Dark to Light: transforming lives one tattoo at a time, Part I
There is a fact out there that we need to face, and that fact is-tattoos are awesome. I know all of us at Tattoodo appreciate epidermis enthusiasm. Over thousands of years tattoos have stood the test of time, changing alongside the culture. Once displayed on salty sailors and back alley folks, earning the rebellious stigma that grew during the time ink was illegal, then morphing into mainstream. We now have just about every color, style, and shade of the expressive art form out there on just about everyone.
However, tattoos serve purposes other than the current creative self-expression. Chris Baker, an experienced tattoo artist who runs a shop out of Oswego, Illinois knows all about the dark side of the art form, meaning the tattoos affiliated with gang and prison status. He is familiar with those tattooed for less than honorable reasons because he works with them on a daily basis. Chris Baker is the founder of Ink 180 a tattoo ministry-yeah you read that right a ministry involving tattoos.
It seems like a complete contradiction at first thought, Jesus and ink but when you look at it the Ink 180 way it’s a truly beautiful contrast. Chris uses his more than ten years of tattooing experience to illustrate cover-ups and/or removal on victims of sex trafficking and ex-gang members. As if finding a talented artist who can erase scarring past reminders isn’t great enough, the craziest part is that there’s no cost to these clients. Working for free doesn’t earn him much popularity in the industry. Honestly the only thing less popular would be being a Christian tattoo artist, but that’s Chris, living proof that those worlds can collide. He said: “All the work is paid for because of the one who paid it all.” I had the pleasure of sitting down with Chris at the pre-showing of his documentary. More Ink 180 info is available here and here.
Everyone has regrets and if some of those are fixable, why not fix them? Well tattoo cover-ups cost hundreds and not a lot of artists are up to the challenge. Laser removal costs even more. To be new on the inside yet still judged for what’s on the outside when nothing can be done about it just isn’t fair at all. Chris’s wife Lisa would say Ink 180 exists “for those people that are cast aside. That’s what makes it worth it.” The tattoo ministry has come a very long way in three short years and it is sure to continue. Since it is entirely donation-based the goal of Ink 180 is to connect with other tattooers and dermatologists who have a heart for pulling people out of darkness and are willing to offer free services just to give someone a glimmer of hope.
Ink 180 is currently operated out of Oswego, Illinois. Right now he has a team of three artists and one piercer, a modest shop with a moral disclaimer that private areas will not be pierced or tattooed. There’s also an Ink 180 tattoo truck used for correctional visits and anyone who can’t make it out to the shop. How great is that? A mobile tattoo unit-the tattoo comes to you! The way Baker does things isn’t typical, which is exactly what all the tattoo fiends are constantly searching for, something unique and different.