A flat bright yellow building sits at the corner of Hardy Street and I-59 in Hattiesburg. One half of the building belongs to the Ra Shop; the other half belongs to The Ink Company. Three independent tattoo artists, all with different backgrounds, perspectives and art styles, make up the shop.
One of the artists, Anthony Washington, has worked as a tattoo artist for over a decade. His workspace is tucked in a corner of the building and includes Star Wars and Disney memorabilia, a flat-screen TV and a PlayStation console. Music—sometimes rock ‘n’ roll, sometimes rap—plays in the background.
Inside the tattoo community, Washington is known for a nontraditional approach to tattooing. He creates images through a collage method that combines photographs and sketches. His linework is fluid, and his colors are vibrant. Washington recently visited as a guest artist at Manchester’s Glass Street Tattoo and attended the 2019 Deep South Tattoo Expo.
Washington graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University with a degree in fine art. He once aspired to become a youth minister and said he “used to be super Christian-y.” He also used to manage a music store.
“Although, music is not my thing. I’m more into movies,” he said.
Washington emphasized that he did not so much stumble into tattooing, but instead it felt more like a natural path. He apprenticed under his current business partner, Michael “Mikey” Godbold. Godbold is one of the three independent artists at the Ink Company.
“At the time I was managing a shop in McComb. Anthony had been a client of mine for a while and was showing interest in getting into tattooing. I knew he had a strong background in art, so I took a chance on him,” Godbold said.
Godbold praised Washington’s work ethic and said he is grateful for how much Washington cares about the shop.
“He is a great business partner,” Godbold said. “I honestly could not ask for someone who cares more about the success of not only the shop, but all of the artists in it so well.”
In a college town, most of Washington’s clients are women between the ages of 18 and 25.
“[College students] are also the most poor,” he said. “Most people want a $200 tattoo for $20.”
Sissy Allen, a make-up artist at Sephora, received a tattoo from Washington Nov. 21. Her design was a minimalistic portrait of Princess Mononoke from the Studio Ghibli film of the same name.
“Actually, my friend came to get a tattoo from David, and I came as moral support,” Allen said. “I saw that [Washington] was playing ‘Overwatch,’ and I found him when I got home. And I was looking at his page and everything and his artwork. I really like his artwork.”
As a tattoo artist, part of Washington’s appeal is his easygoing, straightforward personality as well as his nerdiness. His interests are different than Godbold’s or David Neal’s, the third tattoo artist in the shop. Despite the differences, The Ink Company and its clientele are a tight-knit community.
“I think our shop has a lot of different ideas between the artists and the personalities. What we think of life is very different, and we attract that type of clientele,” Washington said. “It’s kind of like a barbershop or a beauty shop in that regard. What else are we supposed to do for hours on end? Just stare at each other?”
Washington said respect between clients and artists is one of the most important aspects of being a tattoo artist.
“You become friends with people, in a weird way, but you really aren’t their friend, so respect on both sides is pretty important,” Washington said. “The client’s perspective is to respect the artist, for the simple fact that we are the ones doing it.”
Ultimately, the tattoo community is a close-knit one, and both Anthony Washington and The Ink Company provide a glimpse into that world of self-expression. It is not the seedy underbelly of lore, but instead it is colorful, vibrant and alive.
“The difference between anybody’s style is what this profession is all about. Being unique and creative is why I love tattooing,” Godbold said.
Although his career is permanently inking people, Washington said that tattoos are the least permanent things in the world.
“I think people think of [tattoos] as permanent, and I think of it as you will die in 40 years. Make the most of your life. People stress out about s— too much,” Washington said while preparing a tattoo needle for another round. “Ultimately, it’s your body, your choice.”
Anthony Washington can be reached for consultations and bookings via his Instagram, @anthonyinkco. The Ink Company can be reached at 601-264-9770.