La Grande tattoo artists Leon Higley and his shop, Redemption Tattoo, will be featured in the book “Tattoo Road Trip —The Best of Oregon.” “I was excited to be admired by someone who’s been in the business for so long,” Higley said. “It was really a step in my career that said I had done something real.”
For years Leon “Primo” Higley read articles by Bob Baxter in Skin and Ink magazine. Higley, a tattoo artist in La Grande, never imagined he would be getting a personal call from Baxter. But that’s exactly what happened last year.
Baxter and his wife, Mary Gardner, had started working on “Tattoo Road Trip — The Best of Oregon,” and they had heard good things about Higley. They wanted to feature him and his shop, Redemption Tattoo, in their book.
“I was excited to be admired by someone who’s been in the business for so long,” Higley said. “It was really a step in my career that said I had done something real.”
Baxter and Gardner lost their jobs during the recession, but didn’t let that stop them from exploring and writing about the tattoo world. They launched Tattoo Road Trip, a website that includes a blog by Baxter, articles and an online directory of shops across the country and in Canada.
The coffee-table style book on the best of Oregon was released in mid-October and is the fifth in their series. Baxter and Gardner traveled across the state to find 44 of the best tattoo shops in their home state.
“We set out to find the best rated, the best talent,” Gardner said. “When we went to do the book, we took the shops from our directory, because we had vetted them.”
Gardner said Higley has a “typical shop in a smaller community.” That was one thing Gardner and Baxter were looking for, though, as it “is indicative of tattooing in this country.”
The editor said those “typical” shops are safe, have consistent clients, attract clients from all over and have a high level of talent. More than that, Gardner said the owners of those shops are very involved with their community.
“They give something back to their community, and Leon is one of those guys,” she said.
Though Higley hasn’t seen the feature in the book, he’s seen some of the photos from the photoshoot at the shop.
“They were really well done,” he said.
He won’t see the book, though, until Baxter and Gardner arrive for a signing Nov. 14.
“I won’t read it, look at it until it gets here,” he said.
Higley will host a book signing at Redemption, 2203 Adams Ave., Nov. 14 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Artists Lindsay Whitney and Alicia Quinby, also featured in the book, will be there to celebrate.
Redemption’s owner says it’s an “honor” to be one of the best in the state — and the only one in the book featured from Eastern Oregon — but that he is proud of the work he and his three artists do.
“Between the four of us, we can conquer any tattoo,” he said.