Tattoos have long been a means of expressing individuality, but the art form has become more mainstream in recent years. It is no longer unacceptable to have one or even multiple tattoos, and you will see tats prominently displayed on the bodies of people in virtually every walk of life. Why have tattoos become so popular? What is it about them that draws people in? I visited with a few experts in the area’s tattoo industry to see if I could find out.Tailwind Tattoo

Ellie Maher is the co-owner of Tailwind Tattoo, where she is also an artist. Maher has worked in the tattoo business since 2000. “I was going to be an architect but hated the math classes, so I got my AAS in business and then started working in a tattoo studio shortly after,” she explained.

Maher has seen the transformation of the tattoo industry firsthand. “It’s really become mainstream. It all started way back when Miami Ink was on TV,” she said. “It got in people’s faces and the industry exploded.” At Tailwind, Maher sees more women than men embracing tattoos. “I think women are just more used to used to changing their appearance often,” Ellie speculated. “It seems to me that most guys are more reluctant to make a sudden change, but that’s only my theory.”

Ellie sees people initially drawn to tattoos based on the desire to commemorate a life experience, such as the loss of a loved one, having kids, getting over a personal hurdle, or achieving a goal. “Once they get that meaningful tattoo out of the way, the next ones become more about what’s pleasing to the eye,” she said.

Tailwind has tried to stay away from the traditional retail tattoo studio profile in order to stand out in the burgeoning industry, opting instead for a more “private/homey” atmosphere. “I’ve had clients try to take off their shoes when they walk in the door,” she said. It isn’t necessary, but it’s funny — it’s just that comfortable here.”

Along with her husband, Aaron, Ellie believes they can tattoo any style. “Aaron and I tattoo differently and we match our clients with the better person for the job,” she said. “We’re not in it to compete with each other; we’re in it together.” Ellie likes the personal accountability that comes from having only two artists. “We’re solely responsible for each tattoo that walks out of here.”

More information on Tailwind Tattoo can be found at

Addictions Tattoo & Piercing

Trent Balvitsch is one of three owners of Addictions Tattoo, one of the most popular tattoo parlors in the region. Although Trent has always been into art, he was initially resistant to becoming a part of the tattoo industry. It wasn’t until a relative got Trent a job judging a tattoo competition in Minneapolis that he became hooked.

Trent has also watched the industry transform itself. “It’s definitely changed since the 80s and 90s,” he said. “You get to see all walks of life, all ages, basically everyone is getting tattooed now and it’s definitely not as taboo as it once was, which is a great thing.” For Trent, the job is all about the people. “You get to meet quite a few interesting individuals working in this industry and we wouldn’t have it any other way,” he explained.

The ability of a tattoo to express the individuality of an individual is the part of tattooing that intrigues Trent the most, and why he thinks people are so drawn to tattoos. “It is the uniqueness of the tattoos themselves and the fact that no one can take away the meaning of a specific tattoo,” he explained. “Whether it’s for remembrance or because you really like that cartoon character, it all means something different to different people.”

Addictions has been operating in Fargo for 21 years. It is the family atmosphere of the shop that keeps customers coming back. “We’ve always had such a steady staff that loves to make our clients feel like they belong,” Trent said. “There’s no reason you should walk into a business and feel like the odd man out.”

More information about Addictions Tattoo & Piercing can be found at

Golden Dragon Tattoo Parlor

Noy Bounvongxay has been a tattoo artist for over 18 years and is the co-owner of Golden Dragon Tattoo. He is admittedly “crazy about art,” and has used that passion to build a shop that is one of the most popular in the city.

Like Ellie and Trent, Noy believes it is the act of expression that brings so many people through the doors of Golden Dragon. “It’s all about the art,” he explained. “If you have a passion for art, you have to love the art of tattooing.” Although Noy admits that some people use tattoos to advertise negative things like gang affiliation, he sees most people as coming from a place of sincerity and sentimentality.

Golden Dragon prides itself on treating its customers like family. “We want everyone to feel at home when they come here,” Noy said. “We talk to them and share ideas so we can get to know everyone as our friends.” Noy believes that it is that friendly touch that drives their customer base and keeps people coming back. “All of our customers are part of the Golden Dragon family.”

More information about the Golden Dragon Tattoo Parlor can be found at


By Jamee Larson