Tattoo artist Mark Kito Fuentes prefers to stay away from names of boyfriends and girlfriends. The tattoo may last a lot longer than the relationship. But he won’t say no to a sister or an artichoke, or both.
Sisters Terri Lee and Katie received matching artichoke tattoos on their shoulders a few years back from Mr. Fuentes.
“It’s the first artichoke I ever did,” he said.
Terri Lee also has a seahorse by Mr. Fuentes and earlier this week she was back getting a crab with flowers.
Mr. Fuentes owns Martha’s Vineyard Tattoo, the only tattoo shop on the Island. His store was previously located in Oak Bluffs but recently moved to Edgartown in the former Aboveground Records space.
Aboveground Records closed in January and Mr. Fuentes set up shop last month. Much has changed inside. Now there are black and white tiles on the floor, broad red leather chairs and careful stenciling in the window. But Mr. Fuentes does sit behind the same large desk at the entrance to the store that was Mike Barnes’ perch.
“I had to keep it,” Mr. Fuentes said, smiling.
Mr. Barnes was his first client at the new location.
Mr. Fuentes has been tattooing for eight years and opened Martha’s Vineyard Tattoo three years ago. Originally from Syracuse, N.Y., he got his start hanging around a friend’s shop back home. After moving to the Vineyard, he met Dan Payne, owner of Kaleidoscope Tattoo in Vineyard Haven.
“One drunken night we were talking about me becoming an apprentice,” Mr. Fuentes said. “He thought I had an ability and offered to show me how to tattoo.”
After two years working with Mr. Payne and further study with his friends in Syracuse, Mr. Fuentes decided to open his own shop in Oak Bluffs.
“I’ve always been a very technical artist and the type of work and skill I have went hand in hand with learning to tattoo,” Mr. Fuentes said.
All tattoos are custom designs by Mr. Fuentes.
“It takes a little more time but being such a small Island you don’t want people having the same tattoos,” he said.
Memorial pieces or celebrations of children are popular images. Images of the Vineyard are requested regularly.
“I can almost do that one without stenciling,” he said.
Customers are encouraged to bring in images for reference. Mr. Fuentes then sets to work on drawing the design.
“I usually draw for an hour per design or more if it’s bigger,” he said. “A lot of times it takes less time to tattoo it than it took me to draw it.”
Getting a tattoo can be an emotional process, Mr. Fuentes added.
“I’m like a therapist,” he said. “They’re coming in at a vulnerable state already, so they’re feeling anxious. They’re already off their game a little bit. So they let loose a lot of times when they’re talking to me and I try to give them advice on things. But I do hear a lot of stories. It makes it a lot more than just a tattoo.”