Tattoo artist ‘Lunchbox’ tells his story

Brendan Shea, junior in AHS, and Jessica Follenweider, sophomore in AHS, sit in New Life Tattoos on Green Street before Follenweider got a piercing on Monday. Erica Magda

By April Dahlquist

Too many to count. That’s how many tattoos Tattoo Artist Derick Dahlstrom has.

Dahlstrom, who now goes by Lunchbox, has been a tattooer and piercer at New Life Tattoos on Green Street for about six years.

Originally from Elgin, Lunchbox moved to the Champaign area and started hanging around New Life everyday.

“I just liked the environment,” Lunchbox, who already had tattoos at that point, said. “It was a neat shop and I just liked to hang out here.”

He soon learned how to draw tattoos, what makes a good tattoo and the history of tattoos.

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Lunchbox explained that the best, longest-lasting tattoos have a solid black outline, black shading and a little bit of color. It also helps if the person has healthy skin to begin with, meaning the person doesn’t tan too often and drinks a good amount of water.

“Some of the girls I tattoo, it feels like I’m tattooing leather,” Lunchbox said.

New Life’s style of tattoos is what Lunchbox calls the traditional American style of tattoos, or more sailor-type tattoos.

Often, people want tattoos that have a special meaning to them. However, Lunchbox recommends tattoos that just look good since there is no way to guarantee that what has a special meaning to a person now, will in the later years of their life.

“The meaning can wear off,” Lunchbox said. “As we grow and mature as people our tattoos don’t change.”

This is not to say that Lunchbox has never had a tattoo removed; he actually has had several removed. Having more of an appreciation for tattoos, he decided some of his earlier tattoos were just “silly ideas” and decided to have them removed.

“Getting them removed is a whole new world of pain,” Lunchbox said.

Junior in LAS Amy Neuberger disagrees and thinks tattoos should have meaning because they represent part of a person’s identity. Neuberger recently got a tattoo of an orange and blue daisy on her hip.

She had hers done at 217 Tattoos, formerly Altered Egos, on Fifth Street because she felt they were more personable.

“Tattoo artists are quirky,” Neuberger said. “They are definitely their own breed.”

Although he never planned on being a tattoo artist, Lunchbox is very satisfied with his career. He enjoys talking with his regular customers and hanging out with the other artists in the shop. Recently the artists got lab coats and bow ties.

“We’re trying to bring the class back to tattooing,” Lunchbox said.

Getting a tattoo can take anywhere between 30 minutes to many hours depending on the tattoo. During that time, Lunchbox does his best to calm his customers and try and get to know them personally.

“I’m marking them for life,” Lunchbox said. “I try to get to know them and give them a good time.”