GLENPOOL - A buzz echoed in Eddie Smith's tattoo shop this week as he finished a microphone tattoo on Jay Roberts, a loyal client and owner of the Route 66 Roller Dome in Sapulpa.
"This is the only place I get tattooed in Oklahoma," said Roberts, whose arm sleeves of ink are a small percentage of his human canvas covered by Smith's work.
The artist opened his Glenpool studio, Sacred by Design, in December 2010. With a career spanning 20-plus years, Smith has mastered several forms of tattooing, including Japanese and new school.
Smith is an ordained minister, and his clients are his congregation. The artist, with an appearance contradicting preconceived ideas of what a church leader looks like, wears a variety of ink the most noticeable being his facial tattoos.
"God often uses the least likely for the glory of his kingdom," Smith said.
While still a youth, Smith asked his parents to name a successful Christian artist; the only name they could think of was Thomas Kinkade. At that point Smith was determined to make the idea of a Christian artist less unusual. He began absorbing tattoo magazines and using friends for experimentation, but tattooing was still considered distasteful.
"When I started tattooing, only bikers and sailors and prostitutes got tattooed. It was real taboo, but I always loved body modification."
Despite the giant painted Jesus and scripture on the studio's wall, Sacred by Design is very much a normal tattoo shop with an interior full of sample tattoos and artwork. The space is far from church-like. Smith said some clients don't even recognize the evangelical motivation to the studio.
"People don't expect to find Christ in a tattoo studio, but they find him in mine. It's not like I'm pounding the pulpit saying, 'Turn or burn.' I'm meeting them where they are at; I'm just loving on them. They come back three or four times and are like, 'Man, Eddie, why are you so happy?' And I explain to them why, and they're like 'Yeah, yeah, yeah.' "
Smith said the patrons return to the studio, typically bringing in new soon-to-be clients.
"They keep seeing it 'Eddie is always happy. Eddie has got this thing about him. Eddie, I want what you got.' That's when I got 'em, and I'm like, 'It's free for the taking.' "
Smith wants his clients to leave happier.
"People come in who've had a horrible, bad day and just someone lending an ear to them, listening to their problems, just loving on them ... they felt that droplet that spirit of God."
Sacred by Design, at 13817 U.S. 75, is open noon to 7 p.m. Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Saturday. Call 918-296-7966 or visit SacredbyDesign.net