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Scott Carreras never planned to be a tattoo artist. It was never even on his radar.
He was no stranger to art, however. He had experience doing airbrushing, animation, digital art, oil painting, latex mask-making and chainsaw carving — which proved to be way too much work for what he was getting paid in return.
He spent his college days in his 20s airbrushing murals on the sides of buildings, such as motorcycles, cars, really anything. He was advertising his skills in Centralia — putting up flyers and placing ads in The Chronicle — when a tattoo shop called him one day in 2004 to airbrush a mural at their store. The owner was so impressed with his work that he told Carreras he should become a tattoo artist.
“I thought, ‘Sure, I’ll try that. I’ve done everything else,’” Carreras said.
He’s been tattooing ever since, going on 16 years now.
About three years in, the difficulty of working with others proved to be too much and he decided to branch off and open his own shop. He had worked with other shops that had drug and alcohol problems. Carreras doesn’t drink and it became too heavy to deal with and be around on a daily basis.
The tattoo industry tends to have this reputation, Carreras said, although not as much now as it did 20-30 years ago.
“Working with people with those kinds of problems wasn’t good financially,” Carreras said. “So there were falling outs and stuff. The tattoo business is very personal. You really have to get along well with those you work with.”
So he started Full Throttle Tattoo in 2007 on North Tower Avenue in Centralia with hopes of running a tighter ship and less of a party place. No more drug- and alcohol-fueled atmosphere. For Carreras, this was solely about creating art.
“I was very focused on tattooing itself and art itself,” Carreras said. “A lot of people in the tattoo industry are in it not necessarily because they’re so into art, but sometimes because they’re into the scene or the stereotype.”
He’s moved his shop a couple times since opening up and is now located in Yard Birds Mall at 2100 N. National Ave. Ste. 112A, Chehalis.
Carreras has no idea how many tattoos he’s done over the years. He currently typically does one to five tattoos a day, five or six days a week. Sometimes a customer comes in and it takes the entire day for a large tattoo, and other times he can get multiple people in during a single day.
The allure of having his tattoo creations live on on other people’s arms, legs and so forth isn’t as strong as one might think, mostly due to the fact that most of the time he’s not tattooing his original artwork. He’s putting other artists’ work on people. About 99 percent of customers come in knowing exactly what they want — a piece of art they found that they want on them.
“It’s rare someone asks me for my own artwork,” Carreras said. “So I don’t often get to do that. And I can’t really take pride on my art being on someone when it’s really not my art. It’s a reproduction of someone else’s.”
Though he never planned to be a tattoo artist, it seems it was meant to be. Out of all the art mediums, tattooing is the one that has proven to pay the bills consistently, and that’s been one of the most rewarding parts of the job, he said. He’s been able to support a family and buy a house while doing what he loves — create art.
“Just being an artist of any kind and being able to pay the bills, that’s hard to come by,” Carreras said.
The tattoo industry has changed a lot since he started in 2004, most notably the equipment. But he’s also seen fads come and go as the industry tends to be trendy. If something is cool at the time, everyone wants it.
“Everyone will come in and get the same thing for like three years,” Carreras said. “Then a new trend will come in and you’ll do that for the next three years.”
He’s even seen an increase in customers since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in mid-March, although it’s hard for him to pinpoint why. It might be the stimulus check people received or the fact that people are working less hours and have more time to come in.
He’s looking to dial back his tattooing, however, as he just took on an apprentice to teach. His goal is to get her and another person going at Full Throttle Tattoo in the next year or so and be able to work a little less. The next art medium he wants to try is sidewalk chalk.
“That’s a thing,” Carreras said.
Full Throttle Tattoo is currently open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
More Information on Full Throttle Tattoo
Owner: Scott Carreras
Location: 2100 N. National Ave. Ste. 112A, Chehalis
Hours: 11 a.m to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday