reviewed New Tattoo and Smoke Shops open in Ravenna

Michelle Bair

When S & H Tattoo Owner Chris Ball was 18 years old, he tried to join the army—

But they said he had too many tattoos that showed in a uniform. Now 25, the new shop owner has taken his passion that once held him back, and started two businesses in Ravenna.

S & H Tattoos, which stands for Strength and Honor, opened the beginning of January.

According the Ball, the business has been awesome and he can barely keep up with it.

“We have three of the best artists,” he said. “The artwork speaks for itself.”

Ball said that he opened S & H Tattoos because he wanted to surround himself with better artists and quality work. “All the other shops around here have bad reputations and poor quality artists,” he said.

In about two weeks, the small building connected to S & H Tattoos will open as 420 Smoke Shop, also owned by Ball. He said the culture of the shops go hand-in-hand, and both are guaranteed to be 25-30% cheaper than local tattoo and head shops. Ball recently saw a water pipe at a store nearby for $118, and he is offering the same one for $60.

420 Smoke Shop is looking to sell local artwork, such as pieces from glass-blowers and other artists. Ball also said that he is looking to hire someone to work in the shop.

John Oustampasidis, 29, graduated from Kent with in 2004 with a Business and Marketing degree. He quickly learned that was not the path for him, and decided to focus on what made him happy, art.

Oustampasidis is an artist at S & H Tattoos, and also owns a private-licensed, self-named studio in Canton. He said that he was trained at the Tattoo Learning Center, a tattoo school in Albany, NY and San Diego, CA with highly trained, patient and professional artists. TLC’s tattoos and school press have been featured on television and in over 50 international publications, as posted on its web site,

Oustampasidis took the valuable skills he learned from the school and applies them to his artwork. He specializes in black and grey portraits and photo realism. According to Oustampasidis, most tattoo artists sway away from portraits.

“We are looking to exceed expectations,” he said. “Other shops in Kent are just looking to meet them, preying on students and rushing through tattoos to get them in an out as quickly as possible.”

Oustampasidis said the artists at S & H Tattoos are pure and true. He feels it is important to make personal connections because tattoos are permanent and people will always remember the artist who did them.

“We want the person to have a better experience with that tattoo,” he said.

“We are not about the money. We are about the art.”

The shop’s third tattooist Christopher Smith, 12-year tattoo artist, has been working at another shop in Buffalo, NY for the past month.

“We travel from studio to studio,” Ball said. “We have a lot of friends between places.”

The artists feel that traveling is essential in tattoo culture, and they attend conventions throughout the year. In 2008, Ball received first place for a small color tattoo at Phunk-N-Ink Music and Tattoo Festival in Indianapolis. He said they will be attending a show in Atlanta towards the end of the summer and the Tattoo Classic in Canton later this year.

Tattoos produced by S & H Tattoo artists have also been published in a couple magazines, including Skin & Ink and Tattoo International.

Not only do the shops strive for low prices and high-quality work, the shop emphasizes health and safety.

“I go to classes twice a year to keep up on everything,” Ball said.

The classes are meant to keep everyone in the shop up-to-date on how to properly handle contaminated blood and needles, preventing disease and staying safe. Ball said he attends cross-contamination seminars, and is certified in first aid and CPR for children and adults through the Red Cross.

“Working with blood, I treat every single person like they have AIDS,” he said. “That way you don’t ever have to worry about anything.”

In addition to health and safety, Ball has acquired all the licenses necessary to open the shops: Including the Ohio State Law Cigarette License and vendor licenses for both.

Corey Konkle, 23, has been learning the art of tattooing through Ball since the beginning of January. Konkle said he got involved because he loves art and tattoos, and wanted to get out of his physical-labor construction job.

“I have always wanted to do tattoos,” he said. “Right now I am working on tracing and coloring paper.”

Ball recently tattooed a clear and colorful image of Napoleon Dynamite on Konkle’s arm. They agreed that Austin Powers and Jim Carrey are his next tattoos.