TONY OLIVAS, SACRED HEART, ATLANTA
SACRED HEART TATTOO—ATLANTA GEORGIA
By Bob Baxter with photographs by Bernard Clark
Tony Olivas is one of tattooing’s most-revered black-and-gray artists. Gaining a foundation from single-needle pioneers Jack Rudy, Brian Everett and Freddy Negrete, Olivas’s main shop, Sacred Heart, in the Little Five Points area of Atlanta, reminded us of a ski lodge with its high-peaked ceilings and smokin’ barbeque grill on the porch overlooking the tree-lined street below. It was quite a gathering, with chicken and ribs on the grill, lots of friends and family and customers coming through the door with fabulous tattoo art to photograph.
Many of Tony’s artists have been with him for the better part of a decade. Tony himself has been tattooing for thirty years, and just two years ago formed a partnership with his shop mates, making it a true family affair. Tony began tattooing, poking by hand, when he was fifteen in Arizona. His older brother, Henry, ultimately presented him with a homemade machine, which Tony used for about ten years. And then Tony relocated to Dixieland Tattoo, working with the late Adam West in Panama City Beach, Florida. Tony then went to work at Ancient Art with Jerry Reiger and J.D. Crowe in Virginia for a couple years and then opened his own shop, Ancient Art (Crowe let Tony use the name), located in Stone Mountain, Virginia. Then, almost two years to the date, Olivas came up with Sacred Heart, which he has operated in Atlanta for fourteen years. Tony now owns five shops in Georgia, one at Little 5 Points (the flagship Location), Norcross, Centerville, Warner Robins and Austell.
“My older brother got me into tattooing,” Olivas told me. “His godfather, Fernando, Uncle Theo I called him, was in the Navy and heavily tattooed. He was on the cruiser U.S.S. Indianapolis that was hit by two torpedoes from a Japanese submarine and went down midway between Guam and Leyte Gulf during World War II. He was one of the survivors, with the sharks and all that. So when I was young, I heard his stories saw his tattoos. That’s how I really got turned onto it. My brother, Henry, said, ‘You can always draw,’ so I started tattooing on my buddies by hand.