Eric Booth: Giving survivors ‘something beautiful to look at every day’

Eric Booth of Crucial Tattoo is known locally for the reconstructive tattoo work that he performs to help breast cancer patients.

Eric Booth of Crucial Tattoo is known locally for the reconstructive tattoo work that he performs to help breast cancer patients.

When you think about cancer you might not automatically think about tattoos. But for Eric Booth, a local tattoo artist at Crucial Tattoo, he has discovered that sometimes they go together perfectly.

Would it surprise you to know that approximately 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo?

I don’t know about you but I find myself in the minority, more often than not, as someone without a tattoo.

And, until last week, I had never stepped inside a tattoo studio. Personally I’ve never had the desire to have a tattoo but I am fascinated by them and there is no denying the sheer talent of a reputable artist, like Eric.

So I sat down with Eric in his work space, inside Crucial Tattoo studio, to learn more about his work as a tattoo artist and to hear about the awesome reconstructive tattoo work he performs.

Q. So this is where you do your work? How many artists work here?

A. Five. And sometimes we are all working at the same time.

It can get a little busy.

Q. How many tattoos do you do in a day, on average?

I can do two a day for an average size tattoo. Larger ones take longer of course.

But two a day five days a week is typical.

Q. Eric, you have some amazing tattoos – and I want to talk about that in a minute – but first, tell me about the reconstructive work you do and how you are helping cancer patients.

A. In 2005 I started doing reconstructive areola tattooing for a local plastic surgeon.

I provided realistic areola complex tattooing on surgically reconstructed breast mounds, the final procedure in the breast cancer reconstruction process.

Soon several of these awesome women inspired me to attend permanent makeup instruction and I got into permanent facial cosmetics and scar camouflaging as well.

I never imagined doing these specialized procedures when I began tattooing but these have proven to be some of my most enlightening client experiences.

I also have done many graphic image designs at the studio – instead of realistic areolas – on survivors who want to do something a bit differently.

Q. Looking through your portfolio, by a bit differently you mean a beautiful flower or vine instead of recreating the areola?

A. Yes. Some women prefer to create something unique or to cover a scar so they don’t have that daily reminder of cancer – they have something beautiful to look at every day.

 Q&A Jump

Q. How do people find out about you and the work you do?

A. By word of mouth. Most of my reconstructive work is done through referrals. I’m very proud of this work.

I worked with a guy who had been burned and had scarring on his face and neck, all around his ear. I did scar blending and shading to give his skin a more natural color so the scar isn’t as noticeable.

Many tattoos are done to cover scars. You really can’t tell unless you look very, very closely.

Q. Why do you think people are so fascinated by tattoos?

A. I think that tattoos have fascinated people for quite some time in our history, but the 22 years that I’ve been tattooing can definitely be looked upon as a major renaissance period in the history of tattooing.

And which shows no signs of slowing down at all.

Q. So you’re saying the number of people getting tattoos is continually increasing?

A. Yes. And the number of tattoos people are getting is increasing. The level of artistry, tattooing technology and professional standards are constantly evolving into examples of artwork not thought possible years ago.

Working with very talented, constantly progressing artists at our shop through the years helps me to keep evolving artistically and technically.

People are drawn to what we can do today.

Q. I was surprised when my neighbor’s mother got her first tattoo at the age of 65. Do you see that a lot?

A. Many times you’ll see a daughter and mother or grandmother coming in together. The level of artwork is inspiring older people to get tattoos.

Tattoos in general have evolved and people’s perceptions have changed because of that.

Q. You have a quite a few tattoos but I’ve noticed that if you are wearing long sleeves and pants no one would know you have any. Do you think people are still judgmental about tattoos?

A. Oh absolutely. I’m pretty conservative.

I don’t have anything on my hands, my face or neck. Now if you could see the rest of my body, that’s a different story.

I can cover up if I want to.

Q. It seems people can’t stop at just one tattoo. Is there such a thing as having too many?

A. You can go too far. But tattoos are addictive. It’s hard to just have one.

The key though is to have them done right, by a reputable artist in a studio that meets all the health regulations.

Q. Have you ever refused to give someone a tattoo?

A. Yes. But it doesn’t happen often here.

We do take walk-ins but prefer when people make an appointment so there is plenty of time for them to think about what they want.

I also advise people to not get a name. Names of kids are ok but a boyfriend, girlfriend, even husband or wife – those are the ones people end up regretting.

Q. What do you think about kids getting tattoos? Do your children have any?

A. Well, there are regulations. I don’t think anyone should get a tattoo until they are very sure of what they want – and kids usually aren’t (sure of what they want).

My daughters are still young so they don’t have any yet and they know what all is involved – they understand the process.

Q. You could practice your artistry anywhere, why Salisbury?

A. Salisbury is a great place professionally.

We are still a regional hub and people travel here from all over. It’s a very comfortable area.

It can be bad, you know. But it’s not that bad. There’s a lot of good here.

It’s a good place to raise your kids.

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