Among the tattoo shops scattered across the Inland Northwest, a handful periodically host charities. On Thursday and Friday, Electric Age Tattoo in downtown Coeur d’Alene awarded its customers free tattoos from predrawn flash sheets in exchange for donations to Children’s Village, a North Idaho nonprofit that offers residential housing for youth in need of safety from neglect, abuse or family crisis.
To qualify, patrons were asked to bring in unwrapped toys valued at $20 or more from a preselected list and either a kid’s winter coat or 10 food-drive items. Having opened the studio on Nov. 1, the co-owners of Electric Age worked overtime to pull together the event in just 10 days.
“We had so much support moving and rebranding,” said co-owner Jake Sifford, who has been a tattoo artist for 14 years. “We wanted to give back some of that support regardless of the time of year.”
The tattoo industry practically hibernates during cold seasons.
“People are covered up during winter, so tattoos are out of sight, out of mind,” said co-owner and artist Christina Villagomez.
“With such a new shop, getting the word out was challenging,” Sifford said. “It was last minute, but we figured even if we didn’t get a lot of donations, we could at least get a few.” Despite seasonal disadvantages, the studio ran a successful drive.
Across two days, Villagomez, Sifford and fellow tattooist Jayme Goodson collected about 100 toys, 50 jackets and more than 1,000 food and toiletry items. Holding up their end of the bargain, the three artists tatted 55 customers across just 16 business hours. Sifford described it as “madness,” but he smiled as he said it.
Electric Age selected a children’s charity in part due to the holiday season.
“This season is for the kids,” Sifford said. “We’re just trying to make sure as many people as we can have a good Christmas, or at least get a present when they normally don’t.”
“When I was a small child, my mom was laid off from work, and her former co-workers stepped in to sponsor our family for Christmas,” Villagomez said. “I’ve never forgotten how relieved my parents were or how wonderful it was to know people cared about us. We’re hoping this event raises future visibility for the Children’s Village year-round.”
The spirit of giving is prominent in other tattoo studios, as well. The Missing Piece in downtown Spokane is collecting donations for the Jewels Helping Hands warming center until March 31.
Previously, the tattoo shop has run charities for the now-defunct Cancer Patient Care, firefighter relief and the Jonah Project, a nonprofit dedicated to helping victims of human trafficking in Spokane.
“All our artists are contractors, they’re not employees – we just house them,” said Heatherann Woods, owner/manager of the Missing Piece. “I can’t make them give up their income for a cause, but they always do. It’s not really the Missing Piece doing the events – it’s the artists.”
The studio’s charity for the Jonah Project was a five-hour event in October 2018, with raffle prizes donated by local businesses and representatives from the nonprofit on-site. “We had people lined up before we opened,” Woods said. “The artist would keep 10% to cover the cost of ink, and everything else was donated.”
Many of the tattoos paid homage to the Jonah Project, with prominent whale tail designs. The Missing Piece will host a fundraiser for at-risk LGBTQ youth in June for Pride weekend, and the studio is eyeing the possibility of working with an animal sanctuary in August.
“We try to do a few things each year to contribute to the health and welfare of our community,” Woods said.
The success of these drives can be partially credited to their convenient locations. The Missing Piece and Electric Age can collect and hold item donations in downtown areas. Electric Age Tattoo occupies the basement of Exchange National Bank, a space that originally held a bank vault and was a dance hall during Prohibition.
“It’s an ideal location – the heart of downtown Coeur d’Alene,” Sifford said.
“We couldn’t have opened Electric Age without the help of our friends and family or the support of the community,” Villagomez said. “It got us thinking, ‘How can we say thank you to our clients and give something back to the area?’ ”
“We’d like to do this yearly for the Children’s Village,” Sifford said.
“I’ve always wanted to change the world, but it has to start somewhere small,” Woods said. “I think it is our responsibility as small-business owners to care for the staff, the clients and the community as a whole.”
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