Old hand, new
blood, fresh ink
emporium hopes to elevate valley’s perception
Express Staff Writer
downtown Hailey’s numerous restaurants and retail shops, a tattoo parlor
may seem like one of the least likely additions to the neighborhood.
Voodoo Tattoo parlor owner Rob Monahan works on Ketchum resident Roger
Dubree’s leg in the newly opened shop in Hailey. Monahan works with
Shane “Psyko” Gunderson at the newly opened business—the only in the
Wood River Valley. Express photo by David N. Seelig
staff at the recently opened Urban Voodoo Tattoo says they hope to elevate
the community’s perception of the ancient art, as well as convince them
that their shop belongs there.
soon as you mention a tattoo parlor, people immediately think about biker
hangouts," said Rob Monahan, owner of the shop, located on West Croy
Street. "I wanted to make it where people could learn about tattoos
and not be afraid of them."
been working with tattoos since the early ’70s, when he took breaks from
his career as an artist to draw tattoo designs for his friends.
Oftentimes, he would be recruited to escort his friends to the parlors,
and quickly became familiar with the shop owners, and the art itself.
there, I just got tutored in, and started doing it," he said.
living and working as an artist in New York and California, Monahan moved
to the Wood River Valley 12 years ago, where he took a
"sabbatical" from art, opting for a career in construction.
four months ago, Monahan said he got interested in opening up a tattoo
parlor in Hailey—a feat that has been tried before by others, but
in finding a partner to share duties with, Monahan eventually got in touch
with Shane "Psyko" Gunderson, a talented, young tattoo artist in
who also performs piercings at the parlor, says he fell in love with
tattooing after getting the Japanese writing character—or kanji—
for "dragon" on his back.
in the process of tattooing, and the chance to apply his love of art
toward a career, Gunderson said he tried getting an apprenticeship at
several tattoo parlors, but getting such an opportunity is hard to come
while reading a tattoo magazine, Gunderson came upon an advertisement for
"The World’s Only Tattoo School," located in Detroit, Mich.,
which teaches its students in tattoo art, piercing and permanent makeup.
completing the intensive courses, Gunderson came back to the Wood River
Valley, and began playing around with tattoos for his friends, waiting for
an opportunity to perform his art professionally.
began looking for someone to share the shop with, several people he spoke
to recommended Gunderson.
artists say working together at Urban Voodoo lets the parlor offer a
variety or styles, ranging from Monahan’s "old school" design—comprised
of the traditional-looking tattoos such as a skull and crossbones or kanji
character—and Gunderson’s "new school" style—which is
usually more cartoony and colorful.
work together more and more, our designs and ideas are really starting to
complement each other," Monahan said. "The parlor is evolving on
its own because of that."
the old 19th-century building, which at one time housed a bar
called The Gem, into a state-of-the-art tattoo parlor has proven a big
project, but Monahan said he’s happy with the results, and thinks
customers will be, too.
wanted to change people’s perception of tattoo parlors, and the best way
to do that is to provide a place that’s clean and sterile," he
to an emphasis on the surroundings, Monahan said he and Gunderson enjoy
working with any drawings or photos a customer might bring in to make sure
they get the perfect tattoo.
of people will come in with something they want, and we’ll help them
make sure they get exactly what they want," he said. "This is
something really long-term, so we want to make sure they’re happy with
worked with tattoos for almost three decades, Monahan said he’s
encouraged by the recent resurgence in tattoos—largely headed by
20-somethings both getting and creating tattoos.
started in the ’70s, and it’s nice to see the younger generations
embracing this ancient form of art, and bringing it back to life, and even
advancing it," he said.
said working at Urban Voodoo gives him everything he could have hoped for
in a job, and more.
way, I get to do what I love, get paid for it, and every minute of it is a
blast," he said.
like any other job, Gunderson said the public’s tastes in tattoos are
always changing, and that he and Monahan keep up with what’s popular
through friends working in tattoo parlors in larger areas, conventions,
and specialty magazines.
trends just like in everything else," he said. "These days, the
big trend is to get an old-school design and rework it into a new-school
tattoo trends are fickle, Gunderson said, and there’s really no way to
predict what’s going to be all the rage a month from now.
today’s trend, but who knows what’s going to get hot next," he
tattoos are getting more mainstream exposure than ever before, Monahan
said opening a tattoo parlor in downtown Hailey is still a little
daunting, but that he’s confident this is the perfect place.
around here understand there’s growth happening here, and that they have
to make room for that growth," he said. "I really think our town
is ready for this."