Ashcraft uses skin as a canvas

Published 3:01 pm Monday, January 16, 2012

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

When Greg Ashcraft woke up one morning nearly 23 years ago, an unfamiliar urge hit him.

Greg Ashcraft

“When I was growing up, nobody talked about getting a tattoo or having a tattoo. I was 19 years old, and I just woke up one day and wanted one,” Ashcraft said. “So I went to the only guy I knew who did tattoos, got it and it was terrible.

“I had been drawing since before I could even write, and I knew I could do better than he did,” Ashcraft added.

After thinking about opening his own tattoo shop for several years, Ashcraft said he found motivation to do so through his Christian faith.

“In 1994, I rededicated my life to Christ. God told me ‘If you open it up in my name, I’ll bless you,’” Ashcraft said. “It’s been going wide open ever since.”

Ashcraft opened up his first tattoo shop in 1995 in Bessemer, where he said he worked to grow a customer base while sharpening his inking skills. After about 15 years of tattooing in Jefferson County, Ashcraft, a Hueytown native, decided it was time for a change of scenery.

“I knew several years ago that I wanted to move to Shelby County,” Ashcraft said, noting he was pleased to find a spot in Pelham along the high-traffic U.S. 31 corridor. “It’s been phenomenal in Pelham. It’s such a different world here. I haven’t had problems with any customers.”

Today, Ashcraft operates his tattoo parlor, Skinworx Tattoo at 2169A Pelham Parkway, with the help of fellow artists Jacob Brewer and Bobby Lockhart.

The store, which is near the Pelham Walmart, regularly serves customers ranging in age “from 16-60,” Ashcraft said.

“I think the oldest customer I’ve had was in their 70s,” Ashcraft said. “(Tattooing has) really hit mainstream over the past several years.”

Ashcraft attributed the rising popularity of body art to popular TV shows featuring tattoo parlors, but also said the shows have been detrimental to the industry.

“They’ve made people who don’t want tattoos want them, and they’ve made people who have tattoos want bigger tattoos,” Ashcraft said. “But one bad thing is that it’s made everyone who halfway thinks they can draw think they can do tattoos.”

Although Ashcraft’s parlor features many tattoo design examples hanging on the walls, he said most of his customers want custom-designed tattoos. Over the years, Ashcraft said he has seen several phases of tattoo fads.

“It used to be that everyone wanted the barbwire armband, but that died out. Then it was the tribal tattoos, and that died out,” Ashcraft said. “Crosses and prayer hands are always hot commodities.

“Today, I do a lot more Oriental-type designs and biomechanical designs,” Ashcraft added. “I don’t like doing cookie-cutter tattoos.”

Over the years, Ashcraft said he has seen his work evolve and improve.

“I’ve got a lot I’m proud of, but each one I do I try to get better,” Ashcraft said. “If you ever think you’re at your best, you are never going to get any better.”