Comfortably nestled in the Pelican Plaza, almost directly across the street from the DiamondHead Resort, Fort Myers Beach Tattoo (1901 Estero Blvd., Suite 104) and its talented staff have been inking up locals and visitors for nearly three decades. Opened in 1991 by Bill Hannong, Ohio transplant Krista Kerr quickly rose up the ladder of tattoo fame, beginning with her very first tattoo (an orchid, done by Bill in 1992), later apprenticing for him, working for him, and eventually taking over the shop in 2008 winning national awards for her designs along the way.
"I came in and got my very first tattoo by Bill. It was an orchid with black tribal design around it, done around 1992," Krista said. "A guy that I was seeing was being heavily tattooed by Bill. So, when I came in to get tattooed, we started talking. I thought it would be great to do, and kept bugging him for an apprenticeship."
Mr. Hannong finally granted Krista her apprenticeship, so she helped out around the shop during spring break for a few seasons.
Fort Myers Beach Tattoo has been inking the FMB crowd for nearly three decades. Krista Kerr, owner and artist (far left), and her expert staff, Stephanie, Ryan Varefoos and Kelly Jackson (l. to r.) offer custom, one-of-a-kind tattoo services, as well as an intense collection of flash images. Photo by MELISSA SCHNEIDER.
"Toward the end of one spring break, I was offered an apprenticeship," she said. "As an apprentice, you have to have a full-time job. But, every spare moment you have is spent in the shop, doing a lot of cleaning, tracing and coloring designs, and watching the other artists as they worked."
With a bachelors degree in studio art, Krista certainly has a creative eye for stylistic designs, layouts and patterns, but getting into the art tattooing was a slightly different field she quickly mastered.
"I'm glad I have that college degree, but it's kind of like having to relearn everything," she said. "Painting and other forms of media are kind of opposite of tattooing, but it definitely gives the eye to customizing."
Custom designs and more
Krista and her team of four offer custom designs, styles and creations, with a rainbow of extremely bright and long-lasting ink.
"Now with the popularity of all the tattoo reality shows out there, most people want things drawn or customized, and we all love to customize," she said.
If looking for custom work, be sure to bring in samples or reference material, "so we can see what you're seeing."
Of course, like any creative industry, there's always a new fad or trend that sweeps across the studio. Krista said many people have come in recently requesting scriptures and lots of simple and basic lettering.
"It seems to be the newest thing," she said. "Simple print, simple cursive, with a lot of lettering, like bible verses or the serenity prayer."
If scripture isn't your cup of tea, don't worry. Fort Myers Beach Tattoo staff is equipped with virtually any style, design or pattern you're looking for.
"We can handle anything that comes in the door: portraits, black and grey, fine line (fine outlines), bright colors, tribal, cover-ups, touch-ups, recolors and beyond," Krista said.
If you can't decide what you'd want, the inside of the studio is cloaked with literally thousands of styles and designs to choose from.
"And, we all have portfolios that we've done, so you can see the quality of work that we've done. Anything that comes in the door, any one of us can tackle and do with quality and care," Krista said.
Meet the crew
Fort Myers Beach Tattoo is a crew of four, with a half-century of experience under their belts, comprised of Krista, owner and artist, along with her two full-time tattoo artists Kelly Jackson, who has been tattooing for 17 years, and Ryan Varefoos, tattooing for 10 years, and her apprentice Stephanie, who has been tattooing for about one year.
Krista was awarded the 2009 Most Unique Tattoo at the National Tattoo Association Convention, held in Concord, N.C., for her angel wings work she did on Stephanie.
"I plan on getting a lot more work done on her and entering again next year," she said.
A regular to national conventions and beyond, Krista is always keeping her eyes peeled for new styles and techniques, always keeping a fresh outlook on the shop. That freshness is one of the qualities that keeps people coming back to the shop for more many regulars and return customers.
"We have lots of local regulars, but also lots of out-of-state regulars that come in every year while on vacation," Krista said. "We even have clients tell us they only get tattooed here at our shop. That's a good feeling."
As for safety, Krista said everything used at Fort Myers Beach tattoo is single-use only.
"You'll actually see the bags that the needles and tubes come out of. At the end of the tattoo, you'll see everything disposed of," Krista said.
An auto-clave is also on the premises, and "the only thing we use the autoclave for are the tubes the needles go in the same device hospitals use when sterilizing scalpels or medical equipment. Safety is definitely one of our most important concerns and top priorities."
Of course, if you had any questions or concerns regarding safety and sterilization, Krista said she and her staff would be happy to walk you through the shop and show you the process.
Hours and more
Hours to Fort Myers Beach Tattoo are Monday to Saturday, noon to 11 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome for ready-to-go flash designs or smaller custom pieces. For larger custom pieces, it's better to make appointment, to ensure a tattoo artist is all yours.
For more information or to make an appointment, call 463-7273 or email FortMyersBeachTattoo@FMBTattoo.com. Also, be sure to check out FMBTattoo.com for a full bio of the staff and photos of previous work done by the artists, and find them on Facebook.