While most tattoo artists design their work to be noticed, a lot of Eric Eye’s work is designed to blend in. The longtime tattoo artist recently began working with breast cancer survivors who have undergone surgical breast reconstruction, helping them achieve the look of natural nipples and areolae with three-dimensional tattoos. The result is so lifelike that it is hard to tell it is a tattoo.
“These are tattoos I want my clients to forget they have,” says Eye.
Eye realized there was a need for restorative tattooing in Seattle last year after he met his girlfriend, who shared her cancer survival story with him. After a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery, she traveled all the way to New Orleans for nipple tattoos by an East Coast artist, because the service was not available in Seattle.
Although he still creates two-dimensional tattoos, Eye decided to focus on 3-D cosmetic tattooing, which requires strategic shading to create realistic depth.
“With 3-D tattoos, you are basically tricking the eye into seeing dimensions, but you are working on a flat surface,” says Eye. “They are a pretty specialized skill.”
Eye works out of Capitol Hill’s Dark Age Tattoo and sees multiple clients a week for 3-D tattooing. His services vary; some clients need both nipples re-created, while others have already had surgical nipple reconstruction and need Eye to give the result a realistic appearance.
He’s earning a reputation in the medical community, too: A number of plastic surgeons in the region are referring their patients to Eye, who says, “There have been great strides in surgically re-creating the shape of the nipple, but you just can’t get the texture and the color through that method.”
For many of his clients, Eye’s ink is their first tattoo. Although the tattooing process is not usually painful, Eye works to make the experience as comfortable as possible, and he hopes his efforts help his patients heal and recover, both physically and emotionally.
“The most effecting feedback I’ve received is that it allowed a client to look in the mirror again. They are not seeing surgery; they feel natural again.”
Clients have come to Eric Eye to fix nipple tattoos after receiving unsatisfactory work elsewhere.
In-demand ink man
Eye’s services have grown to accommodate the needs of transgender clients.
In observation of breast cancer awareness month, on October 7 Dark Age Tattoo (1205 E Pike St.; 206.323.1637) will donate all of its proceeds toward Northwest Hope and Healing, a local nonprofit that provides immediate financial assistance to breast and gynecological cancer patients in need.