MEET YOUR MERCHANT
Eric Cain of Flatland Tattoo Studio
Flatland Tattoo Studio is a world class tattoo facility featuring custom tattooing services by owner/operator Eric Cain. Located on Water Street in Midtown, Flatland Tattoo, also houses a dedicated art exhibition space.
How long has Flatland Tattoo Studio been open?
I opened this tattoo studio 4 years ago in June of 2014.
What was the first tattoo you ever got?
Well, technically my first tattoo would have been at around 16. You know, the usual dabbling with tattooing hand-poked things on myself and my friends, but my first professional tattoo I got at 19 (Eric shows me a tattoo of a peace sign with roses intertwined in it). It was an image from a Maximum Rock & Roll Magazine.
How did you become a tattooist?
I actually went to the U of I for a couple of years to major in Chemistry and quickly switched to Political Science but it became too expensive and I dropped out with the intention of returning. I was always doing art since I was a kid, and had been immersed in the tattoo culture for a while, getting tattooed myself, so I decided to pursue tattooing as a possible way to feed myself. At the time there were only 2 tattoo shops, one in Danville and one in Rantoul and I started working at the one in Rantoul. I was a drawn to the strange, mysterious, and still very much underground subculture of tattoos by way of the '80s punk scene.
Tell me about the evolution of Flatland Tattoo Studio here?
After I worked in Rantoul for a while I opened up my first tattoo studio 18 Story Tattoo here in Champaign. I did that for 10 years. A friend took over that shop in 2006 when I relocated to Chicago to finish the bachelor’s degree after a 15 year hiatus, as well as getting an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. When I came back, I started Flatland.
Where does Flatland Tattoo Studio fit into the “tattooing scene”?
Well, I’d say that scene breaks down into 2 different types of tattoo studios – there’s the typical street shop where you pick something from the wall and someone slaps it on. The other type is based more on the traditional Japanese practice of semi-private studios where the tattooist works with clients in a more one-on-one process to create larger scale custom work. The emphasis is on motion, flow, and planning an overall aesthetic for each individual’s unique anatomy. The experience here is more personal and I enjoy working with people who have an idea of what they want and together we can create a tattoo that is meaningful to them and interesting to make.
A lot of people don’t know this but Flatland Tattoo Studio also has an art gallery. What artists have you featured in the past?
I’ve had about a dozen or so art shows here. Ralph Ruther, James ‘Dirt’ Dorner, and Baub Alred would be ones that stick out to me, and we’ve always been involved with the Boneyard Arts Festival.
What do you love the most about your job?
It’s more interesting than a lot of other design or illustration jobs out there. I’ve never had an interest in repetitive or corporate work, but have been successful enough as a tattooist not to have to worry about changing careers. There’s more freedom in the art that I make, to an extent, and I still enjoy the fringe nature of it. Nowadays, I do lament the loss of the punk edginess and underground quality that tattooing used to have, but there is still enough of that energy left to keep me interested – and I get to spend my day drawing pictures.