On the art of tattooing
Jake Ellzey is a lifelong artist, but he never encountered a canvas that literally came to life until he began tattooing — a medium he never expected to work in.
Ellzey, owner of the Hideaway Tattoo Parlor in Estacada, has a degree in illustration design and previously worked in toy packaging design and advertising. But then the company he worked for while living in California went out of business.
"I was struggling and trying to find something to do. I was working on one of my old cars with a good buddy of mine, and I just had a breakdown moment," he said. "(I told him) 'I don't know what to do . . .I just don't want to feel like I need to sell out and just get a job to get a job.' (He said) 'why don't you do tattoos? . . .You already have the degree, you know how to illustrate, everyone knows you're an artist.' "
That conversation was a turning point.
Ellzey moved to Oregon to be closer to family and studied tattoos at a shop in Portland. Not long after that he opened up shop in in Estacada at 130 S.W. Frontage Road. Initially, it was known as Nolan's Tattoo Parlor, derived from Ellzey's middle name. He later changed the name to Hideaway Tattoo Parlor.
"I don't go by Nolan, so I eliminated Nolan and re-registered my name as Hideaway," he said. "I was going to a tattoo supplier (in Portland), and every time I'd go there, they'd ask me, 'where's Estacada?' I'm like, 'you guys live in Portland and you don't know your surrounding outskirt towns?'. . .I thought, 'I'm going to call it Hideaway because nobody knew where it was.' It kind of makes sense, too. It's my little space. I'm here a lot longer than I am in my own house."
Though they're different mediums, Ellzey sees similarities between tattoos and his previous work.
"It's a canvas that bleeds," he added.
He described his style as neotraditional.
"I like a lot of big bold colors and playing with line weights," he said. "I wear a lot of hats in that I'll tackle realism or portraits."
When working on larger pieces, Ellzey usually draws the design on the client using permanent marker prior to using a tattoo machine.
"Some people think I'm just going to take a machine and start drawing on you," he said. "I'll Sharpie it on you first so you can see what you're going to get."
He enjoys collaborating with clients on their designs and creating original pieces.
"It's not like I just come in and print something off of Google," he said.
He added that in many instances, getting a tattoo is not as painful as people expect it to be.
"Oftentimes when people come in and they haven't gotten a tattoo and they psych themselves up," he said. "You get the rare occasion where they might not have eaten and they weren't expecting that kind of
adrenaline rush and they pass out. It's only happened a handful of
times. I can usually see the telltale signs."
Ellzey noted that every day in the shop is dynamic.
"I think that I have one boss every day. Every boss I have is different," he said. "I'm my own boss, but I'm also working in the sense that I have to pick people's brains and understand what they want as a tattoo, and now I'm working for them."
He added that, "every day is a new story."
"Sometimes you play the therapist and hear people's groaning sorrow. Other times it's upbeat and fun and a bunch of laughs," he said.
The first tattoo Ellzey created is of Marilyn Monroe's face and is located on his own leg.
"I didn't trust myself to just get anybody off the street and just start tattooing them," he said.
His favorite tattoo, which was done by a different artist, is a rose in memory of a friend who passed away.
"I don't like tattooing myself," he added. "I'd rather have someone else do it. It's the therapy. It's a place for us to kind of escape."
Ellzey has been interested in art since childhood.
"My mom has collected everything from me doodling on a napkin. Growing up as an only child, I didn't have a brother or sister to banter with when we went out to eat dinner," he said. "My mom always had pens and pencils and markers in her purse, and I would just draw stuff."
He was also interested in painting, working wherever he could find a canvas.
"My parents let me paint murals on my bedroom walls," he said. "And then as I grew up and moved out of the house at 17, they would take a picture, paint back over them and then I'd have another slate again."
Though becoming a tattoo artist was an unexpected path, Ellzey is glad he took it.
"I was so wrapped up (in) 'this is what you have to be, you have to be this corporate stooge and follow these rules. You have to move out and get a degree and get this job and a white picket fence house with 2.3 kids," he said. "That path redirected and I went this way. And I feel like I meet a lot more real people than I did where I thought I was supposed to go in life."
Hideaway Tattoo Parlor
Jake Ellzey is the owner of the Hideaway Tattoo Parlor, 130 S.W. Frontage Road.