Tattooist customizes art to give clients one-of-a-kind pieces

CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS —Martin Cervantes, owner of Bloodlinez Tattoo in Marshalltown, has seen a steady increase of clients since opening his storefront. A native of Los Angeles, he is a self-taught and licensed tattoo artist.

From being born in the concrete jungle of Los Angeles to opening a shop in Marshalltown, Martin Cervantes is happy his business, Bloodlinez Tattoo, is where it is.

“I like it here,” he said. “I don’t like the concrete jungle. It’s too much noise, too much traffic. When I came to visit my uncle, I looked around and it was so peaceful. People wave at you from their cars. People are so nice here. In the cities, they’re not like that.”

Before his shop opened at 2007 S. Center St., he was tattooing people in his home.

“They kept telling me to open a tattoo shop, that my work is really good,” Cervantes, 33, said. “It was a hobby done at home. I’d do one tattoo a week, but then people just kept calling. I didn’t feel comfortable tattooing people in my house. So, I started looking for a place and came over here.”

He received his tattoo certification from the state of Iowa and passed the necessary inspection to open. The number of clients has been steadily increasing since.

An average number of clients per week is five. Sometimes Cervantes gets seven or more. It also depends on how long each tattoo takes as some can require at least four hours for Cervantes to finish.

Last week, he said a group of senior citizen clients came in to get matching tattoos.

“Aw, man, we had so much fun,” Cervantes said, smiling. “They were so much fun. We couldn’t stop laughing. I think only one ended up getting a tattoo. The others were nervous.”

The cleanliness of his shop, the quality of the tattoos and the gentle hands of Cervantes with the tattoo pen brings customers through his door thanks to word-of-mouth. Customers have told Cervantes they think the energy of the shop is great.

“I’m still painting the walls, and it needs more art, but I’m getting there,” he said, laughing. “I’m going to put up my drawings. I just started.”

Cervantes chose the name Bloodlinez Tattoo after studying some of the industry history. In the 1950s and 1960s, he said tattooists used to bloodline — tattooing with water to mark the skin and make the blood rise. Now, he said artists have stencils to assist with tattoo application.

Creating his own stencils for the customers, Cervantes likes to customize the artwork. That is another reason why his clients come back or seek him out.

“People send me Google pictures, saying ‘Oh, I want this,’ and I ask ‘Why do you want a tattoo that’s a copy?'” he said. “I don’t like to copy people’s work. So what I do is take the idea and will draw my own. I’ll make it unique to them.”

Striving to produce unique pieces of work has long been a part of Cervantes, but there were some stumbling blocks along the way. He entered the workforce as a mechanic, but health problems derailed that career.

Ever the creator, Cervantes tried his hand at the culinary arts, but was not satisfied with the education he was getting. After leaving the school, he worked in construction for a short time. A friend in Mexico asked him what he had been up to, and when Cervantes told him construction, he replied, “What are you doing with your life? You’re an artist. Do what you love, and be yourself.”

His visit with his friend inspired Cervantes to pursue his tattoo career, and he loves what he does. He taught himself how to tattoo while living in Chicago, and gave friends, family and neighbors some ink.

Then word got out. Soon, clients began asking Cervantes if he practiced cosmetic tattooing — applying permanent makeup to faces. Inspired once again, he went to school in Mexico City and earned a degree in that form of tattooing.

“I do eyebrows, lips,” Cervantes said. “The hairlines — you know, when a man starts going bald? I can do blush, and eyeliner. It’s a smaller industry. There’s not a lot of people for that right now.”

One cosmetic tattoo he said he would not do is on the sclera of the eye — which is a smaller trend among body modification enthusiasts that appeared in 2017.

“I don’t do that. That’s too risky. You can make somebody blind,” Cervantes said. “I don’t want to take that risk.”

When he is not creating his masterpieces at Bloodlinez, Cervantes is a full-time father to his two children, ages two and five.


Location: 2007 S. Center St., Ste. D

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Weekends are appointment only.

Telephone: 641-844-4405


Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611 ext. 210

or lbradstream@timesrepublican.com.


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