Tattooing in South County is about to get a whole lot better.
Sure, there are a few excellent tattoo shops scattered throughout places like Laguna Beach, Lake Forest, and San Clemente, but much of the talent in OC’s tattooing scene is located closer to Anaheim, Orange, and Fullerton.
With the Black Lantern opening in Dana Point this month, a few of tattooing’s finest young artists will be pooling their creative minds and resources to bring a tattoo studio and art gallery that will rival any other shop in the area.
“This is kind of a dream for me,“ says Sean Hall, who recently relocated from LA to be one of the founding artists of the Black Lantern. “Getting to work with these guys and be a part of this is going to be awesome. I think we’re all going to be a little tight-knit family, because it’s not going to be a big shop. It’s just going to start as the three of us.”
Along with South County’s own London Reese and Nashville-based Ink Master alum Josh Woods, Hall will be leaving behind a stable clientele to pursue the next level of his artistic career at the Black Lantern. Although Hall may be the least experienced of the three artists, he also knows that Reese specifically chose him to be a part of the shop because he can bring his own unique style rather than just serving as a run of the mill ink slinger.
“It’s kind of crazy, because when I first started out in my career six years ago was when I first met London,” Hall says. “I was getting tattooed by him, and I really looked up to him a lot because he was where I wanted to be as a tattooer. It’s kind of surreal because I became friends with him, and now we’re starting a shop together after six years.”
Even before Hall and Reese ever met, they had more in common than they knew. Both had pursued college degrees and rock star dreams before deciding on tattooing for a living, and Reese was actually one of the artists who encouraged Hall to leave his musical career behind to pursue tattooing. As a lifelong artist with two years of graphic design school under his belt, Hall’s transition from collector to tattooer was smoother than most – but that’s not to say it was an easy choice for him to make.
“One day I brought in a piece I drew because I wanted it tattooed, and my tattooer at the time asked if I’d ever thought of apprenticing,” Hall says. “I started tattooing as a hobby, but it wasn’t really going anywhere. Then eventually I came to a crossroads because I was doing the band stuff as a career, but being a struggling musician is pretty tough. I made the choice to stop playing music and start tattooing full-time and I saw my tattooing take off within a couple of years.”
Aside from opening up the Black Lantern, Hall’s move to OC signals another new chapter in his life. The tattooer and his bride-to-be left behind their busy LA lives to start a family in the suburbs to the south, but it’s also Hall’s way of coming full circle to some of the fondest beachside memories of his childhood at the same time.
“It’s night and day compared to LA,” Hall says. “My dad used to live in Huntington, so I was out here a lot when I was a kid, but he ended up moving across the country to Wisconsin. I’ve always had love for OC, and I’ve been talking to my fiancée about it and about how much more mellow everyone is down here. I worked on Melrose in Hollywood for the past couple of years, and it was so fast-paced and everything, it was quite a change of pace moving down here.”
The Black Lantern, 24302 Del Prado Ave., Dana Point, @seanhalltattoo