Tats and toys
Clark alumnus softens the sting of traditional tattoo parlors with family charm
By Ryan Cunningham ’14
In the tattoo industry, the artists who create the intricate designs are easily assumed as being tough guys or gals. Potential customers nervously peak into the heavily painted window fronts to determine if they even dare enter, let alone expect to receive a warm and welcoming customer service experience.
Clark alumnus and artist Jerry Patton Jr., 38, keeps a fresh stock of collectable toys near his work space. His clients are more apt to talk with him about their family dinners and canned good drives than their fears about the tools used to paint their tattoos. This is deliberate; family is at the core of Patton’s mission in his tattoo business.
A husband and father of one daughter with another girl on the way, he is known to his family and fans as “Darth Daddy” for his love of drawing Star Wars characters. He’s got his own vision and often draws from comic book characters in his work as an artist.
A lifelong entrepreneur, Patton has more ideas than minutes in the day. He used to go to sports card stores and purchase comic book character cards, then resell them—at a profit—to a comic book store where he worked. Later, taking courses at Clark College, such as marketing, added to his repertoire.
Patton got his start working in a comic book store in the Orchards district in Vancouver, Wash. He is a fan of unique artistry styles and quickly recognizes the flair of particular artists. In one fortuitous moment, Patton’s wife, Lauren, wrote to a tattoo artist who is well-known in the industry, after she had seen him on a reality show called Epic Ink that is filmed in Springfield, Ore. She asked Chris Rohaley, known as Chris51, if he would come to Patton’s shop to “nerd out” with them and their old-school toy collection. To her surprise, Chris51 was fully aware of Patton through the social media platform Instagram. Shortly after they met in person, Chris51 recruited Patton to be a part of a team called the GeeksterInk Legends, a tattoo touring group featuring geek-culture artists.
“That guy’s a legend himself. I couldn’t believe he even knew who I was!” Patton proudly exclaimed while smiling ear to ear.
Meeting Chris51 helped transport Patton’s career to the next level, including traveling on numerous tours to New Orleans, the Mexican island of Cozumel in the Caribbean and Comic-Con Conventions throughout North and Central America.
Tats and toys retail
Back in Southwest Washington, Patton opened a store in East Vancouver that is more than a tattoo shop; it is a retail toy store in the front of the building with vintage merchandise from Toy Hunter, much like Chris51’s store in Springfield.
He hopes that creating a whimsical environment will chip away at the stereotypes people have of tattoo shops. His GeeksterInk Legends branded store will also be a place for artists to hang out when they visit the Vancouver/Portland metro area.
With deep roots in Clark County, his successful studies at Clark College and his ambitious business plans, Patton will continue to press for changing the personality of tattoo shops through clever marketing, community connections and enjoyable retail experiences. From his pop culture nostalgia artwork to his family-driven moniker and GeeksterInk Legends branding, Darth Daddy is the one who will enduringly mark the inside and outside of people in the community.
Ryan Cunningham ’14 is an employment specialist at WorkSource Southwest Washington, where he helps youth and adults secure employment, develop career goals and receive training to develop employable skills.