Three local men with a shared passion for tattoos recently joined together to create The Roost: Ink Club, Ellensburg’s newest tattoo studio.
The studio, named after one of the first businesses in the valley, opened its doors on July 1.
Clayton Merritt, Jared Carter and Tony Ritter are equal owners of the business and are all tattoo artists there. The interest they share in tattooing is evident on the surface of their skin and behind each of their stories.
Each owner-artist has gained experience in the tattoo industry while working at a word-of-mouth, appointment-only tattoo studio in Cle Elum a couple of years ago.
“The clientele really isn’t there in Cle Elum,” Ritter said. “We didn’t really have a legitimate storefront where we could attract a lot of people.”
Most customers were friends of friends or people who contacted them via their private Facebook pages.
“It was a pretty low-key studio (in Cle Elum),” he said. “Here we have (Central Washington University), and it allows us to constantly have new clients.”
It comes as almost no surprise that each owner got his first tattoo as soon as he legally could; age 18.
Ritter has his entire right arm covered in a brightly colored “sleeve” of different tattoos where every inch of the skin is covered with ink. He describes his tattooing style as “neo-traditional.”
He enjoys incorporating, for example, old sailor tattoo designs with a “modern twist” and bright colors.
He takes inspiration from neo-tattoo artist Myke Chambers and the more modern-focused Carl Grace.
“I was always painting and drawing and stuff like that and I was really involved with pretty much all forms of the art whether it’s music or drawing or painting,” Ritter said. “I was really attracted to that … I loved art so much I started getting plugged in with tattoos and this is the perfect occupation.”
Ritter has been tattooing for more than two years and feels the move to Ellensburg was a good choice for the business.
Each owner agrees that cleanliness in a tattoo studio is one of the most important aspects; something that is evident upon entering the storefront at 315 N. Main St.
The floors are shiny, there is no clutter and the tattoo areas appear organized and clean.
“It’s a good atmosphere … it’s classy and is a very clean place,” Carter said. “It’s a fun environment.”
His first tattoo
Carter said that the first tattoo he ever got was at Studio Three tattoos which was a studio located in the same space The Roost is in now.
He laughed a little as he described his first tattoo as one with dragons and tribal designs.
Carter worked in construction before he found his niche in the industry as a tattoo artist more than two years ago.
“I’ve always loved art and I’ve been drawing since I was a little kid,” he said. “A bunch of my friends pushed me toward (tattooing) … and I wanted to be my own boss.”
He describes both Merritt and Ritter as “very good artists,” and said they’re both an inspiration to him each day.
Carter’s coworkers inspire him, but he also looks to other professional artists for ideas as well.
“I would say I’m a huge fan of Mike DeVries and Rich Pineda,” he said. “Those are my Michael Jordans.”
Each artist has a style they specialize in and for Carter it’s color-heavy pieces known as “color bombs.”
Tattooing for 15 years
Merritt has been tattooing for 15 years and says that his style is focused around large black and grey pieces. He also enjoys doing bright color work as well.
In those 15 years he has seen many shops fail and flourish in Ellensburg. A variety of choices is something Merritt feels is important for someone looking at getting a tattoo.
“I feel like now people have options of where they can go,” Merritt said. “There were three (tattoo shops) here at one time.”
Merritt described the process of opening the new shop as being what he expected and that the reaction from the public has been “very positive” thus far.
He explained that each of the three artists are usually booked about two to three weeks out, so calling ahead of time is important.
“Sometimes, if it’s a small tattoo, we can take a walk in,” he said.
The customers have varied quite a bit in the short time the studio has been open.
“There are people from all over coming in and we have people come in from Seattle, too,” Carter said. “All of us have had people online that have seen our stuff and they’re coming from the other side (of the Cascades) to get tattooed here from each one of us.”
Getting a new tattoo is a commitment.
Merritt advises that anyone thinking about getting a tattoo do their research first and look at the artist’s portfolio, something each of the owners have on display at the studio.
“Know who you are getting tattooed by,” Merritt said.
Ritter stressed that simply liking the tattoo you’re about to get is important.
“For people that are just getting their very first tattoos, I think it’s important you’re getting something you know that you really love,” he said. “Don’t settle.”
“I want this shop to be one of the best in Washington state,” Merritt said confidently.
Ritter said that a year from now he would like to have The Roost represented at various tattoo conventions.
“I think it would be really cool to see a tattoo shop get put on the map in Ellensburg because it seems like the shops that can get really good and have really good seasoned artists are the shops that typically get popular in small towns,” he said. “There are shops out there where people will travel from everywhere to get a tattoo … Ellensburg is already known for a few things, but it’d be really cool if it were known for (tattooing) too.”
Carter said that he would personally like to see their shop featured in various tattoo magazines in the future.
The Roost features tattoo work exclusively and does not do piercings.
Ritter mentioned they get quite a few people that come into The Roost inquiring about piercings, but said he refers everyone to Ace and Body Piercing just across the street.
“They have people ask about tattoo shops, so it’s a good trade off,” Ritter said.