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Monday, July 14, 2014

Voices: ‘I never knew I was going to be a tattoo artist’

By DON HIMSEL

Telegraph staff

Nick “The Barbarian” Kelley is a family man.

“I’m a big family man,” he says. “Husband. Father.” ...

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Nick “The Barbarian” Kelley is a family man.

“I’m a big family man,” he says. “Husband. Father.”

Big may be the operative word. He’s an imposing man, but soft spoken.

Kelley is a tattoo artist. He works at Precision Body Arts on West Pearl Street in Nashua. His bald head features a spider web tattoo, an arresting sight if spotted in the window while walking along the sidewalk. Ask him why it’s there, he’ll say “just because I liked it.”

Ink covers his body. His first tattoo was of a bat he did on his own ankle when he was 12 years old.

“I don’t really count it as my first tattoo,” he says. “I never knew I was going to be a tattoo artist back then.”

He admits it’s not his best work, but it has “history,” as he calls it.

“Everybody has some different reason to get a tattoo,” he said. “We pretty much see everybody.” They’re from all walks of life, he said, “from every profession.”

He shows off his other ink. “This one right here’s Thor’s Hammer. I wear that to show my heritage- just my belief in the old ways and the old gods,” he explains.

“I’ve seen people with big praying hands on the sides of their face, too. One guy had a crown of thorns on his forehead and a cross on top of his head. I’m just doing the same thing. A different religion, I guess,” he said.

“This is Archie Bunker, the first portrait I ever did on myself,” he said.

He told me how he put tracing paper on the television and paused the episode that was playing at the time to copy his likeness. He said he has every episode on VHS. Inking it on his leg required a certain amount of effort and contortion.

“I’ve always been drawing, into art and getting tattooed,” said Kelley. “These guys saw it and asked me to work here.”

At first he struggled.

“I wasn’t making a lot of money. It picked up. It’s been my only job for 13 years.”

Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590 or dhimsel@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Himsel on Twitter @Telegraph_DonH.