By Dawn Cooke
Let me tell you a little story about Jesse Stark. Jesse starting tattooing as a young man and like most of us had to struggle to learn the craft of tattooing. Jesse worked in Detroit for a while. When I say he worked in Detroit I mean in the city not the suburbs. He was shot at one too many times there and he left to work in the safer community of Ann Arbor…
“I dropped out of CCS Illustration major two years in and started working in a shop called Pit-Bull Tattoos on Detroit’s Eastside in 2007 as an apprentice. I really didn’t start taking it seriously ’til the end of 2008.
I left Pit-Bull to work at Lucky Monkey in Ann Arbor in Feb 2009. It changed my life.
My closest personal inspirations and people who have actually helped me personally in tattooing are Daniel Million, Brian Massey, Lester Garcia, Bernie Perez and Mike Wilson.
I’ve worked only at Pit-Bull and Lucky Monkey. I had the privilege to guest at Inksmith & Rogers as well.” -Jesse
I met Jesse when he came into my shop and got tattooed and bought a machine from Bill. What I noticed about him that stood out was his level of respect. He always made eye contact, stood up straight and said thank you. He made simple gestures that I admired such as, he made a painting for everyone at different times as a way of showing appreciation and he went out of his way to bring his mother to my shop so we could meet her. He would stop in periodically to say hello…
At first I thought he wanted something. But he never asked for anything. He even facilitated a deal for Bill to purchase a rare machine from an artist at Pit-Bull with whom we weren’t acquainted. I offered him a job once when I was looking for another artist but he felt loyal to the shop he worked at. What made me keep in contact with this young man was that he just seemed like one of the politest and kindest gentlemen I’ve come across in this trade.
When I discovered that Jesse developed a painful condition that prevented him from possibly ever tattooing again, I really felt for him. He and his mother came into my shop one last time and Jesse said goodbye to us. He had to move with his mother since he could no longer work. His condition is so bad he needs to have a surgery that he cannot afford. His cervical spine is severely damaged and the disks are bad. He can hardly keep his head up for long without horrible pain.
Jesse might be mortified by me telling this story because he never really complains (I only know because I have been prodding into his life to figure out how to help him). Anyone who has ever had back pain knows how bad it is. He plans to travel to India where the surgery can be performed at one-third of the cost that American doctors will do it for. However, it is still in the tens-of-thousands of dollars.
We reconnected recently and I learned that he was never able to get the surgery. Still Jesse never asked for anything. He suffers quietly in pain, hardly able to sit long enough to draw anything at all, totally disconnected from everything he loves and knows except for his devoted mother. I can’t tell you all the pain this guy has been through. The worst thing about this job is no health care, no retirement and the worst thing about this world is that we let people suffer who can’t afford health care.
So I have to try to help him raise the money. If nothing else he doesn’t deserve to be in this kind of pain. Maybe he can get back on his feet and tattoo someday or paint and draw if nothing else because that is what is in his heart to do.
We are going to auction off some art and machines and tattoo all day on March 30th, 2013 on his behalf. If anyone wants to help out in any way it would be appreciated and if anyone can donate anything at all to help this fellow tattooer send money to his mother’s PayPal account: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may not know Jesse, but I assure you there never was a more kind and generous fellow with so much potential and talent whose career was cut short before it even started. I think this could happen to anyone of us. I would hope that someone might care enough to help me if I was suffering…
Read more articles from Dawn here: http://tattooartistmagazineblog.com/?s=dawn+cooke(Dawn Cooke is a contributing blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine can be found at Depot Town Tattoo, 33 East Cross St. Ypsilanti, MI 48197 www.dawncooke.net and www.dawncookeart.com) Dawn Cooke is featured in Tattoo Artist Magazine #21: Digital copy of TAM #21 available here: http://tattooartistmagazine.myshopify.com/password