There was a time when you’d see a tattoo about as often as you’d see an old sailor. You may have noticed times have changed, and nowhere in Roseburg is that more apparent than on Jackson Street, where two shops featuring talented artists have opened in the last year.
Story by David Shroyer, Photos by Thomas Boyd
Jackson Street: Roseburg’s epicenter. This charming avenue is home to an array of unique businesses, from restaurants and salons to boutiques and professional offices. Among the most unique recent additions to this tree-lined, six-block strip are two tattoo shops, whose goal is to make their marks not only on the ever-growing number of Douglas County residents attracted to body art but also on the greater community at large. They are young entrepreneurs with a deep interest in helping maintain and grow downtown Roseburg as a thriving destination for business and culture alike, where people can rid themselves of daily stress and learn new ways to tend to their personal well-being.
James Walls, a 30-something-year-old with a full, red beard, wants to change people’s perceptions of tattoos and the people who wear them. “There’s a stereotype, for sure,” he says.
Pulling together four other artists and opening a shop in the middle of town is part of his attempt to change negative impressions that remain out there, despite the fact that tattoos are now as ingrained in the culture as facial hair or pierced ears. Opening a shop that welcomes members of the public, whether or not they’re shopping for ink, is Walls and the four other artists’ attempt to expose more people to their art and themselves.
“We encourage people to just come in and see what we’re all about,” Walls says. “If you don’t want to get a tattoo, then don’t get a tattoo. Come in and hang out. That’s how all the shops on Jackson should be.”
People who do wander into Jackson Street, whether for art or conversation, will find an eclectic group of artists in the historic space that has been completely remodeled in a manner that is both modern and respectful of the building’s history. Walls painstakingly uncovered, then refinished, the original wood floors. Decades of various wall coverings were stripped to reveal a billboard advertisement that once graced the side of the adjacent building, now Hair Garage.
Tattoo art and ideas line the walls above booths, where Jackson Street’s artists work their magic on clients, whose faces can transform from cheerful to grimacing in a Roseburg second.
In Walls’ booth, a glass box with colorful, pinned butterflies hangs at eye level surrounded by examples of various tattoo styles: American traditional. Roses and daggers. Eagles. Pinups.
Walls has been tattooing for nine years, but knew at a young age that tattooing was in his future. His epiphany came during the Quentin Tarantino film, Dusk Till Down. “When I saw George Clooney with all those tattoos, from his arms crawling up his neck, I said to myself, ‘This is it. This is for me.’”
Walls hand draws all of his tattoos. If someone comes in with an idea or a photo, he will bring it to life.
“There’s so much talent here,” says Walls. “If you come in with something, we aren’t going to do an exact copy of it. Every one of us is a great artist and we are going to put our own flair on it.”
He and the other four Jackson Street artists he recruited from other local shops have more that 80 years of experience. Justin Nunemaker closed his Handsome and Smart Tattoo shop on Main Street to join Jackson Street.
A specialist in Japanese art, Nunemaker says he was either going to have to expand his own business — which would have required more artists, more marketing, more hours and more stress — or join a community of like-minded artists, led by Walls, who possesses immense amounts of drive and marketing knowledge.
Making the move afforded Nunemaker and the other artists the opportunity to focus more on the art of tattooing and less on its business.
“Everyone here is their own boss,” Walls says. “They take care of themselves. A customer has five different businesses to choose from here. We have five guys here with diverse backgrounds coming together to make it rock.”
Walls’ vision is to help curate a lively, cultural environment downtown. He wants to hook up with local bars, restaurants and other businesses to bring in more live music, art and entertainment, market as a collective and just generally help each other out.
He envisions a lively business and entertainment district, with residents and visitors alike cruising downtown streets, supporting businesses, but also just enjoying being part of a vibrant community.
Downtown Roseburg already has a lot to offer, but there is room to grow. Walls and Jackson Street Tattoo are committed to doing their part to help shape its continued development.
Just a block away, at 514 S.E. Jackson, Isidra Castro has a different approach to her business than her counterparts up the street, but a similar sense of community.
The sole proprietor of Raven Crafts Tattoos, Castro closed her tattoo business in Alaska and moved to Roseburg to be closer to her retired parents. She steadily built up her clientele at other shops, but knew she wanted her own business to be immersed in what is being marketed as the Heart of Roseburg.
She opened Raven Crafts in March 2017.
“I just love downtown. It’s so eclectic,” Castro says. “Jackson Street is an amazing place. It’s a phenomenal part of Roseburg. It’s just a strong downtown community, and there isn’t just one type of crowd. That’s what makes it a perfect place for a business.”
Castro lived in Alaska for 36 years. She realized she wanted to be an artist after she got her first tattoo at age 30 from her soon-to-be mentor, Debra Yarian, a renowned tattoo artist living in Alaska.
Under Yarian’s wing, Castro learned the ropes, the history and culture of tattoo artistry. Through this apprenticeship, Castro got the chance to work with and learn from many old-school artists, which influences her work today.
After tattooing for a decade, Castro doesn’t see the tattoo culture changing anytime soon — just people’s minds. She not only sees more people getting tattoos, she also sees people being more accepting of the artists and the people who wear them.
She is certainly a great spokesperson for her industry. Almost completely covered with tattoos, Castro is a walking work of art. She carries her work, and to a large extent an artistic diary of her life, wherever she goes.
“Roseburg is very accepting,” she says. “I don’t get harassed at all. People stop me from time to time and get pictures with me. But it doesn’t bother me. It’s just a good way to drum up business.”
Castro sees the tattoo industry becoming a cultural norm. “It’s becoming mainstream,” she says. “We all have a place. You’re always going to need hair stylists. You’re always going to need chefs and service people. There will always be a place for tattoo artists.”
On Their Marks
We asked a few local tattoo aficionados to tell UV readers about their body art.*
*Responses have been lightly edited for space.
Megan Nehf, 21
Certified Clinical Medical Assistant
Age when first tattooed and what was it? 18, It was a symbol me and my grandpa created together for the Cherokee that runs in our bloodline.
Your artist: James Walls
The best thing about your tattoos:
The fact that I can make them my own and help represent who I am as a person. Some pieces mean things and some I simply got because I thought they were beautiful.
Favorite story: My pug is on my left thigh. I got him when I was 7 and he died when I turned 18. He was my best friend.
Aaron Hixson, 18
Sous Chef, True Kitchen + Bar
Age when first tattooed and what was it? 17, Los Angeles Angel
Your artists: Justin Nunemaker did most; 2 by Josh McNair (both at Jackson Street)
The best thing about your tattoo(s): My goal is to inspire art. We all have our own little art that other people bring out of us. I do believe I bring a good respectful vibe to people that leaves them with positive feedback on tattooed Americans.
Favorite story: I have a tattoo on the back of my arm that reminds me of part of the Inca trail right before Machu Picchu. There’s a temple called the moon temple. I spent lots of time in peace there.
Sarah Baird, 39
Server, O’Tooles; mother and wife
Age when first tattooed and what was it? 22, a butterfly around my belly button
Your artist: Justin Nunemaker has done all but my first.
The best thing about your tattoos: I like literally wearing my heart on my sleeve.
Favorite story: I have a dandelion on my arm because my son called them “poofers” when he was little.
Bob Cotterell, 66
Retired police officer, former Roseburg city councilor
Age when first tattooed and what was it? 66, my dog Felicia
Your artist: Chris Bellville (Ms B) at Tapestry Tattoos, Roseburg.
The best thing about your tattoo: I will always have Felicia with me.
Favorite story: Felicia was cremated and some of her ashes were mixed with the ink.
Natalie Brown, 36
Owner, Poppy Layne Boutique
Age when first tattooed and what was it? 25. An Unk.
Your artist: Justin Nunemaker
The best thing about your tattoos: The story behind each one.
Favorite story: My family all got matching hummingbird tattoos after my grandmother passed away. It’s a little reminder of her I have with me all the time.
Gabriel Bandelman, 23
Owner/Operator, The Hub Barbershop
Age when first tattooed and what was it? 21, a pair of scissors with wings
Your artist: James Walls
The best thing about your tattoos: Getting to know people in the tattoo community and industry.
Aleasha Moug, 27
Aspiring nursing student, bartender, janitor
Age when first tattooed and what was it? 18. Music notes.
Your artist: Ryan Owens at Tapestry Tattoo
The best thing about your tattoos: Each represents a different phase, accomplishment or event in my life.
Favorite story: I got the skull piece on my arm when I was certain I’d be having twin boys. I began lovingly referring to them as “seek & destroy.” Then I had girls, but the names still fit.
Tom Reitz, 45
Pizza Chef, The Parrott House
Age when first tattooed and what was it? 30, memorial for grandmother
Your artist: Raven Crafts
The best thing about your tattoos: When people ask about them I get to share the story behind them.
Favorite story: My tattoos remind me of my life and of the two most loving people in my life, my “mother” and grandma. The best thing is knowing they’re always with me everywhere I go.