Body Art Is Serious Business For Valhalla Modifications


Body art -- tattoos, piercing, permanent make-up, etc. -- is more mainstream now than it was even as recently as five years ago.

When Wes Norman, owner and operator of Valhalla Modifications Inc. of Payson, first started learning the business in 1995 there were only about 10 body art studios in the Phoenix, "There are now probably close to 70 Valleywide," he said. "The industry is flooded with undertrained people. It's not something you can do after watching a video or going to a weekend workshop."


Wes Norman, masked and gloved, works on a tattoo at Valhalla Modifications, Payson's first body art studio.

Wes and Visa Norman took over an existing tattoo shop in Payson in 2001 at 610 S. Beeline Highway, gutted the unit and completely remodeled it before opening the doors to Rim country residents that spring.

Valhalla Modifications Inc. was established in 1998 in Phoenix. Wes was extensively trained during his two-year apprenticeship under four master piercers and several tattoo artists. Visa apprenticed with Wes for two years and has 13 years of experience as a licensed cosmetologist.

Why this business?

"It chose us. For me, body art is a natural extension of my work in the beauty industry," Visa said.

For the past two years, Valhalla Modifications has provided Payson with a professional studio environment.

"It is a great town. There's not the violence and traffic there is in the city. The people are friendly," Wes said.

Visa and Wes offer tattooing, full body piercing, permanent makeup, mehndi and camouflage services. They are well-trained professionals who are committed to keeping the art of body modifications specialized and protecting the integrity of the industry.

"It is the first professional body art studio here. We are breaking ground in an area where previous work was done in back rooms, largely unregulated," Visa said. There is a state law that makes it illegal to do tattoos in any place other than a licensed facility, however it is generally not enforced, so there is little real threat of arrest or prosecution.

"The law was enacted to protect people from fly-by-night operators and the general public from the inherent health risks associated with homemade equipment and techniques," Visa said.

Many of Valhalla's clients have been those people who have needed their tattoos finished or repaired, Wes said.

"The biggest challenge we have is the unscrupulous people in the business and protecting the integrity of the field and keeping it progressive. We're giving it a legitimate face," Visa said.

True body art professionals, they have a serious commitment to the advancement and preservation of the craft. They have current certification in: Blood Borne Pathogens, First Aid and CPR. The two also participate in continual advanced training, and participate in professional organizations:

  • Alliance of Professional Tattooists;
  • Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals; and
  • Permanent Makeup Society of Arizona; Wes is this group's technical adviser and Visa is its director of publicity.

Their work is of such high caliber, clients from Phoenix have followed them to Payson.

"We're the owners. They know we're going to be here. Most (body) artists tend to jump shops. They're out there, but they're hard to find," Visa said.

The studio is a member of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The studio adheres to strict sterilization protocols and follows OSHA standards. All needles are new, sterilized prior to use and properly disposed of after each and every client. Valhalla Modifications seeks to provide its clients with a name they can trust and rely on and the assurance that every time a client visits the studio, their satisfaction and health are the Normans main concerns.

"We would also like to thank all of our loyal clients, whose repeat business, referrals and compliments have ensured our success in Payson. Thank you for reaffirming that a professional tattoo environment is needed and wanted. Remember, safe art cannot hurt you, support professional tattooing," Visa said.

Keeping the business going has taken a lot of effort.

"With Sept. 11, Afghanistan, the worst fire in history, and now Iraq -- four major economic hardships -- it has been very difficult. But it was something that was needed here in Payson," Wes said.

They invite everyone to stop by the studio and take a look around. More body jewelry selections are being added, and soon a new line of econo body jewelry will be offered. There is also a complete line of T-shirts and temporary tattoos on the way for summer. A couple of specials are available as well:

  • A $100-off Summer Special on any full, permanent makeup procedure; and
  • Through May, mention seeing this article for $5 off jewelry purchased with any piercing.

Valhalla Modifications is at 610 South Beeline between noon and 8 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, the phone number is 472-4704.

The shop also has a website, which features weekly Internet-only specials.

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