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Drip Studios Brings Luxury Tattooing Experience To State College

You likely wouldn’t suspect that Drip Studios on East Calder Way is a tattoo shop when you look at the sign above the door or walk inside. But that’s exactly how owner Jen Eisenhauer wants it to be.

Eisenhauer is a first-generation immigrant of Vietnamese parents. She grew up in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, which is not too far outside of Harrisburg. She said that throughout her childhood, she was always artsy. As she grew up and began to look toward college and a career, she knew what she wanted to do.

Eisenhauer’s parents begged her to pursue a career that would provide a steady income, but she decided to go to school for video game design. After beginning to date a boy that she met on an online video game while she was a teenager, she came to Penn State to pursue her degree and to be closer to him.

While Eisenhauer did graduate with her degree in video game art design, she hasn’t gotten to use it a whole lot. A few years ago, she sat with her partner while he got a tattoo sleeve done by Joshua Kunkel of State College’s Ikonic Tattoo, and while working on some art of her own, she was asked if she wanted to be a tattoo artist.

Without a second thought, Eisenhauer told the artist “no thank you.” She recognized the stigma around simply being a tattoo artist — the stereotypes of playing loud metal music and doing drugs in the back of the shops.

“I wanted nothing to do with that lifestyle,” Eisenhauer said. “I don’t smoke. I don’t even drink.”

In her young adult years, Eisenhauer held a number of leadership roles, including manager positions at Sheetz and Best Buy. She said that she always wanted to present a positive image and remind both women and ethnic people about what they were able to achieve both in the workplace and in leadership roles. Basically, being a tattoo artist didn’t seem like the right place to continue that.

However, after talking further with Kunkel, Eisenhauer realized that her will was strong enough to remain unaffected by the behaviors she might be surrounded with.

She became a tattoo apprentice at Ikonic Tattoo under Kunkel for about 18 months — give or take a few months since the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted things. Following that apprenticeship, Eisenhauer figured out pretty quickly that she wanted to open up her own shop for multiple reasons.

In every single job she’s worked, Eisenhauer said her goal was always to be promoted within a year — a goal which she achieved. She didn’t want to remain stagnant in any position and always wanted to be improving.

“If we’re not getting better every year, then what are we doing with ourselves? Whether it’s emotionally, physically, or in business, we always should be striving for something better,” she explained.

In those leadership positions she held, Eisenhauer would commonly hold seminars and talks aimed to inspire women and ethnic employees in her workplace. She noticed they would always be less confident to apply for promotions or take on large projects than their white male counterparts.

She said things were pretty similar in the tattooing world. Eisenhauer explained that for every woman tattoo artist, there are 10 men. She also said that she was the only ethnic tattoo artist in the area. Therefore, along with being a first-generation immigrant, owning this business means so much to her.

“Having my own space allows me to do whatever I want,” Eisenhauer said. “I’m in control of my hours, my breaks, my art, and surrounding myself in a positive environment that I can fully control is unlike anything I could ever have dreamed of as a poor kid growing up. It truly is a dream come true.”

In her experience, she has dealt with a large majority of male tattoo artists. To be able to have her own place where she can welcome people of all backgrounds and feel comfortable is important to her.

Lastly, Eisenhauer recognizes that there is a huge stigma that tattoo artists hold about the “requirements” to get a tattoo. She said that many older artists hold an attitude that clients need to “earn” their tattoo with the pain they endure with it.

Eisenhauer absolutely disagrees. If someone has a low pain tolerance but still wants a tattoo, she is more than happy to give them numbing cream. It’s also why her studio looks incredibly elegant, much unlike the dark and grungy image that instantly comes to mind when you think of a tattoo shop.

Along with that idea, Eisenhauer has been excited to integrate new technology into her studio. She said that many artists who have been tattooing for decades tend to stick with the technology that was new when they entered the business. While it works, the new devices and methods of the past several years definitely make things easier.

Eisenhauer has switched to a wireless tattooing method, which allows for greater efficiency since the artist doesn’t have to switch wires and worry about them getting in the way. Additionally, she uses a tablet to make her designs and then has a small wireless printer that prints the stencil that goes onto the client’s skin.

Additionally, she has even adopted new healing technology in the form of a bandage that stays on a new tattoo for about five days, rather than having to apply ointment upwards of three times a day.

All of these things come together to create the closest thing to a luxury experience that getting a tattoo can be, which is exactly what Eisenhauer has been striving for.

Even though it’s sometimes a struggle for a new business to get its name out there, Drip Studios hasn’t had that problem. The studio opened at the beginning of October, and Eisenhauer is already booked out until the end of February.

Right now, Eisenhauer is the only artist in the studio, working five days a week late into the evening. She’s not too sure about taking on an apprentice any time soon.

Remember the boy she met on an online video game and came to Penn State for? They’re now married and run the business together.

She explained that over the COVID-19 pandemic, she realized that we simply don’t spend enough time doing the things we love with the people we love. Eisenhauer said that her husband, Todd, who she lovingly referred to as her best friend, was working at a different job and they weren’t able to see each other much.

“I opened this business with my best friend, my husband, and I can’t express how phenomenal it’s been,” she remarked. “I really enjoy my time with [him], so I’m not sure if I want to bring anyone else in and ruin that dynamic.”

Eisenhauer tattoos upwards of ten hours a day, while Todd handles booking, payments, cleaning, contact with clients, ordering supplies, and pretty much everything that isn’t artwork.

“It really is a dream come true,” she said.

Drip Studios is located at 246 E. Calder Way, which is next to Way Fruit Farm Cafe. To view Eisenhauer’s tattoo art and book a consult or an appointment, take a look at her Instagram page.

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About the Author

Haylee Yocum

Haylee is a junior in the Schreyer Honors College studying immunology and infectious disease. She is from Mifflintown, PA, a tiny town south of State College. She is a coffee addict, loves Taylor Swift, and can't wait to go to a concert again. Any questions can be directed to @hayleeq8 on Twitter or emailed to [email protected]

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