YORK, Maine — The town’s first-ever tattoo studio in town, as far as Pam Babkirk knows, will resemble a relaxing spa more than a biker lounge.
“It’s self-care for a lot of people,” said Babkirk, who will soon open INKremental Tattoo Studio at the Cottage Place Professional Park plaza at 433 U.S. Route 1.
The longtime York resident and mother of two is eager to bring a new kind of face to an industry she said can be overly macho and negligent on comfort. Too many tattoo parlors have blaring music, she said, and “tattoo flash” on the walls, mostly comprised of skulls, knives or demons.
Babkirk’s studio walls do not contain much “flash,” or example tattoo art, as she wants people to bring their own ideas. She will likely add some in the future, but with images other than devils and skulls.
“It absolutely has a place,” Babkirk said. “For me, I choose to keep more of an open, artistic feel.”
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Babkirk, 45, moved into the space in March, outfitting it with a massage table, a cushy leather chair and two seats she bought from a thrift store and hand-painted. On the wall is some of her own artwork, pieces she painted using popsicle sticks, as well as a framed picture of Elvira, who she called an “icon.”
Babkirk has plenty of tattoos, some she did herself. Her first was Woodstock, the yellow bird from “Peanuts” simply because he was yellow, when she was 18. She said she never chose tattoos for sentimental reasons, except for the two of her children’s nicknames, “Larry” and “Duddits.”
“If I was interested in it at the time, I wanted it,” said Babkirk, who has a flying pig on her arm and a pink flamingo on her leg. “There’s no rhyme or reason.”
Babkirk has been working on a career in tattooing since about seven years ago. At the time, she got an apprenticeship at a tattoo parlor, having been collecting tattoos since 18. She learned what she could, but was disappointed with her experience, learning little for the time she spent there.
“I think what ended up happening was they just wanted a pretty face, and hanging out,” Babkirk said. She left, then started a new full-time job.
“I put tattooing to the side,” Babkirk said.
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A year and a half ago, Babkirk’s husband Casey Friar bought her a tattoo machine as a gift, knowing how much she loved tattooing. She started giving Friar tattoos at home, as well as her adult son Gage, who is 20. Two months ago, she gave herself the pink flamingo, which left her back hurting for three days.
In this time, Babkirk thought again about tattooing professionally, and two months ago decided to commit and look for a space. She quickly found the shared condo on Route 1 and moved her new studio in with a plan to move within a year to a larger space, potentially at the beach.
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Babkirk, an Eliot native, moved to York in 1995. She was uncertain how a tattoo parlor would be received in York when she went to town hall. She felt like she stood out as a young parent when her son was in elementary school.
“It’s a strange experience moving into this town looking the way I do,” Babkirk said. “I feel like we live in a little bubble.”
She was always determined to open her shop in her town, though, herself having driven to Portland and Massachusetts for tattoos. Her last one came from Iron Works in Portsmouth. She hoped her shop could make one that was a little less of a trip for people in York.
“I think no one really ever thought to try this,” Babkirk said. Town officials were not sure either, as Babkirk said the code enforcement officer went meticulously through the town ordinances in case there were any parts prohibiting tattoo studios.
“She couldn’t find any,” Babkirk said. When she announced her plans to open on Facebook, she was met with a warm welcome. Her son runs her social media for her. She learned someone posted about her new shop in the Facebook page “York Community Dialogue (Maine)” and that word spread quickly. She was at the bank when the teller congratulated her.
“I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ She said, ‘The tattoo studio,’” Babkirk said. She is optimistic from the response and expects to be busy.
“I have a feeling when that license comes, I’m going to be inundated,” Babkirk said. She hopes her spa-like approach to tattooing catches on, and that she can grow to a larger location in town Potentially at York Beach, she said, although she has a spot in mind in the Village as well.
“This is only the starting point,” Babkirk said.
This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Body, art and soul: INKremental Tattoo Studio coming to York, Maine