In the ever-evolving landscape of the tattoo industry, stories of resilience and reinvention shine through, encapsulating the indomitable spirit of tattoo artists. Amidst the closure of Yard Birds shopping mall at the end of 2022, when many businesses faced the daunting relocation challenge, one tattoo studio emerged more vital than ever. Meet Michael Cristina, a seasoned tattoo artist who defied the odds and kept the art of ink alive.
Now 57 and residing in Chehalis, Michael Cristina proudly owns and operates Skindoodle Tattoo. It is the oldest tattoo studio in Lewis County, a testament to his unwavering commitment to the craft.
Cristina’s journey in tattooing began at the tender age of 17 in 1983. Over the years, he honed his skills, crafting intricate designs and leaving an indelible mark on countless individuals. In 1989, he brought his talent to Centralia, Washington; in 1994, he opened the doors of Skindoodle Tattoo on Tower Avenue.
The journey of Skindoodle Tattoo has seen its highs and lows. In 2012, Cristina closed the studio temporarily to explore other career avenues. However, the lure of ink and the passion for tattoo artistry remained ever-present.
Fast forward to 2021, and Cristina’s artistic calling beckoned him again. The year he marked the reawakening of Skindoodle Tattoo, a cherished milestone for the artist. He graciously invited The Chronicle to his new studio to celebrate this revival. He shared his joy in having his tattoo equipment set up and ready to adorn clients with art again.
During the visit, Cristina was amid a meaningful tattoo touch-up for Nic Ettner, a resident of Toledo. Ettner’s shoulder tattoo, adorned with roses, had gracefully aged over 25 years, its vibrant colors starting to fade.
“As someone who has lived through the past couple of tumultuous years, this feels like the right path,” Cristina remarked as he meticulously worked on Ettner’s tattoo.
The resilience and dedication of Cristina are evident not only in his commitment to the art but also in the face of adversity. Skindoodle Tattoo has found a new home within the confines of Mary’s Barbershop at 1570 N—National Ave., suite 107, in Chehalis.
Interestingly, Cristina had the opportunity to occupy this space a few years earlier. However, in January 2022, he opted for a larger area at Yard Birds, investing nearly $5,000 to customize the studio to his vision. Tragically, fate had other plans, and he faced eviction within a year following the closure of Yard Birds.
The journey was far from over. Skindoodle Tattoo relocated to Tower Avenue in 2021, offering renewed hope to tattoo enthusiasts. However, circumstances again led to a move, as the studio’s building changed ownership.
Nevertheless, amidst these challenges, a glimmer of luck emerged when Cristina discovered that the space at Mary’s Barbershop was still available. This turn of events marked a fresh beginning for Skindoodle Tattoo.
Occupying a cozy office within the barbershop, Cristina now provides clients with an intimate and private tattoo experience. The studio caters to diverse tattoo requests, from touch-ups to custom designs. Cristina noted that the current tattoo trend leans towards custom work, where clients come equipped with intricate details and specific visions for their tattoos.
One remarkable observation in his work is the increasing demand for “in remembrance” tattoos commemorating lost loved ones. Ettner’s visit to Skindoodle Tattoo, with his shoulder adorned with roses, tells a touching tribute story. Following the loss of his daughter-in-law, Ettner’s four grandchildren collectively designed a tattoo as a heartfelt homage to their mother’s memory.
Regarding the tattoo touch-up he was performing for Ettner, Cristina provided insights into the process. He explained that a touch-up isn’t about restoring the tattoo to its original state, as the ink naturally changes over time. Cristina skillfully outlined the design inside the tattoo’s original borders, creating depth and vibrancy in the result.
The tattoo transformed Cristina’s expert hands, initially red and featuring two roses. Ettner, in a touching display of trust, allowed Cristina to choose the new colors, breathing fresh life into the aging artwork.
For those eager to experience the artistry of Skindoodle Tattoo, Cristina operates by appointment only. His dedication to providing a personalized and exceptional tattooing experience ensures that each client receives the attention they deserve. To schedule an appointment, contact Cristina at 360-523-4438 or connect with him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/skindoodletattoo.
Skindoodle Tattoo isn’t the sole business that found a new home at 1570 N. National Ave. The Squirrel Hut Boutique has also set up shop in suite 108, directly across from Mary’s Barbershop and Skindoodle Tattoo. Watch for an upcoming feature on The Squirrel Hut Boutique in an edition of The Chronicle.
In the vibrant tapestry of tattoo news, Michael Cristina’s journey is a testament to the unwavering spirit of tattoo artists. It is a story of resilience, adaptation, and the enduring power of ink to touch lives and create art that transcends adversity. Skindoodle Tattoo is a beacon of creativity and transformation, offering fresh beginnings and lasting memories one tattoo at a time.