21065 Bear Valley Rd.
Apple Valley, CA
Artists: John Noone, Nikko Hurtado, Ronnie Sanchez, Jamie Schene, Howard Eakin.When you think of the desert, you probably think of rattlesnakes, cacti, and Hunter S. Thompson blazing toward Vegas with a trunk full of drugs. It’s time you start thinking of tattoos as well. Some faithful already have, making the voyage to California’s High Desert, where Ignition Tattoo, an oasis of quality tattoo work, inspires tattoo seekers to ditch the hustle of Hollywood for Apple Valley and the custom craft and reputable realism of Ignition’s artists.
“Luckily we have people that will travel for our work, which is a big compliment—and I appreciate it,” says Ignition owner Jamie Schene. “I don’t know if we’d have more people doing it if we were in the city, but we’re booked up in advance out here and people haven’t minded the travel. In fact, I think a lot of people like it. It’s an adventure for them.”
After moving to L.A. to apprentice, learn, and eventually go out on his own, Schene, who was originally from the desert, decided to avoid the high-priced metropolis and plant roots in more humble surroundings. Still, it’s the city he escaped (and others like it) that provides a meaty portion of his clientele. And despite the great buzz surrounding Ignition, clients are still surprised by the locale upon arrival.
“It’s bizarre. … A lot of our customers drive from L.A. or San Diego or Orange County. And a lot fly in from other states or other countries. And they’re always tripped out because we are in the middle of nowhere. We’re about an hour and a half northeast of Los Angeles, and the elevation is about 3,000 to 4,000 feet. It’s the desert, dude. A lot of Joshua trees.”
Perched alongside Schene at the shop are four other desert dwellers: John Noone, Ronnie Sanchez, Howard Eakin, and Nikko Hurtado. “All the artists are very motivated and talented,” says Schene. “It’s a very harmonious environment. Everybody gets along well but we’re successful because we push each other.” It’s a group that can adapt to any style of work that a client requests, but it’s clear that Ignition is taking the traditional style of tattoo art and moving it forward toward realism.
“You know: black outline, shading, color. At the start, it was either traditional Japanese or traditional American. And I was very much into doing that kind of stuff, and I still like doing it. But I find that people are becoming more inclined to prefer realistic tattoos nowadays,” says Schene. “They want portrait style, or at least something that transcends a traditional tattoo. People aren’t asking for black outlines anymore, and so I’ve adapted to that. I enjoy this style of work because it’s more challenging and more satisfying. So I try and combine them. I’m very rooted in traditional-style tattooing, but I’m very interested in doing the more realistic style.”
It’s specifically this style of realism that has brought exposure to Ignition and its artist Nikko Hurtado. “My style is anything realistic—black and white or color. I’m known for realism,” says Hurtado. “I do a lot of portraiture. I like to do people—faces are probably my favorite thing to do. But I’ll do anything that I find amusing or challenging.” Hurtado is one of the reasons that Ignition is what it is today, thanks in part to his appearances on TLC’s LA Ink and Tattoo Wars, as well as his design work for Sullen Clothing company.
Currently, Hurtado is working on branching out and opening his own shop where he can give more space and attention to his clients and have some room for art exhibitions. This shop will also be in the desert, and he expects many collaborations with Ignition.
“Working at Ignition has been the best time that I’ve had tattooing. If anybody has the chance to work at Ignition, gets that opportunity, they need to grab it up,” Hurtado says. “Jamie’s been tattooing for 16 years and is still always willing to learn. I respect the dude so much. Ignition has definitely helped me grow, and contributed to my being able to move forward.”
The shop recently celebrated its six-year anniversary with respected artists, including Jojo Ackermann, and some late-night drunken hand-poke tattoos. “I got three dots to represent my family,” Schene reveals. “It’s funny how something so simple can be so special.”
No doubt there will be many years ahead with Schene at the helm, and more reasons to escape to the desert, thanks to Hurtado’s new venture. If you’ve got any doubts about making the trek, Schene offers this final endorsement: “It’s only really hot, like 115 degrees, for one month,” he laughs.