York Against the Grain: Tattoo, mural artist leaves permanent impression on York County
Jaysin Jefferson saw art in everything he did — even in things that might seem unconventional.
His years spent as a union electrician, for example, fueled his creative side as he worked on power distribution projects across the country.
"It was basically art in running pipes and making everything look pretty," Jefferson said. "A lot of thinking involved."
Although he loved his job as an electrician, the nine months away from his family was too much. He dropped everything to pursue tattooing — and Idle Hands Tattoo Parlour was born. Jefferson also completes murals in York County.
Jefferson, who has been tattooing for 10 years, initially opened his shop in the York Galleria Mall. He also had a shop in Gabriel Brother's Plaza before settling on his most recent location at 54 Carlisle Ave. in York City.
"I traveled the country a lot working in nuclear facilities. I'd work eight or nine months out of the year — out of town," Jefferson recalled. "I got sick of traveling and a couple of friends I'd known growing up had become tattoo artists, and they were like, 'You should give tattooing a try.'"
Jefferson, in the back of his head, always knew he would find art in his life. He graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art with a degree in graphic design before switching gears and focusing on electrician studies.
To him, timing was everything. After his time spent as an electrician, he never thought he would be pursuing his childhood dream.
"The universe got me right back to where I needed to be — painting murals and tattooing people for a living," Jefferson said.
In addition to his tattoo studio, Jefferson paints murals in the community. Most notably, York County residents might recognize his tribute to Kobe Bryant on the Penn Street Art Bridge or his homage to York County painted on the side of the Yorktowne Hotel.
"I just always like to create things and play around with things," Jefferson said. "I think like the constant evolution of learning and getting better — I like a challenge."
With tattooing and mural painting, the challenges could not be more intense. Notably, the lack of erasers in either art form.
Even when he prepares to tattoo his next client, Jefferson always reminds himself that it's permanent.
"There's no eraser here. There's no going back," he said. "I like it because you have to be on your game at all times — or it shows."
When it comes to tattooing, it's all about the prep work. Jefferson said he particularly enjoys hearing a client's idea and helping manifest a design to represent it.
While hearing out his clients' ideas, Jefferson tries to evolve them to something even better than originally conceptualized.
For example, he once had a client who requested a traditional dove in honor of his grandmother. Jefferson, in response, inquired for more information about how this could be more personal and unique to his client.
In the end, Jefferson designed a tattoo with firework sparklers — a unique memory his client had with his grandmother.
"I like to get people thinking outside of the box," Jefferson said. "I want them to have something that's different and has a deeper meaning to it — that really connects them to what they're trying to get to."
When it comes to murals, Jefferson primarily uses spray paint. His commercial designs, like the Yorktowne Hotel, are ordered via commission.
He also paints with friends at the Penn Street Art Bridge — the site of the Kobe Byrant tribute and Beetlejuice design for Halloween.
"It just takes a lot of control, hand-eye coordination, understanding of the different manufacturers and the pressure level on the different caps you can use and ways to hold your hand and stuff like that," Jefferson said. "It's a fast medium to work in."
At the age of 14, Jefferson stick-and-poked his first tattoo on himself. At 18, he got his first tattoo on a kitchen table at a party. He could never fathom he'd tattoo hundreds of designs for clients decades later.
"It brings me a lot of joy. People come to me with ideas and I get to create something for them," Jefferson said. "And I know they're going to carry it around forever and it's going to mean something to them forever."
Editors Note: York Against The Grain is a monthly series by The York Dispatch. We aim to highlight small, unique business owners in the county who deserve some recognition for the work they are doing. To nominate a business, reach Tina Locurto at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.