Seattle tattoo artist helps breast cancer survivors with 3D nipple tattoos

SEATTLE — A Capitol Hill tattoo artist is helping breast cancer survivors feel whole again with the healing power of ink.

For most of his nearly 30-year career as a tattoo artist, Eric Eye of Dark Age Tattoo has specialized in portraiture and realism.

“It's an honor really to be trusted with this,” Eye said.

Two years ago, he started using his skills to focus on 3D restorative nipple tattoos for breast cancer survivors, like Marcie Blackstone, who have had mastectomies.

“The cancer takes so much away from you,” Blackstone explained. “Parts of your body and you kind of just want to be a little more whole again.”

Like many other restorative tattoo clients, it was Blackstone's first time getting inked.

But she's developed so much trust in him, she's returned for more work.

When KIRO 7 met her, Eye was finishing her back tattoo, which is another step in her healing process after her battle with cancer.

“The skin was taken from my back to reconstruct my breast and it left a scar,” Blackstone said.

There are few tattoo artists who specialize in restorative tattoos.

Eye was compelled to help survivors when he met his girlfriend, who shared her cancer survival story.

“When we met she had just undergone double mastectomy and reconstruction,” Eye explained. “She had the restorative nipple tattoos done for herself and had to travel across the country to get that done.”

It took Dana Westerman six years before she could see herself again after a double mastectomy in 2012.

“No mirrors,” Westerman said. “I was very uncomfortable looking in mirrors. So I just didn't.”

The transformation she felt, both physically and psychologically, after getting tattooed was immediate.

“A week afterwards when the bandages are off, skin is back to normal. I was just amazed,” Westerman added. “Amazed. It looked so real.”

Dark Age Tattoo has now become a last stop in the healing process for many survivors.

“I love tattooing. I love my work, my job, but this puts a whole new level to it,” Eye said.

Eye has now garnered the attention of survivors who fly from all over the world for his restorative work.

On October 6th, Dark Age Tattoo will host a fundraiser for Breast Cancer Awareness month. Artists will tattoo people for $50. Proceeds will benefit Northwest Hope and Healing.

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