Inking her way through Renton

Michelle Haley, Sacred Soul will attend the Seattle Tattoo Expo Aug. 18-20.

Odds are you have driven past Michelle Haley’s tattoo shop but you may not have known it at the time.

Sacred Soul Tattoo is tucked in amongst houses and a few other businesses along Park Avenue North.

The yellow and orange house with white trim is inviting and welcoming to those eager to get tattooed.

Michelle has been tattooing now for 11 years and nearly 10 of those years she has owned and operated Sacred Soul.

She first opened the shop with the intent to offer private, custom tattoos to her clients.

But after six months as a solo artist, she said it was time to hire more artists.

“I could go with the flow, grow and evolve or I could stay a solo artist,” Michelle said. “I felt like it was the universe telling me (what to do).”

More than a decade ago when Michelle first opened Sacred Soul she said all she needed was the “opportunity, a shop and a machine in my hand.”

The idea behind owning her own shop came from the number of times men had turned her down for tattoo artist positions she had applied for.

“They only fueled my fire,” she said.

Now years later, she said a number of those artists who turned her down have come to her and apologized.

“It’s nice to know I have gained their respect,” she added.

Michelle said she first moved to the area because of a guy and has lived here since 2002. She added even though that didn’t work out, she has always felt at home here.

She said she always knew she would open a shop. “I fell in love with the area.”

Sacred Soul currently has three artists and an apprentice.

Although her shop is located in Renton, Michelle hasn’t stayed put her entire 11 years of tattooing.

She said she suffers from “extreme wanderlust.” And has traveled the world from Brazil to France to other states in the U.S.

Becoming a Tattoo Artist

Michelle was born in Bothell and after spending sometime in Kansas City, her family moved back to Snohomish County when she was in the sixth grade.

She said she has been an artist her whole life. She said it all started at the age of 2 when her mom gave her a sketchbook.

For her, now, tattooing and painting are very equal. “If I’m not doing one, I’m doing the other,” she said.

But she didn’t start off tattooing. Michelle went to college and got a degree in psychology and said she was trying to get into the FBI academy. But even with her GPA, she said it wasn’t enough.

That’s when she was then offered an apprenticeship.

She said for the longest time, she was drawing tattoos for her friends and watching them take her work to other artists.

“I would look at their tattoos and think, ‘I would have approached that differently.’”

Now as an artist of more than a decade, Michelle said she really enjoys cover ups.

“The challenge (of cover ups) makes them gratifying,” she said. “You take a tattoo they have and change it into something they really love.”

Throughout the years, Michelle has been honored and awarded for her work. But to her, those awards don’t mean as much to her as being booked out for a year does.

Knowing that repeat clients keep coming back is more satisfying than winning those awards.

She said nearly 90 percent of their clientele are repeat customers.

The Experience

Both Michelle and her apprentice agreed Sacred Soul offers its clients a unique experience — the cozy, homey environment is very welcoming.

Michelle added the No. 1 reason they hear from clients as to why they keep coming back is the energy. She said none of the artists ever make a client feel stupid; they are there to help their clients.

The first step in getting a tattoo from Sacred Soul is coming in to look at the portfolios of the three artists. Once a client chooses the artist who best suits their needs, a consultation is scheduled. Following that the tattooing process begins.

“I finally have a crew that represents the shop and the name,” Michelle said. “It has taken me 10 years to weed out the bad apples.”

Sacred Soul prides themselves on providing unique tattoos to their customers.

“We never duplicate a tattoo,” she said.

She added even if someone brings in a Pinterest picture of a tattoo they like, the artists at Sacred Soul work to make that tattoo unique to the customer.

Seattle Tattoo Expo

Michelle and Sacred Soul will be in attendance at the Seattle Tattoo Expo from Aug. 18 to 20 at the Fisher Pavilion at the Seattle Center.

This will be the eighth or ninth year Michelle and her crew have been invited to this invite only expo.

“I feel like a monkey at the zoo,” Michelle said. But in a good way. This exhibition is the chance for art collectors to find artists, she added.

Artists can also meet other artists.

“The act of tattooing is sacred,” she said. “This expo is an exchange of ideas, art and energy.”

She added this event is fun even if you don’t like tattoos. “But if you love tattoos, it’s even funnier.”

Tickets can be purchased online as daily passes or as a full pass that includes all three days. The three day pass is $50 plus tax and daily passes are $20 each.

For more information on featured artists, scheduled events, contests and seminars set for the weekend, visit http://www.seattletattooexpo.com/.

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