BEST OF THE TRI-STATE: Making their mark

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 14, 2022

Bad Buddha Tattoo has been in business since 2009

After being a police officer and an EMT, Rick Smith decided he wanted to work for himself and follow his artistic inclinations and opened up Bad Buddha Tattoo in Westwood, Kentucky in 2009.

Smith, sitting in his workspace covered in photos of Frankenstein and family, said the support of the community and his family has been “nuts.”

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“That is the part I appreciate the most, the community has always been behind us,” he said. “We have always strived to give the best we can give to people. Our goal is to have the cleanest place, the nicest place and to take care of our customers’ needs beyond everything. Their support has meant the world to us.”

That support is what led to Bad Buddha Tattoo topping The Tribune’s Best of Tattoo Shops. The winner was determined by votes from the public, many of whom come back again and again and bring their relatives.

“I’ve literally tattooed generations of families,” Smith said. “Tattoos aren’t for everyone, but there are a lot of people who enjoy fine art and this is the highest form of fine art. If we mess up, we can’t just paint over it and do it again. We get one shot to do it right.”

Besides Smith, there are two other tattoo artists, Derick Payne and AJ Tackett. Shi Clark does piercings.

Smith said the tattoos that customers are looking for vary as widely as the person.

“People look for all different types of tattoos. I don’t know if there is one thing that is most popular right now. With social media, you can search up something and there are a million ideas out there.” Smith said. “You can bring in six or eight pictures and your tattoo artist can build something that is your very own. So, really, right now, I don’t see any big trends right now.”

Smith’s favorite type of tattoo to create is realistic looking animals.

“If a person has a pet they have lost or have a favorite animal like a lion or a bear, I love to do those,” he said. “I absolutely love nature and I like drawing animals and their textures. If somebody loves an animal so much they want to look at it every day, I want to give them that.”

There are some tattoos that Smith won’t do: Anything hate-related or racist or anything that makes life hard for the tattoo’s owner.

“I won’t do a job-stopping tattoo on a 15-year-old kid,” he said. “I’m not going to put an upside down cross or their forehead. You don’t know any better. I’ve told parents in front of their kids that ‘No, I will not tattoo your kid.’ Now, if they want to go somewhere else and have it done, that is on them. They can live in the basement and their parents can take care of them for the rest of their lives. But we don’t do that here.”

One thing that Smith wants is for people who do come into Bad Buddha Tattoo to be comfortable.

“When people come into our shop, they are not greeted with attitude and none of us think we are above anyone,” he said. “We are artists and we are here to provide a service. There are tattoo artists around that put themselves on a very high pedestal, which is a shame because they are missing out on what is going on down here with the rest of us common folk. And there are a lot of great people who are looking for a great tattoo. And when they get met with an attitude at a place, they are more than happy to come here and tell us about it. So these artists are missing out on meeting a lot of great people.”