On October 13, Modern Electric Tattoo Shop made history as the first tattoo shop to ever open in Forest Park. Centrally located at 7415 Madison St., in the village’s main business corridor, owner Luis Valdovinos plans for the store to serve as both a space to tattoo and expand the art scene by showcasing paintings from local and Chicago artists.
Valdovinos, like most tattoo artists, followed what most would consider to be an unconventional career path. Unlike most careers, which simply require a college degree and maybe an internship to gain experience, tattoo artistry is one of the few careers that still requires the time-honored practice of apprenticeship. While tattoo schools do exist, most artists, Valdovinos included, gain their expertise by finding an advanced artist to serve as a mentor and learning from their work.
One of the best ways to learn how to tattoo is by getting tattooed.
“Getting tattooed was a huge part of the learning process. The best way to learn how to tattoo like someone is to get a tattoo by them, ask questions and watch what they’re doing,” he said. Valdovinos’ experience can quite literally be seen, as he is inked head-to-toe. “I think I’m pretty much covered in one big tattoo at this point. They all touch,” he laughed.
Born and raised in Riverside, as a young person Valdovinos did not consider himself to be an artist. Besides the random doodles he drew on the margins of his high school notebooks, he did not take art seriously until he learned to tattoo. In fact, his desire to tattoo was his main motivator for learning how to draw. After buying a tattoo kit off eBay and tattooing himself and a few friends at age 15, he quickly realized his skill and became hooked to the craft.
Like many eager artisans throughout history, Valdovinos went into a tattoo shop with his rudimentary high school drawings to ask for an apprenticeship. Valdovinos started tattooing professionally in 2009, when he started an apprenticeship with a shop in south suburban Summit. His career path became clear in high school, as he wanted a job that would not restrict how heavily tattooed he could be. Following his time in Summit, Valdovinos led a sort of nomadic artisan existence. He travelled from California, to Oregon, to Pennsylvania, gathering experience and ink on his body along the way, before moving back to Chicago this year, where he began dreaming up the plan of making a tattoo shop of his own.
“I wanted to create a safe space [for people] to get tattooed in a clean, modern environment,” he said.
Valdovinos saw Forest Park as offering a huge opportunity, as there has never been a tattoo shop in the village. He sees Modern Electric as an opportunity to revitalize Forest Park and Madison Street, saying that tattooing is a viable industry that will always be sought out.
Modern Electric offers tattoos starting at $100, with varying prices depending upon the size and intricacy of the piece. While tattoos can seem pricey, Valdovinos explained that high-quality tattoos are worth the price, due to their permanence.
“The price covers equipment, time, artistic skill, and the type of design,” he said. “Skill is worth the money.”
The tattoo process varies in time, depending upon the intricacy of the piece. Valdovinos recommends that new clients visit the shop and talk with an artist if they are thinking about getting inked. Once at the shop, new clients can look through the portfolios of every artist to determine which style they like. From there, the artist will create a design and set a date for the appointment. Smaller tattoos can be completed within a few hours, while some designs can take up to a few weeks to complete.
For those curious about tattoos yet apprehensive due to the permanence, Valdovinos recommends that they deeply research what they want on their body and not settle for a bad tattoo design. “Be picky,” he said. He also recommends that clients come in with an idea or examples of tattoos they have seen on other people.
The shop is currently home to three artists and one apprentice, all of whom are available for consultations. Valdovinos encourages the community to stop by Modern Electric and check out the space, whether or not they are considering a tattoo.
The space, which contains an extensive front area, doubles as an art gallery. Valdovinos plans to host a monthly event on the second Saturday of each month starting in December, where the shop will display work from local artists, provide food and partner with Murphy’s Pub to host live music. The shop is currently filled with the paintings of local Chicago artist Sam Decarlo.