Bonnie Jean has been a part of Tattoo by Design since helping the original owner, Nanette Savage, open the studio in 1985, and then purchasing the shop from her four years later. Bonnie Jean grew up in Hawaii, and got into the tattoo world when she met Taunee Beekman in Lahaina, owner of the original Skin Deep Hawaii, back in the late 1970s. At the time, Bonnie Jean owned Candelabra, creating exquisite hand-carved candles. She’s had many other jobs in the arts, including building stained glass, painting t-shirts, and performing as a musician at The Whale’s Tail on Front Street in Lahaina. Comparing notes with fellow business owner and artist Taunee, Bonnie Jean realized that maybe tattooing would be a better place to express her artistic interests and her love of working with people. A few years down the road, she started her apprenticeship with Nanette here in Eugene, and has been part of the tattoo world ever since.
When Bonnie Jean took over Tattoo by Design, she wanted to create a shop that really welcomed all kinds of tattoo enthusiasts, and represented the tattoo world as the artistic field it is. She’s worked hard to create a shop with high standards of art, health and customer service. In 1993, Bonnie Jean was a member of the first class on disease prevention given by the Alliance of Professional Tattooists, a trade group for tattooists which is focused on prevention of disease transmission. Every artist she hires is required to follow strict health standards, and to join the APT. Bonnie Jean is has also been a member of the National Tattoo Association since 1995; NTA is one of the most respected tattoo organizations in the world.
Bonnie Jean was part of bringing Oregon tattooing into the modern age when she sat on the original committee to create tattoo regulations in Oregon in the early 1990s. The choice was harsh: Oregon was going to shut tattooing down altogether, or regulate it, due to bad sanitation practices in so many shops. Bonnie Jean has been a licensed tattooist in the state of Hawaii since 1986, and with her experience in the APT, the health officials wanted her to help them design the regulations. Bonnie Jean, not wanting to lose the career she’d grown to love, was honored to be one of a few tattooists from Oregon chosen to help the Health Licensing Office and legislators design tattoo regulations. She continues to encourage Oregon to maintain high health standards for our tattooists.
In 1997, Bonnie Jean opened a second studio in Yachats, on the central Oregon coast. Yachats is a small arts community, where people come to both vacation and retire in a setting free of the more hectic parts of most coastal tourists towns: there are no arcades, no crowded beaches, no port, no endless storefronts of cheap souvenirs. Yachats is the kind of place where people walk on the beach, visit with family, and appreciate life – quiet, and a perfect place for a quiet, private tattoo experience. That’s just what Bonnie Jean provides at Turtle Island Tattoo, a state-licensed appointment-only studio just half a block from the Pacific ocean.
These days, Bonnie Jean spends most of her time on the coast in Yachats tattooing at Turtle Island Tattoo, and has opened Turtle Island Candle Company on Highway 101 in Yachats, offering her handmade candles, and other handcrafted items by local artists.
She continues to be fascinated with tattooing as a healing art form. In her third decade as a tattoo artist, Bonnie Jean’s favorite thing is helping her clients put their spiritual beliefs into visual imagery.
Just a few of the thousands of tattoos Bonnie Jean has done in her career – more in her portfolio at the Tattoo by Design facebook page.