Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Perhaps you’ve thought about getting some work on your arm, or maybe adding some colorful scales to the massive dragon inked on your back. Maybe you have a yen for a nipple-piercing … or something more south of the border.

If so, until Stage 3 of the reopening process begins in earnest, you’re out of luck in California—unless you find a tattoo shop or piercing parlor that’s opened up again, either secretly or in deliberate defiance of state law.

Four months ago, Jay’e Jones spent $30,000 to move her Yucca Valley tattoo shop, Strata Tattoo Lab, to a new location. The timing, as we all now know, couldn’t have been worse. Jones is obeying the law and trying to stay optimistic until tattooing and piercing parlors, along with hair and nail salons and gyms, can reopen during Stage 3.

“Newsom was teasing (in one of his daily press conferences) that he might be ready to (fully) reopen Stage 3 in early June,” Jones says.

(For the record, the Independent contacted four area tattoo parlors for this story. Jones, who has owned Strata since 2008, was the only business owner to return our texts, calls and emails.)

California is being one of the most cautious states when it comes to reopening tattoo shops. Mississippi—whose governor, Tate Reeves, stated “there is no such thing as a nonessential business”—has taken the opposite approach, reopening the state’s parlors on May 15, albeit under a new set of rules that may provide a template for states like ours: All tattoos and piercings are done by appointment only, and there is no public waiting room inside the building; customers wait outside or in their cars. One customer per employee is allowed in at any one time; in other words, you can’t bring a buddy for moral support. Both customers and employees must wear masks, and employees must wear gloves (as is done in most tattoo parlors already). There also are specific rules about cleaning and sanitizing workspaces and the common areas of the business.

The artists at Strata will implement similar practices and procedures when the shop reopens, says Jones. The shop will operate at 25 percent capacity, and public areas will be deep-sanitized every 30 minutes.

“We as an industry are well-versed germaphobes,” says Jones, “and pride ourselves in our cleanliness and prevention of cross-contamination. We know how to correctly use masks, gloves and many other types of PPE.

“All body art artists (at Strata),” she adds, “are required to annually pass a bloodborne pathogens exam, as well as update their Infection Prevention and Control Plan, including proof of sterilization receipts for single-use pre-sterilized materials that have been purchased.”

Reputable tattoo and piercing parlors are already sanitary places, with single-use needles and ink, along with other items being autoclaved, similar to surgical instruments. Jones says she had “three to five months” of PPE gear stocked before the coronavirus crisis hit.

The Association of Professional Piercers, an international nonprofit and alliance that provides information for both piercers and piercing aficionados, has provided best-practices guidelines for its members and others in the age of COVID-19. (Strata no longer provides piercing.) But Jones says that in the tattoo world, “it’s every man for himself.” The state of California has not issued its own specific guidelines for reopening tattoo shops, and, she says, there’s no umbrella organization to issue top-down best practices—so owners are tasked with coming up with their own safety standards, beyond the ones that already govern tattoo parlors.

“We have received zero information or support from both the state and (San Bernardino) County, aside from the closure order, which was indefinite, until further notice,” Jones says.

While she waits to reopen, Jones and the tattooists from her parlor are trying to keep busy. She works with four other tattooists, each of whom has a specialty, and all of whom qualify as gig workers, rather than employees.

“Everybody’s got their side hustle on,” she says.

Those side hustles include selling gift certificates for future tattoos, custom art, prints and paintings. The Strata Tattoo Lab’s webpage is selling gift certificates, as well as offering at-home consultations over Skype and other video-chat services. A business-owner grant from the city of Yucca Valley helped, Jones says.

But to a tattooist, nothing will replace the sound of needles buzzing.

Strata Tattoo Lab is located at 7257 Mohawk Trail, in Yucca Valley. For more information, call 760-369-8288, or visit Kevin Allman is a Southern California-based journalist. Find him on Twitter @kevinallman.

Published in Visual Arts

Up in the high desert, one tattoo shop stands out: Yucca Valley’s Strata Tattoo Lab. Its owner, Jay’e Jones, has been tattooing in the high desert since 2001, and purchased Strata Tattoo Lab from its previous owner in 2008. She’s also a music-lover, and has posted videos of herself jamming with her boyfriend, former Voodoo Glow Skulls drummer Jerry O’Neill. For more information, visit Jay’e was kind enough to answer the Lucky 13; here are her answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Carlos Santana, with Los Lobos. I was 12 or 13 years old, and beyond excited for my first concert experience with my dad. The show was in Corpus Christi, so Carlos made a point to recognize (the late) Selena and her husband, Chris Pérez, for their vast contributions to Latino music—asking Chris to join them for a few songs onstage. It may have been the contact high, but I was pretty blown away. I specifically remember my dad telling me something like, “This is real music, none of that silly kid mosh pit business (blah blah blah … something about adults and respect).” Just then, I looked up and saw these “respectable fans of music” tossing around a blown-up condom as if it were a beach ball. I was sold.

What was the first album you owned?

The Bangles’ Manic Monday. Previously, I had been snagging my parents’ record collection to play on my Fisher-Price record player, but this was my first tape—$2 per week allowance well spent!

What bands are you listening to right now?

The usual daily mix that Spotify has created for me—Descendents, NOFX, Bad Religion, Murder City Devils and Mariachi el Bronx. I’ve been stuck on the new Morrissey album for bit. Of course, Prince and Bowie are always a staple in my shop.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Trap! Definitely trap! Like, what are they trapping, exactly? Actual garbage, that’s what.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Tom Waits, 100 percent. I would stop mid-tattoo and run through traffic to experience seeing him live.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Die Antwoord. Zero guilt. ZERO!

What’s your favorite music venue?

Asbury Lanes, N.J. Nothing beats an afternoon at The Shore, followed by some bowling, all-day PBRs and trying mightily to hold up Jello Biafra’s soft, sweaty crowd-surfing body with your BFF.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“Eh fatty boom boom, hit me with the ching-ching, not fokken thinking, dolla eye twinkling, just a bit of junkie, let’s not get too funky, Oh oh oo oh,” Die Antwoord, “Fatty Boom Boom.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Booty People, self-titled, 1977 release. It was the first record I ever pulled out of my parents’ collection, spawning a lifelong obsession not only with funk, but collecting records and music in general. I think I was around 4 years old, and definitely not grasping the adult concept of the band. I loved it, despite that. Years later as a teenager, I picked up my first Emerson, Lake and Palmer album, Brain Salad Surgery. That record was a defining time period for me, and life-changing, to say the least. I love them to this day.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I suppose I could ask Dr. Greg Graffin why he hasn’t married me yet. Then again, he’s already married and doesn’t know me, so …

What song would you like played at your funeral?

I don’t care how cliché it is, but I would demand that “Dead Man’s Party” by Oingo Boingo be played on repeat, until everyone systematically threw themselves into my grave, and beat my lifeless corpse in retribution for the infinite loop of Elfman.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

I suppose I’ll figuratively be getting shot then. There can be only one Highlander, but one favorite album? No way. Here’s my Top 13 (in no particular order), since it’s lucky and all: Squirrel Nut Zippers, Hot; Dio, Holy Diver; Muse, Absolution; Dead Kennedys, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables; The Cure, Disintegration; Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Whipped Cream and Other Delights; Smashing Pumpkins, Gish; Tom Waits, Swordfishtrombones; AFI, Black Sails in the Sunset; Aesop Rock, Bazooka Tooth; Depeche Mode, Violator; Bad Religion, The Process of Belief; and Siouxsie and the Banshees, Kaleidoscope.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

One song is not enough. Just do yourself a favor, and play the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. It’s timeless, versatile and quite possibly one of the best compilations of all time. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Published in The Lucky 13