Bend tattoo artists design ergonomic equipment

Upright Industries addresses the aches and pains of pushing ink

By Rachael Rees / The Bulletin

When Derek Youngberg and Chris Callister started feeling aches and pains from working on their clients’ tattoos, they began brainstorming solutions to make artists’ lives better. And today, about eight years later, the Bend tattoo shop owners plan to launch their first ergonomic tattoo workstation at the Lady Luck Tattoo Arts Expo in Reno, Nev.

“As tattoo artists, the physical demands of sitting long hours working on clients takes its toll over time and we end up with the same physical problems as most office workers do, but even more so because our body positions are always in very uncompromising positions,” said Youngberg, co-owner of Upright Industries — a tattoo studio on Northeast Division Street and online supply company with a patent pending for its first product.

The goal, he said, is to promote career longevity and to change awareness about how tattoo artists sit.

More than 40 tattoo artists in Central Oregon have active licenses from the Oregon Board of Body Art Practitioners, according to data from Oregon Health Licensing Agency website. And according to a survey from the market research firm Harris Interactive, one in five U.S. adults had at least one tattoo in 2012, a 16 percent increase from a similar survey done in 2003.

But although the trend of tattoos is on the rise, with more shops popping up in Central Oregon over the past few years, Youngberg said, traditional workstations for typical tattoo artists are mostly rebranded solutions from other industries such as cosmetology or massage therapy that don’t accurately fit the purposes of artists or their clientele.

In doing industry research for their business, the duo discovered another need: USA-made and biodegradable tattoo supplies; so they launched an online industry supply warehouse with items ranging from cleaning supplies to tattoo machines from about a dozen different manufacturers.

But not just anyone can get Upright’s products.

“We only sell to professionals. We do have a stringent policy on who can buy our products … to keep professional equipment out of amateur hands,” he said. “We’re basically limiting the dangers of home-based tattooing.”

Edward Kehoe, owner of Monolith Tattoo Studio on Southeast Third Street, is one of Upright’s customers.

“I think it’s great,” Kehoe said, referring to the workstation called the Iron Elephant Work Tray. “I can’t wait to get mine.”

He said he stopped by Upright to check out the product and was impressed with the practicality and its ease of use.

“Making things more easily accessible is definitely a need,” he said, noting he can work on a client for up to eight hours.

Youngberg said the cost of the tray system ranges from $250 to $1,500, depending on the accessories added, such as a glove-box holder, rise-cup holder or paper towel holder. Upright is also developing a light system to reduce eye fatigue and prototyping an arm rest.

“No reaching, no grabbing, nothing beyond arm’s reach,” Youngberg said.

Kehoe said different artists tattoo in different positions with different equipment, so having a system that is flexible and can be custom-tailored will appeal to a variety of artists.

“I think it will be widely accepted,” Kehoe said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7818,

rrees@bendbulletin.com