A Good Tattoo Shop is Hard to Find
Tattoo shops can be intimidating places. I have six tattoos from six different artists in two different countries, four different states and five different shops. Male artists have often tried to pressure me into changing my design and/or are just generally condescending. I always get this look that seems to say, “Hi, little girl, you here for another fucking tree tattoo?” And I mean, yes, I am here for another fucking tree tattoo but you could be nice about it. (Exception: the twenty-three-year-old Australian artist in Toronto who did the tree on my hip in 2012 was amazing- and gorgeous- and I’m an idiot/asshole for not writing down her name).
I first visited Oakland’s Premium Tattoo in summer 2013 when my friend Maggie got her second tattoo from shop owner Matt Decker. Immediately, I was impressed with the shop’s welcoming vibes and open layout. As Maggie was tattooed, I supplied her with Dum-Dums for the pain and distracted her with stupid stories. We chatted about tattoo ideas and I told her how I had always wanted the one maple leaf on my arm to be a sort of almost-half-sleeve of falling leaves. After Matt finished Maggie’s beautiful map tat, he touched the leaf on my arm, describing his vision for the falling leaves, saying he pictured it immediately. I usually hate strangers touchinig me, but I felt completely comfortable and knew Matt was my new artist. I booked my appointment that day.
Matt has a quick, talented hand, and took only two two-hour sessions to give me the falling leaves I’d always wanted on my arm. Premium is a fun and relaxing place to get tattooed: the space is large and open, the other artists say hi, and the music is great. At one point we all sang along to “Fuck the Pain Away” by Peaches. It was a great bonding experience. Matt is also a talented painter, and his tattooing area is filled with beautiful in-progress and finished paintings to admire. I should warn you that if you don’t like attention, be careful about getting a tattoo here, because I am complimented on my leaves at least once a day. The colors are bright, it healed well, and I can’t wait to get more work done at Premium.
Premium also boasts two other highly skilled tattoo artists. Brett Baumgart specializes in photo-realistic tattoos and Danielle Silva is known for her whimsical, colorful work. Whatever style you’re looking for, one of the artists here can do it amazingly. Just as awesome as their talent is the fact that all three artists are so kind, welcoming and funny. Did I mention Premium has 5 stars on Yelp and was voted Best of the Bay by East Bay Express two years in a row? Yep, they’re awesome, and you should definitely get tattooed there. But only if you’re into that sort of thing, I don’t want to pressure you.