Shannon Simpson
I got my first tattoo in 1986 at the ripe old age of thirteen, the irony of which just struck me as I was writing this, 13 dig it. I intended to get only one tattoo, just wanted a taste you see. The tattoo bug burrowed real deep though, & before long I was scratching up & making a permanent mess of my friends & myself. The first five years were pretty bleak quality wise but the drive and determination were in tact.

In 1991 at eighteen years old I split my home state of California for good. I have a dear friend from Indiana. He needed a ride home & I had nothing shaking, so I packed what little was mine and we headed East in a 1967 Dodge Dart that I purchased for $100 & wish I still had. Indiana was a culture shock to me, as you might imagine. I had never seen life lived the way it was lived out here, & I saw potential in the slower pace.
I spent some months tramping around from place to place, getting by with a little help from my friends. Somehow by fate & good fortune, in Louisville Kentucky & 2500 miles from home, I found Tattoo Charlie’s & Charlie Wheeler, where and by whose wisdom & generosity I was shown a trade that I would practice for the rest of my life. 

Before finding Charlie and getting his help I spent five years trying to learn whatever I could from anybody who knew something about tattooing that I did not. Mostly it was from fellas who had tattooed in the joint. Some of them turned out pretty nice work, some work that I’m still wearing, but to learn tattooing as it should be done, it was important to me to be immersed in the correct environment with the right people.

All said & done, I learned more from Charlie, and made more progress in the first three weeks under his direction than I did in all of the first five years on my own. I sat on the Fat Man’s lap for eight years learning different aspects of the tattoo trade & the honorable way to practice it. When it was time to leave in 1998, I did the right thing and opened my tattoo parlor, with Charlie’s blessing, 99 miles away from my mentor here in Bloomington Indiana.

As a result of always doing square business with Charlie I was able to maintain a close friendship with him. This allowed me to call him to ask him for help with any problems I had, as well as advice on some sticky judgment calls I needed to make.  In a sense, my training continued until his death in 2007.

I credit the extent of my education from Charlie to humility. As I was learning from him I never forgot my place as his student, & never tried to compete. This kept him interested in teaching me, not only while I was in his employ, but for many years after I struck out on my own.

When I left Charlie’s to open my shop in Bloomington I did not see any reason to change the way things were done.  Charlie had a good system for a successful business and changing any part of it would have been nothing more than evidence of my own arrogance and ignorance.  As a result, my shop runs much the same as his did when I was learning.  There is one sad difference though, that he is not here. God Bless You Charlie, & Thank You.

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