Alejandro “Alex” Dzul has been tattooing Seattleites for two decades (I have personally gotten nine tattoos from him—over half of the ink in my body). The Mexico City native was born into an exceptionally creative family who nurtured his artistic prowess, but he didn’t always envision himself in this field. Alex’s brother, Jacob, co-owns their Belltown studio and saw success with the art and clothing designs that they would sell at venues, fairs and festivals in Washington and Oregon. Their work was popular, and people would ask to get the designs tattooed on them.
The brothers decided to learn the tools of the trade, and in 2004 opened their first shop in White Center. Alex Dzul focused a lot on the business side, as well as other artistic ventures and going back to school. Finally, in 2010 he dedicated himself fully to tattooing. The brothers’ combined talent (later joined by sister Cata, who does piercings) and business acumen led to them being able to move into the sprawling nearly 4,000 square-foot space in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood in 2012. And the rest, as they say, is history as Dzul Ink Lounge celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
Often booked out for several weeks, and with people who have traveled from as far away as Australia and Germany and gotten tattoos there, it is clear that Dzul is popular. Financial success is great, of course, but Dzul says there are far more enjoyable aspects that it being lucrative: “One of my favorite things is having the opportunity to give someone else something that they identify with, something that they feel good about or strengthens their belief on who they are, and something they could potentially help them.” He has helped people celebrate everything from graduations to leaving an abusive relationship. While the practice can be labor-intensive, with single sessions that have gone as long 12 hours and taken months to complete, Dzul appreciates both the art and the collaboration involved, as well as each tattoo’s significance for the individual.
“One of the biggest things that I enjoy is being able to give someone something that is important for them…I think it has a lot to do with accomplishments and almost things that are a talisman. With tattoos, you create a design, you see it and you’re like, ‘it looks amazing.’ But once you put it into skin, it kind of take a life of its own and even becomes a better thing. It’s just seeing it done and being an exhibit. It’s the best thing.”
Apropos of individualism, one change Dzul has noticed over time is that tattoos have become more customized, whereas before many people stuck with pre-existing or flash designs. More customized, and less stigmatized, too: Dzul says that before, tattoos bore a negative connotation, but now enjoy greater acceptance and universality: “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a judge or a firefighter or the UPS guy or the student has tattoos. It’s for everyone. It’s not just how it used to be where it was more for the stereotypical perception. Right now I think it’s more of like, hey, it’s very artistic, it’s something that is beautiful and it’s someone’s decision and it only adds to how they feel, and potentially no one could be judgmental.”
It helps, of course, to live in a place like Seattle, which is arguably more accepting of tattoo culture—and alternative choices in general, boasting hundreds of tattoo shops. When Dzul started out, he says, there were only about 10. “Seattle is the mecca for succeeding for artists in the sense that it’s very open to artistic expression and it always supports artists,” Dzul says.
Ten years in Seattle is a big deal, especially with a pandemic that saw the shutdown of so many businesses. Dzul feels grateful to still be here, and for all the support of the community. “I’m just extremely grateful and excited that I’ve been able to do it for that long,” beams Dzul. “And also I feel like I can do it for another 20 years. It’s exciting and cool to continue.”
A decade is definitely cause for celebration:
Join Dzul, Jacob, Cata, and their talented design staff this Friday, November 9th from 8:00 -11:00 pm for REINCARNATION: A 10 Year Anniversary & Art Exhibit. Enjoy a red carpet, live performances, catered food, a DJ, photo booth, and more at this free event. There is also a raffle for a $500, $1K, $3K, or $5K tattoo.