Sanctuary Tattoo on SE Stark

On September 15th, Ian Mcvay opened Sanctuary Tattoo and Piercing with his partner and wife, Drea Mcvay. Located on the second floor at 8504 SE Stark Street, the new shop offers body art in a welcoming and inclusive space.

After twelve years working at other tattoo shops, Ian Mcvay felt it was time to head out on his own and create a friendlier tattoo atmosphere. “I really wanted to create a place where all of our clients felt very comfortable coming in and that the people who worked there felt comfortable being there.” Mcvay explained some other shops play loud metal music or have artists who push clients towards a specific type of tattoo. Drea and Ian Mcvay instead built a warm and inclusive space that anyone could drop in for body art.

Owners Ian Mcvay and Drea Mcvay

Ian Mcvay knows the importance of trust and comfort for this type of business, explaining that “tattooing is a very personal experience.” Drea Mcvay added that it shouldn’t be a stressful experience, and it should be accessible to all kinds of people. Ian explained that his temperament lends itself well to the inexperienced client. “I always prided myself in being very good with nervous or new clients… Doing people’s first tattoos is one of my favorite things to do because I know that I’m a little bit more gentle and a little bit more easygoing.” 

Crafting the right image for Sanctuary Tattoo required finding a suitable location. “Well, we did a lot of searching for the perfect spot,” explained Drea Mcvay. They were looking for a section of Portland with a suitable culture and community. Additionally, they needed a neighborhood not over-served by other tattoo shops but still had a place for them. “We needed to find somewhere where there was space for us and also a welcoming landlord. Which was a little bit challenging.” Drea said that tattoo shops have a negative reputation among building owners, “they assumed we were going to be some rough and tumble biker shop.” Fortunately, the building they found previously housed a tattoo shop and was accepting of the business.

Ian Mcvay is currently the only tattoo artist on staff, but a second person will start work soon. Both of them are accomplished artists covering a variety of techniques. “I can sort of do whatever needs to be done. I can do fine-line or bold traditional work.” His tattooing experience also covers a full range of skin tones and placement. There are few limits to what Sanctuary Tattoo can provide. However, being well-rounded, Ian explained that they do not work on portrait tattoos. “I feel that if you’re doing portraits, you make that your career, and you really focus on that.”

Reception Desk between tattoo and piercing areas

On the other side of Sanctuary Tattoo and Piercing’s office is a glass display counter that will soon house quality piercing jewelry, and behind that counter is a private room used by staff piercer Xia Key. They are a licensed piercer and will work on people ages ten years old and up. Drea Mcvay stressed how important it is to have a professional piercer work on your body. She explained that some shops, especially the mall stores, offer lower quality jewelry, and the piercing guns used at those locations often cause infections. “Our piercer is registered with the Association of Professional Piercers, So they had to go through rigorous training and certification… Everything is extremely safe, extremely high quality.”

Front door leads upstairs to Sanctuary Tattoo and Piercing

The whole team at Sanctuary Tattoo and Piercing is excited to be in a business district where their company can expand along with the area as a whole. “We really want to be a part of the neighborhood,” said Ian Mcvay, adding “when we first looked at this place, we walked up the street up to the little area up there that’s got all the bars and restaurants, and we just got a really good feel for the area. We wanted to grow with the spot as opposed to just jumping into a place where we didn’t really fit.”

Sanctuary Tattoo and Piercing is open on Wednesday and Thursday from 12:00 PM to 08:00 PM. On Friday and Sunday, they are available from 12:00 PM to 09:00 PM. Walk-in customers are welcome, and staff will do everything possible to make you feel safe and appreciated.