Eric Eye has been a tattoo artist for nearly 30 years, but his specialty in realism is getting a nod from cancer survivors and surgeons all around the Puget Sound area.
Eye is at Dark Age Tattoo in Capitol Hill and thanks to his realistic, 3D imagery, he finds himself creating restorative tattoos for breast cancer survivors several times a week.
The majority of clients he sees are women who have never stepped foot in a tattoo shop.
"My significant other had gone through a double mastectomy shortly before we were together," said Eye. "When she told me about her restoration, and the really big impact that having the restorative tattoos for the nipple had made, I just felt like I needed to pursue that."
Eye's significant other had received her restorative tattoo on the East Coast, but since he was already proficient in that style of art, he decided to bring it to Seattle.
His first client was Shelly Murney, who had a breast cancer diagnosis in late 2014. After her mastectomy, she went to Eye for her restorative tattoo.
"It goes beyond tattooing, really," said Murney. "It's pretty significant. I've been happy to share my experience with my surgeons. And the first surgeon I shared it with, she brought in every other surgeon and practitioner in the building. It's so beyond what other types of restorative tattoos have been offered in this community."
Murney says having an artist do the restorative tattoo is like having the best surgeon do the reconstruction. Shading, coloring, and texture make Eye's work stand out from other services that may be available at a doctor's office.
GRAPHIC: See Eric's restorative work
Eye says this is the only work he wants his clients to forget.
"It seems to free somebody up to do what they want with their body," said Eye. "That is what I think is a healing thing for a lot of people."
Eye says he is up for whatever his clients want. Some would rather have floral tattoos or different artwork on their chests. He also provides restorative tattoos for the transgender community.
"What a difference it makes to have an artistic approach to this instead of a pigment put in there," said Eye. "Something that they won't see in the mirror anymore as a different part of them. It becomes part of themselves. That is what keeps me doing this."