Today, Kodiak’s newest tattoo shop will open for business. Nemesis, which is Kodiak’s second tattoo shop, is owned and operated by born and raised Kodiakan, Dan Roberts, who will be fielding questions and taking appointments for tattoos from today. The official grand opening for Nemesis will be on Halloween, but Roberts said he’s now available for ink work up on an appointment-basis.
“I’ve always had an interest in tattooing,” said Roberts. “But there was not much going on, as far as tattooing in Kodiak, Alaska when I was growing up.”
Dan Roberts was born in Kodiak in 1979, and grew up in town. Aside from a few “fly-by-night” pop-up shops, Robert said there weren’t any proper tattoo parlors on the island when he was a kid.
One of his early exposures to the world of tattoos came in the form of a catalog, that was given to Roberts by his mother’s then-boyfriend, who was a biker. The catalog had photos of designs and tattoo equipment for order.
“It was a Huck Spaulding tattoo supply catalog,” said Roberts. “I liked catalogs in general, because we live on an island and the only way to get something interesting was to order it.”
Roberts ended up dropping out of high school – he said the only thing that kept him going as long as he did were the art classes.
“I had a really good art teacher, Bonnie Dillard,” he said. “I recently saw her in the airport and told her I’m a professional artist and she nearly started crying.”
At the age of 19, he moved to Arizona to go to luthiery school, specifically to learn how to build guitars. While there, his interest in tattoos was piqued again.
“The maintenance man was doing tattoos at the apartment complex I lived in, just on the side,” said Roberts. “We call them scratchers.”
When he inquired with the man about getting into tattooing, Roberts was told to go to a store in Phoenix, so he got on a bus and made the 5-hour round-trip to Arizona’s capital.
“I went down there with $500 and I slapped it down on the counter and I bought my first tattoo gear,” said Roberts. “I tattooed my roommates that night, I tattooed myself that night … they turned out pretty well, but they were very simple – just black, and not very intricate.”
That night took place in October 1998, which means the opening of Roberts’ new shop coincides with his 20th anniversary of tattooing.
After buying his first tattoo equipment, Roberts worked a range of other jobs for the next few years, but continued to dabble in tattooing. By 2002, he was earning a living as a full-time tattoo-artist.
“After I graduated from luthiery school, I realized that luthiery was either: Go work in a factory or finance a custom-shop,” he said. “Being 18 years old and not having resources or credit, that wasn’t feasible. The tattooing thing was more lucrative and more accessible as far as making money off my creativity.”
In 2012, Roberts took over a tattoo shop in Prescott, Arizona, of which he remains the proprietor – but, he said, he’s long been keen to have a shop in his hometown.
“I wanted to be out of the sun in the summers, and back up here in Alaska where it’s beautiful,” said Roberts. “And this has always be my home, no matter where I go. So I figured it was time get something set up, so that when I am here, I can work.”
The first time he did tattoos in Kodiak was in 2007, when he worked for a month at New School Tattoo, a shop which was only open for short while.
“Ever since then, I’ve always wanted to come back up here,” he said. “There’s just been a lot of hoops to jump through.”
Now, those hoops have been jumped through, and Nemesis is ready for clients.
Roberts said the name he picked for his Kodiak-based shop has raised a couple of eyebrows, particularly since his shop is directly across the street from the town’s only established tattoo shop, Slim Jones Ink. Slim Jones was established in 2011 by Ron Jackson and has been based at 1312 Mill Bay Rd since 2014.
Roberts said that rivalry wasn’t the intention behind the name, which he said is partially based on a private joke he has with friends and also simply a word he likes the aesthetic of.
“A lot of people, their first reaction is always the negative connotation of the word,” he said. “But if you look up the word it’s about something that creates a balance in the world.”
“So I feel like it’s creating a balance in this town and giving people options as far as where they can get their tattoos and what kinds of tattoos they can get,” he added. “It’s also creating a balance in my life, so I can come back and forth between Alaska and Arizona, which are two places I love.”
Jackson, likewise, said he welcomed the arrival of a new shop.
“I’m excited to see growth in the tattoo industry in Kodiak,” he said.
With regards to his work, Roberts said he favors bold colors and prefers not to reproduce images in a photorealist way. Roberts said he’s more of a “traditionalist,” when it comes to his style.
“I like to make it my own,” he said, but added that he’s open to inking almost anything that a customer asks.
“Portraits are pretty much the only thing I won’t do,” he said. “I’ll do lettering … but that feels the most like work. It makes you feel like a typewriter.”
He also said that he is considering keeping one day a week free of appointments, so he can cater to walk-in customers, which he sees as another tattoo tradition.
The grand opening of Nemesis will take place on Halloween. Roberts said that anyone who comes to his shop wearing a costume that day will be entered into a raffle, the prize of which will be a gift certificate for a tattoo at his shop. Nemesis will be open seven days a week and hours may vary.