‘Youth Gone Wild’ brings fresh ink to main street
If you hadn’t already noticed, the days when “ink” or tattoos were reserved for sailors and folks who, having had too much to drink, were wanting to commemorate a special moment in Vegas, are gone.
Today, ink is everywhere. If you ask Christopher Weinmeyer, alias Minion, he’ll tell you, ink has evolved full circle back to its roots millennia ago when ancient man inked symbols on his or her skin to represent everything from social status, to powerful healing totems, to feats of heroism.
“I’ve always loved tattoos. It’s the art. I would love to get tattooed in some of the traditional ways because then it’s more than a tattoo, it’s an experience, a conduit to the past, to history,” said Weinmeyer.
Weinmeyer opened the Youth Gone Wild Tattoo Company, June 6, in the street level studio at 105 South Knowles Ave., in New Richmond.
Having started his creative career in his family’s culinary business, Weinmeyer eventually arrived at the decision to devote the long hours he was putting toward that industry, into the one he had loved since he could first draw.
“I’ve had this name in my head for 30 years. I’ve always wanted to be a tattoo artist, own my own shop. I got sidetracked in the family business being a chef for 20 years. It’s what I went to college for, so it’s what my family did. After 20 years, I got tired of being hot, greasy, and sweaty and never having weekends or summers. The name came from Skid Row’s song ‘Youth Gone Wild.’ When I opened this place, I checked online and it was available. At that point, I felt like this was meant to be. I tell people, I lived my passion for 20 years. Now I’m living my dream and it doesn’t feel like I work a day in my life,” said Weinmeyer.
When his enthusiasm for cooking began to fade while working as chef at Tippy Canoes in Osceola, Weinmeyer decided it was time to take the leap.
Portfolio in hand he, approached Ink Freak in Somerset where he landed a part-time gig doing whatever was necessary to learn his newly-adopted craft.
“I humbled myself, showed them some of my art and they agreed to take me on as an apprentice. At that time I was still working at the restaurant because you don’t make a lot of money in this industry just starting out. Working two part-time jobs, at one point I remember working three months straight without a day off just to survive and get my foot in the door. A year and a half later I made the transition into tattooing full-time and it’s been amazing ever since,” said Weinmeyer.
An apprenticeship in the industry can last up to four years training under someone.
“It’s a skill that is handed down from person to person. An apprenticeship is essentially paying your dues in this industry, earning your reputation as a tattoo artist,” said Weinmeyer.
When it came time to open his own studio, Weinmeyer decided New Richmond would be a good place to start.
“I turned down offers from three other studios. I wanted to do my own thing. I live in New Richmond, all my clientele is from this area so it made sense. Since opening here, I’ve heard from so many people, ‘It’s about time there’s a tattoo studio in New Richmond,’ said Weinmeyer.
“Ink Freak closed May 13. I took two days off and from there, it was 18-hour days to put this place together. Honestly, during a couple of those 18 hour days, I questioned, “What if I don’t make it?” But it seemed like almost everyday, someone would walk into the studio, even though I wasn’t open yet, and start asking questions about tattoos. At that point, I thought to myself, I’ll be just fine,” recounted Weinmeyer.
Weinmeyer specializes in lettering.
“Lettering is very popular today and it’s what I specialize in. It may seem like a simple tattoo, but to get lettering flawless is technically, very challenging. You’re either on or you’re not when it comes to lettering, and I’m pretty on,” said Weinmeyer.
Minion charges $100 per-hour for his artistry with a $50 minimum. Most of his work falls in the $50 to $100 range but he also works the occasional $500 day and relishes the challenge of a good sleeve or back piece which can run thousands of dollars and take several years to complete.
“Most of the work I do is designed specifically for clients. A lot of my business is repeat customers, but I would say about 50 percent of my business has been new clients right off the street which has been amazing. I’d like to have a little more down time to just draw up ideas for myself. However, most of my free time is taken up with the business side of running the studio. Eventually I would like to add a couple more artists to the studio and be open seven days a week,” said Weinmeyer.
The art aspect of the tattoo business has gotten a lot of attention. The industry has grown from cliche expression to a highly individualized, customized form of communication incorporating themes of advocacy, tribute, and protest. Weinmeyer says his clientele are mostly 20- to 30-year-olds running the gamut from blue collar to CFOs. He is no longer surprised by who walks through his door.
“Tattooing has become a lot more socially acceptable. My client range is huge. I’ve done ear piercings on four-year-olds. The oldest person I’ve ever tattooed was 80. I’m seeing a lot more older people because they’ve gotten to the point in their life where they don’t care what other people think. Used to be you didn’t know who had tattoos because they were covered all the time because it wasn’t socially acceptable. It’s gotten so much better today,” said Weinmeyer.
Weinmeyer has grown to appreciate the power of the stories behind the tattoos he is asked to create.
“Sometimes, it’s quite emotional. A couple weeks ago, I did a tattoo on a client of mine. I had tattooed her and her son. During this time, Cody mentioned to me that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, at the age of 20. The gravity of it blew me away. Terminal cancer and yet this 20-year-old was as bright and positive as I’ve ever seen. What an amazing person. Sadly, Cody passed away at the age of 21. That was a tough tattoo to get through. I had to stop a couple times during the course of that tattoo because I couldn’t see through my tears. It’s about the art, but sometimes it’s about the ink therapy, about giving someone closure, or commemorating a milestone in someone’s life. It can be a very emotional job at times,” said Weinmeyer.
Weinmeyer holds himself to a personal set of standards and ethics when it comes to educating certain clients.
“I’ll have 18-, 19-year-olds come in wanting to tattoo their hands and necks and I won’t do it. They may not be thinking of their career, but I am. I use myself as an example. I was a Hell’s Kitchen caliber chef for 20 years. I was very good, but because of my tattoos, I couldn’t even get a job at McDonald’s. I’m actually on the parent’s side. I’m trying to look out for their future. They may not, but I am. A poor decision now can exclude you from many jobs in the future and that’s sad, because it shouldn’t be whether or not you have tattoos but whether you can do your job or not,” said Weinmeyer.
Weinmeyer believes in giving back to his community. You can frequently find his gift certificates at local fundraisers. He’ll also coordinate discounts for tattoos that correspond with events like Autism Awareness Month and Suicide Prevention Awareness.
Weinmeyer reports that his Saturdays are booked into November right now, so it would be best to call ahead to schedule an appointment.
“I require a $50 deposit which is applied to the cost of the tattoo. The deposit guarantees my time and yours,” said Weinmeyer.
Contact Youth Gone Wild Tattoos by phone at 715-246-6710, by email at email@example.com.
You can find the studio hours of operation and read more about Cody’s story on Facebook at facebook.com/Youth-Gone-Wild-Tattoo-Co.
“Ultimately it’s all about art. Some people hang theirs on the wall, we carry ours with us.”