Artistic In Every Sense Of The Word

Business spotlight: Artistic Dermagraphics

The area’s longest running tattoo studio has been there 36 years for a reason – passion.

Youngstown Pulse Magazine Editor

BOARDMAN – In 1974 John Lenz started a little tattoo studio in Youngstown. Within a short time, John taught his wife, Debbie, how to tattoo.

“My very first one was on a guy,” she said. “I remember him saying, ‘I don’t want no chick tattooing me.’ It got weird after a while though, because before long people would ask for me and not him!”

Nowadays, Lenz and her staff are booked solid.

Its because tattooing is life for Debbie Lenz, and she’s never wavered from the dedication instilled by her husband. It’s life, it’s family, it’s passion. As the owner and operator of Artistic Dermagraphics, now in it’s 36th year, she isn’t just an area icon, she’s widely renowned throughout the tattooing world as one of the best. Over the course of three decades, now it’s considered a privilege to have ink done by her anywhere on your body.

“I love it, and you have to have a real passion for it,” Lenz said. “I’ve met some of the greatest people I’ve ever met through tattooing.”

In their third decade, Artistic Dermagraphics shows no sings of slowing. In fact, they’re booked well in advance on a regular basis. The name is synonymous with quality ink and top-notch service.

“I’m sure it will go on for another some 30 years,” Lenz said. “The kids will probably end up taking the studio when I retire, but I can see Artistic Dermagraphics surviving for a long, long time.”

As the years go by and her kids have become more involved with the business, one might expect Lenz to hand over the reins to her children along with long-time employee and family friend Jeremy Caughey. But don’t expect it anytime in the immediate future.

“I figure I got another few good years left,” she said. “As long as they still want me, and don’t say, ‘I don’t want the old lady doing it,’” Lenz said with a laugh.

Not only has Lenz helped to break the tattoo taboos, she’s been a pioneer for women in the profession. “We’ve really broken ground for women that are tattooing today,” she said. There’s only a handful of women in the world who have been tattooing as long as Lenz has. And now with reality television and a much more liberal public when it comes to visible tatts, the number of women tattoo artists is spreading like wildfire. The increased positive public perception of artwork on the body has made society so used to tattoos, that to not have one is nearly reaching the point of abnormal.

“All the women that used to look at you like you were some kind of a bitch, now they’re all getting tattoos,” Lenz said. “That was a real transition for me. Look at the people you run into daily. How many have a tattoo? There’s more than not. It is in some aspects, it’s almost a spiritual endeavor. For me, it is, because I’m creating something on someone’s body that’s going to be there forever.”

Perhaps one of the biggest spiritual endeavors for Lenz however, came when she took over the shop after her husband John suffered a brain aneurysm in 1996. Not only did Debbie take over and continue the business, she expanded to her current location now at 8254 Market St. in Boardman.

“John was into it for a long time,” Lenz said. “He taught me, he taught Jeremy. I see tattoos from he did from the 70s and you can still pick them out. He was that good. He’s very lucky to be alive. At that point we had Jeremy working for us and he kept the shop going. When John quit for good, I took over the business totally. He doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with it anymore, but he still says ‘I’m gonna come back to work.’ He still has that love for it. Once it’s in your blood, it’s there for good. He was a great teacher.”

He was also a tough one.

“Jeremy and I laugh because we say we came from the school of hard knocks,” Lenz said. “If Jeremy was doing something wrong he would pull him aside and really let him know so he got it right. It was the same with me. It was like an old school apprenticeship.”

With tattoo shops literally around every corner these days, old school is certainly hard to come by. But it’s exactly what you get at Artistic Dermagraphics. And it’s exactly what Lenz wants you to take away from the experience if you get a tattoo there.

“I love tattooing,” Lenz said. “I think it’s wonderful, and I think anyone that really wants to do it for a living, or if they simply want one, they should pursue it. It’s funny, when John started in 1974, a guy from Cincinnati called him and bitched at him about opening his shop in his area,” Lenz said with a laugh. “Now there are dozens within a few counties. I just can’t say it enough. I really love tattooing.”

To book an appointment at Artistic Dermagraphics, located at 8254 Market St. in Boardman, call 330-726-6677.

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