Safe & Expert Tattooing

by Rusty Savage

Studio Tattoo Eagle, Copyright RLSavage 1987-1997 Welcome to these Tattoo Pages of mine. Putting these web pages together is not just the technical task of scanning and cataloging photos of tattoos and advertising do-dads. It's a chance to verbalize a little not only about the highbrow opinions I may have, but also about the things and, especially, the people who have influenced me as an artist or even to be an artist.


I also find a certain fascination with talking about art (in general) as an intellectual concept. Right brain vs. Left brain. The paradigm is misconstrued because art is not intelectual at all. It is base. Once you begin to "organize" and "catagorize" any sort of expression that someone has made, you "bind" the Kinetic energy that should be flopping around between expression and interpretation. Somehow, though,  that is how art sensability is conveyed whether you're an apprentice in an art guild or working on your Master of Arts Degree. Artists who express life and emotion in the most dynamic and  appreciated works are surely the least likely to look beyond and beleager the obvious. Still we Ponder.........

Here are some pictures of tattoos for you to ponder while you read Rustys Ramblings.



I did my first tattoo on Halloween day 1975. I had just bought my first Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and the reason that has any bearing on tattooing is this. I found that my circle of friends was changing and that in this group of folks, there were a lot of tattoos. The more I saw them up close the more I began to want a tattoo myself. Then came the desire to learn to do a few, for maybe my wife or some friends.(I did my first tattoo on myself and the next on Gale, my ex-wife.)

That first machine was a joint style rotary machine that Dave Snow, a prison tattooer, showed me how to build. The following spring I met Bill Barrong and traded him some motorcycle parts for a swing gate machine from Col Todd. Bill introduced me to Tom Slick and we drove down to San Francisco and met Lyle Tuttle and some other tattooers and I scored my first good pigments. Bill introduced me to Dee at Portland Tattoo and I did my first shop tattoo there in fall of 1978. Although I met a lot of tattooers during my early years, most of the work I did was at motorcycle runs, swap meets or events and as I traveled I started regular circuits with friends and guest spots. My first card was printed in December of that year, as Rusty's Studio Tattooing. In the fall of 1983 I rented a space in Cleburne TX and billed it as Studio Tattoo. I wasnt there enough to make it work and went back on the road after a few months. The next few years were full of dead ends that always pointed me back to tattooing in order to get by. I eventually opened a street shop in Eugene Oregon in 1987, now called Rusty Savages Studio Tattoo. Since 1987, the shop has moved a number of times. To Junction city for 2 years, then back to Eugene for 15 years, then to Springfield for 3 years, back to Eugene for a year, then back to Junction city for a year and finally back to springfield for 4 years. Now, since September, Rusty has taken Mistie Harsh as a partner and moved to a cozy location at the gateway to the Cottage grove Historic District. Mistie has 18 years of experience in shops in Washington, Idaho and Oregon, having worked for Rusty for 3 years prior to joining him at Rusty Savage and Mistie Harsh's Studio Tattoo. 

I traded some motorcycle parts for my first equipment and inks from Bill, as I said. I also got my first bit of instruction from him. Bill later worked for me for several years. I did kick all around, tattooing part time and learning what I could for a few years. There were a number of people whom I met and picked up lots of bits and pieces from - including my tattoos. Randy Adams, Terry Tweed, East Coast Al and  Lyon King were a few.

My biggest influences in the late 70's and early 80's, though were Randy Adams and Mr. Tramp. Not only did I emulate Randy Adams easy and relaxed style but his sense of the art of Tattooing. Randy would draw a design on you that could just as easily have been stenciled on, (Hey youngsters, this was in the days of acetates and charcoal stencils!) and I learned from him, the importance of being able to draw "on request". Randy also enlightened me on the very technical aspect of "packing color". Mr. Tramp was the "quick draw artist" in the flesh, for the same reason. Besides his life lessons and tips on being the gypsy tattooer, Tramp also instilled a discipline of the importance of lettering that I'll never forget.

So really, during the first 8 or 10 years I did not tattoo as my main career, it was what I did on the side or for fun, artistic enjoyment. I actually didn't know where I was going career wise, but I was never sure at that time that I really wanted to "be" a tattooist.

I was a Carpenter for much of that first few years.  Did some contracting, took an automotive vocational course, worked in a couple of motorcycle shops as a custom painter then a mechanic. I continued to tattoo, and all the time I painted, drew pen and inks and sketched. I submitted art work to all kinds of publications. Had some printed in a couple of the motorcycle rags. That interest ultimately led to a partnership, first as the art director, with Red Roberts and the Texas Scooter Times. I eventually went on my own as a publisher of 3 tabloids, 2 magazines and a promoter of motorcycle swapmeets and races and shows and such. You can see some of the pen and ink artwork I did for these, in my SAVAGE ART GALLERY. (see link at bottom of the page) Did that for most of the early and mid 80s, still tattooing occasionally in my little shop or on the road. Then I tried a "straight" business and applied my printing knowledge  to opening and running a small print shop, but I still kept coming back to tattooing. I lost that business and wasn't tied down by anything so I was tattooing more and more until thats all that I wanted to do anymore. By the end of '86 I was working motorcycle swapmeets across the northwest, and then had a chance to return to my old haunts in Eugene OR, where I first started tattooing. Worked for a fellow by the name of Doug Pelzer for a while and then re-opened Studio Tattoo in November of '87. I tattooed in my shop and still traveled, as well. I started on theTattoo Convention circuit in 1988, and incorporated my convention travels with guest spots with some of the most celebrated tattooists of our time. It's been an actual honor to have been in the arena with these people. I count some of the dearest friends of my lifetime in this group. I thank them and owe them for their influences.



Oh yea I should mention my shop STUDIO TATTOO, previously at 1011 west 6th avenue in Eugene Oregon. I had advertised as the largest and most modern tattoo shop in the Northwest. I spent 15 years there. Since 1987, there have been a number of experienced Tattooists who have worked at my various locations, and quite a few more Guest Artists. I traveled extensively, until the last 12 or 15 years, tattooing at conventions and as a guest artist, in addition to tattooing at my other shop in Syracuse NY (Studio Tattoo East) 1991-1994 and at another shop in partnership with Lyon King in Portland Oregon (Actual Fine Art Tattoo) 1989-1991. Many of images, stories and introductions that I'm archiving here have been the highlights of  my fourty years chasing the craft and craftsmen (and craftswomen) of tattooing! Now I have opened my LAST Tattoo Studio with Mistie Harsh, whom I worked with the last 3 years. Studio Tattoo is at 820 E Main St in Cottage Grove OR 97424.

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