Casey Bogenrief is creating quite a buzz around Milbank. He opened Crazy Ink Tattoos in April and uses his talent to decorate bodies with lions, hearts, bears, doves, flowers, and words of encouragement. But the choices don’t end there – a loved one’s handwriting, a special date – the possibilities are as endless as the imagination.
Casey doubles as a human billboard for his business as he sports about 20 tattoos – some of which he has inked himself. He received his first tattoo at 16, when his sister signed for him to get a sun symbol on his back. Now, he says he has two favorites – the design he shares with his dad and his brother and the bottle he has on his forearm. The bottle acts as a reminder of the time he wasted on alcohol.
Casey, a 2003 MHS graduate, and his friend Randy McKernan, also from Milbank, had plans to attend school together after graduation to learn the art of tattooing. Randy proceeded with the plan and then established a shop in Alexandria, Minnesota. Casey switched gears and enlisted in the military. He served in the National Guard for three years and spent six years of active duty in the Army. He was stationed at Fairbanks, Alaska, and Virginia Beach, Virginia, and was deployed to Iraq in 2009. He was living in Fargo after being discharged from the military, when he realized Milbank lacked a tattoo shop. He wondered if the town was changing with the times.
Because tattoos aren’t just for bikers or sailors anymore – celebrities and people in every profession display visible or not-so-visible body art. A Harris poll in 2012 estimated 21 percent of adults have at least one tattoo. An earlier Pew Research Center study found the number was closer to 40 percent among those between the ages 18 and 29. Thirty percent of 25 to 29-year-olds, 38 percent of adults age 30 to 39, and nearly 30 percent of 40 to 49-year-olds flaunt permanent artwork. For seniors between 50 and 64 the rate is 11 percent. After age 65, that rate drops to just 5 percent. About 17 percent more ladies than men say they have a tattoo.
The youngest person Casey has tattooed was a 17 year-old who requested a memorial for her grandfather. The oldest person was a woman in her mid-50’s who wanted Snoopy running in the wind saying “Gone With the Wind.” Tiny tattoos have increased in popularity, but Casey has also fashioned large designs – a tribal down the arm, entire back pieces, and full sleeves.
He says the time required to produce a tattoo varies. “Some take 20 minutes; some take eight hours. You have to take into consideration the size, the intricacy of the design, and the number of colors.” How much does a tattoo cost? If you prefer a word on your wrist, it will cost you $40 – a minimum of half an hour is needed for printing, set up, and completion. He says lighter colors, such as yellows, are harder to do, so darker colors brighten them up. He also says inks have come a long way. The colors are more vivid. (Older tattoos are often faded or the inks have run.) Otherwise, the sky is the limit!
The most expensive tattoo in the world costs $924,000. But it’s made with diamonds, not with ink. Casey says the only tattoos he usually doesn’t agree to do are couple tattoos. Unless you have been married at least 20 years, he doesn’t recommend them. Placement for tatts differs according to individual taste, but the chest, ankle, neck, back, sternum, wrist, and forearm are all popular sites. Although tattooing in most areas causes minimal pain, Casey says “the most tender spots are on top of the foot and the ribs”.
He says the risk of infection from a tattoo is minimal. In twelve years, he has only had one customer who contracted an infection. Similar to a medical procedure, the problem was most likely caused by the client not following the aftercare instructions. “He didn’t cover it at night and ended up with dog hair in it,” Casey says. “As long as the hygiene is done properly, there shouldn’t be any infection.” The state health department regulates and annually inspects tattoo businesses.
How similar is real life tattooing to TV shows like Miami Ink? Casey says, “TV shows are entertainment, it looks like everything is so fast. But it takes a lot more time than people think. Tattoos can be very addictive. And some people view them as therapy.”
Although Casey would describe his art as unique, many customers reviewing his craft use the word amazing. He says one of his favorite things about his job is hearing the stories and meanings behind the tattoos. It makes him happy and he feels honored they choose him to create it.
Casey says he would like to get into piercing and maybe microblading and permanent makeup. Microblading is a tattoo technique that fills out eyebrows or reshapes them by drawing tiny lines that look like individual hairs to make the brows look realistic.
If you decide to get a little skin in the game, remember art is always open to interpretation. The meaning of every tattoo lies in the eye of the observer, and, of course, the wearer. But as the writer Jack London said in 1883, “Show me a man with a tattoo and I’ll show you a man with an interesting past.”
Crazy Ink Tattoos is located on Highway 12 near the Main Street stoplight at 215 E. 4th Avenue. The shop is open by appointment and takes walk-ins. Call Casey at Crazy Ink Tattoos at 757-251-8669.