Local artist explains deep reason why tattoo is the best therapy for emotional healing

Jennifer Gilley, owner of Sundog Art Studios in downtown Lynchburg, received 100 requests for appointments with less than 100 days left in the year. She had to decline 50 of them.

She’s only been operating for a year or so.

“I feel incredibly welcomed in this neighborhood. The feeling is fantastic,” said tattoo artist Gilley. Even the local businesses and my neighbors treat me like family, and I enjoy working with my customers. Now, the majority of my clients are recovering and coping. I’ve tattooed individuals who have lost their mothers or children, who have experienced trauma, or who are hiding wounds.

Everybody has a wonderful tale, you know. However, getting a tattoo may also be enjoyable. Not all of them need to imply something. They may give you a romantic high or something. But I assert that I haven’t done my job if I don’t cry here twice a week. She replied, “Like it’s genuinely an emotional bonding.

Gilley, 40, relocated her studio to 815 Main Street in May 2021, and she officially inaugurated in September of same year.

She went to a magnet school for the arts, started doing temporary tattoos at Myrtle Beach when she was 14 years old, and carried on doing so on cruises after graduating from college. Gilley didn’t have a single tattoo and had only been to one shop because permanent tattooing wasn’t permitted in South Carolina until 2004.

At the age of 24, Gilley secured an apprenticeship with “Boot,” a tattoo artist, in 2006. She claimed that at initially, he was dubious of her and just let her follow him around and take out the trash.

“I guess he just didn’t get tired of me and saw some potential,” she said.

Ironically, Gilley, who specializes in temporary tattoos, claimed that the thought of using ƅlооԀ in permanent tattooing made her uncomfortable. However, after spending two years learning from Boot and witnessing his enthusiasm for the craft, she realized that there is much more to the art than just using ƅlооԀ.

The bonds I form with my clients are one of the most important aspects of tattooing, she said.

Gilley’s first tattoos were completed with the help of her mentor and her confidence in her equipment.

She remarked, “I was really fortunate that my family and friends believed in me and that helped me overcome the fear. “I mean, the first tattoo I had done was on the hand of my mentor, and that one was the most difficult. I just made a modest start.

Although there is now only Gilley using the 2,400 square feet, Sundog Art Studios has enough for five artists. She wants to keep things feeling like a family.

I only work with people who share my values, passions, and sense of civic responsibility, she stated. I, therefore, don’t feel rushed. I can support myself here on my own, and I’ll wait for the appropriate person to show up.

She has been fortunate to witness the evolution of the tattoo business, from the opening of the doors to women to the newer equipment, ink, and artists.

As a result of women sporting tattoos on television, she claimed, they gained popularity. People have witnessed the tattooing of their children or friends, and this has given them the chance to share a personal narrative.

The top 30 percentile of Gilley’s clients now consists primarily of medical professionals, nurses, and educators.

Gilley has been tattooing a number of people for the past ten years, and she said it has been a thrill to watch them develop from timid children into self-assured adults.

He claimed that because of the numerous patterns and hues on his arm, he now feels as though he visually stands out more as a result of the tattoo.

He remarked, “For me, it’s the art I adore and it’s just beautiful. But for many customers, it’s also a therapeutic process.

Gilley refers to this as “pain replacement therapy.”

She stated, “To me, just knowing they’re walking around feeling proud and feeling better, and having this armor on them to help them protect them from whatever agony they were enduring helps me be OK.”

She works with many veterans, and for some of them, she is the first person in years that they have let touch them.

“For instance, if I’m tattooing someone’s chest and I can tell they’re having a hard time, I just encourage them to remember what they’ve been through—that loss, that very difficult thing—and to know that this cannot be worse than what they’ve been through. When we’re done, they’ll have a stunning work of art in their painful spaces, she said.

Gilley gave Morgan Joyner and her mother matching tattoos earlier this month to represent their relationship and faith.

One who can take a concept and transform it into a distinctive custom design, he remarked. “You receive something that is special to you, and I think that is wonderful. Over the past year, I’ve grown to know Jen, and I’m proud to call her a friend. She is one of the most talented artists and all-around nice persons I’ve ever met.

Gilley now works on larger pieces that take her five to six hours or even 10 hours to complete, and that client will be her only one that day. However, on one day each week, she works on six tiny tattoos for Tiny Tattoo Tuesdays. She often visits seven to eight customers each week.