The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


A country-loving, gardening, tattooing Cali know-it-all

Tattoo artist Chris Erickson sits at his desk at Elm Street Tattoo, the studio where he has worked for the last five years of his 15-year career.


Through the front door of Elm Street Tattoo and past the clutter of fun bobble heads, raunchy posters, shot glasses and tattoo drawings that decorate every surface of the bright, aqua colored shop, a small room hides behind a dark curtain.

Chris Erickson sits at the white desk that fits perfectly in the corner of the tight, secret room.

It’s where the pre-tattoo magic happens, the place where ideas finally make their way onto paper.

His small, light blue eyes dart back and forth from the fragile piece of transfer paper to the bright screen of his iPhone, which shows a cartoon image of a pinup girl, his current inspiration.

He runs his hand through his brown hair down to his beard, hesitating for a second and then, in a matter of minutes, his light pencil marks speed up and the drawing is finished.

“Let me know if she likes it,” he said, handing the drawing to his co-worker Joe (Chilli) Ginski. Ginski nods and takes it, his black “too dumb for NY too ugly for LA” t-shirt disappearing quickly through the curtain.

“I love getting to be a part of people’s lives,” Erickson said.

“Even if you only see them once, the tattoo will last forever and they’ll remember you.”

Erickson, a soft-spoken 34-year-old California native, said many of the clients are returning customers and eventually become part of what he calls one big, tattoo family.

Erickson has been tattooing for 15 years, and working at Deep Ellum’s Elm Street Tattoo for the last five, the same amount of time he’s been living in Dallas.

He got his first tattoo at 19 and, like many other tattoo artists, now has so many he’s stopped counting.

“For the first eight years every time I would see my grandma she would say, ‘have you found a real job yet?’” Erickson said.

“But it’s just a line you’re willing to cross, everyone knows what they’re getting themselves into,” he said.

He carefully lifts the back of his T-shirt, excited to show off his latest addition to the collection: a huge tree designed to cover his entire back.

Ginski pokes his head through the small curtain saying the customer thinks the pinup girl’s eyes look too Asian.

Ginski, 32, first met Erickson through his girlfriend, who was getting tattooed by him. He’s a short man, a bit scrawny, with shoulder-length black hair that he pulls into a low ponytail.

“Chris, he’s just committed to doing sweet tats, man, he’s a pretty laid back dude,” Ginski said.

“He hated me and thought I was a weirdo. It’s totally true. I was like that guy hates me, but he’s just quiet,” Molly McKinnon said.

McKinnon, one of the newer members of the Elm Street Tattoo family, has been working with Erickson for the last two years.

McKinnon is a petite 26-year-old from Massachusetts. Her dainty, feminine arms are covered in flower tattoo sleeves, which she shows off proudly with her tank top.

“When Chris works I admire his attention to detail,” McKinnon said.

“His desire to learn I find very refreshing in a world of know-it-alls. I mean, Chris is kind of a know-it-all but he actually knows what he’s talking about,” she said with a smile.

If anyone ever has a question, Erickson always seems to have the answer. She turns back to get more yellow ink for the tattoo she’s working on, completely unaware of the expression on her customer, who looks so nervous he might faint.

Her wrist moves effortlessly, as if she were still only drawing in pencil.

“We’re hardcore as heck today,” Ginski said, turning up the volume on the rock music playing in the shop.

McKinnon laughed and said, “I know.” She bobs her head happily to the intense tunes while still working on her frightened customer’s sleeve.

Every Tuesday through Thursday from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Erickson spends his time in the shop, drawing new tattoos and tending to customers.

With all the time he spends at the shop and with his impressive portfolio, you would never guess his career as a tattoo artist began as a mere hobby.

“One day I realized people actually do it as a job,” Erickson said.

When he took the opportunity to move from California to Dallas for a job offer from his ex-girlfriend, Erickson already had 10 years of professional tattooing under his belt.

He interviewed at Elm Street and has been there since.

The thing with hobbies is people rarely have just one, and Erickson is no exception.

When he isn’t making permanent installations of art on people’s skin, Erickson likes to garden.

Every day he gets up relatively early, makes coffee for himself and his girlfriend, and takes their adorable cocker spaniel Curly out for a walk before proceeding to slip on his garden shoes.

“It’s soothing to me, I love doing gardening stuff,” he said. Erickson’s garden is small, but colorful and always well kept.

On his way to work the garden shoes come off and one of the five pairs of cowboy boots he owns comes on, usually the tan ones with a few light blue colored accents, his favorite.

“If you’re an adult you should wear leather shoes. You should dress for success, you know?” Erickson said.

Cowboy boots are not only his first choice in footwear — they also pay tribute to Erickson’s favorite kind of music: country. “I don’t listen to much modern stuff,” he said.

“I like it when a song sounds like country and blues coming together.”

Erickson is also part of a band, “The Rodeo Band Brothers,” who he often practices with after work.

So, when gardening and tattooing aren’t taking priority, Erickson uses music to bare his country soul.

Art shows, collecting old west memorabilia, going for walks, and the art of carving leather also top the list of Erickson’s favorite things to do.

“I do everything,” he said.

“Chris is really a man living outside his era, like in the 1920s when craftsmanship and morals meant something,” McKinnon said.

“In a world of idiots Chris Erickson is an all right guy.”

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