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Nothing says, ‘I’ll love you forever’ quite like a tattoo / February 09, 2011
You may affirm your love on Valentine’s Day at an intimate candle-lit restaurant or on a trail that ends at a cascading waterfall.

The choices of setting are endless.

If the element of surprise is what you’re going for, you may even rendezvous this year at a tattoo gallery right here in Mecklenburg County, where you can choose a piece of body art that declares your devotion.

Body Accents in South Hill and Clarksville Tattoo both have opened for business just in time to celebrate the Valentine holiday.

Scott Rader of Body Accents said he especially enjoys working with couples who come in together to get matching tattoos or tattoos that honor their significant other.

“We get to see the bubbly love they have for each other. I know it sounds a little mushy but it’s very pleasing to see especially in today’s world where there’s so much bad going on.”


Visiting the tattoo salon together is a kind commitment.

“It shows they’re serious enough about each other to mark themselves,” he said.

Often a woman asks a man where she should have the design drawn.

He cautioned men to answer with care.

“Always the best answer is: ‘Anywhere you to put it. You’ll look beautiful wherever it is.’”

Most men, however, harbor a secret desire for her to have the design drawn across her lower back, Bill Carhuff of Clarksville Tattoo said.

Women choose a horizontal piece of art across their lower back for an entirely different reason — because it won’t be visible to the world at large.

Concealment is the reason women also choose to have small designs applied to the wrist, ankle, or shoulder, he said.

With those discreet adornments, “they can still look elegant if they dress up in an evening gown,” Rader commented.

“More men go for things that cannot be hidden,” he said. “Often they come in because someone is displeased and they are trying to make up.”


More clients today are proposing original ideas for custom art rather than choosing a standard design, Rader said.

“They come in with a lot of really cool ideas, which keeps my job fun,” he said. “And they are open to me saying, ‘Let me draw something for you.’”

He encourages couples to think about what reminds them of the other person.

The design doesn’t have to mean anything to the outside world.

“A concealed meaning makes it special,” he said.

“A lot of people still get names,” Carhuff said.

He discourages the practice, however, because it can have unintended consequences.

Carhuff said that after 40 years of marriage his girlfriend’s father got a tattoo of his wife’s name.

“She cussed him out because it had taken him 40 years.”


Although tattooing is now available in both South Hill and Clarksville, you won’t find the service outside of town limits in Mecklenburg County. Along with sex shops they’re still illegal, according to Rader.

Relocating here five months ago from Louisiana, he had to convince South Hill officials to alter their zoning ordinance and then grant him a permit.

“The laws were written back in the days when you couldn’t even show Elvis below the waist on TV,” he said.

When Carhuff started in the business 30 years ago as an apprentice in Asbury Park, N.J. only six or seven pigments were available to tattoo artists.

Colors today are more varied, more vibrant, he said. As a result of new inks and more sophisticated equipment, images are rendered in greater detail and appear more realistic.

“It almost looks airbrushed,” he said.

Carhuff first came to Southern Virginia as a vacationer who enjoyed fishing and boating on the lake.

“I loved it so much I decided to move here,” he said.

He continues to own and operate Attraction Tattoos in Bristol, Pa., while building a business in Clarksville.


Rader is building his South Hill business as a spin-off of an existing hair, nail, and tanning salon, Body Accents.

He approaches tattooing as a visual art and is working to create “a gallery-like atmosphere.”

He grew up in a musical family and found his first creative expression in music.

During several years in Italy with the U.S. Air Force, he developed a deeper appreciation of the visual arts.

“There’s a lot of art in that culture. I learned to appreciate it visiting Rome, Venice, and Florence, where people would be sitting Indian-style in the piazza drawing statues. I thought to myself, ‘I want to try that.’”

He did.

He brought a sketch pad and joined the young artists in then piazza.

“There were several American kids going to art school there. They helped me out a lot,” he said.

His personal style evolved when he returned the states and apprenticed as a tattoo artist with Capt. Kevin Cronin in 2006 in Baton Rouge, La., “a respected pioneer in the industry.”

Rader developed a cartoon-like style using bold, bright colors and exaggerated shapes.

Although he declined to share his secrets for rendering tattoos in brilliant color, he commented: “The color wheel is there for us to use.”

Rader said many talented young painters and artists are coming into the business because it is growing fast and provides an opportunity to earn a living doing art.

“Nowadays people want their art with them at all times, on their bodies,” he said.

Both Clarksville Tattoos, located under the Galleria at the corner of Virginia Avenue and Second Street, and Body Accents at 900 East Atlantic St. in South Hill will be running Valentine specials for couples. Clarksville Tattoos (434-374-5554) is open from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Body Accents (434-955-2639) is open 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

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