with people, and this is one of those people industries.”
Pandora’s Playground is located at 9 Dog Lane in Suite 107, phone number (860) 477-0811.