Ink Master

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At Laguna Ink Spot & Gallery, owner Renee Bangerter combines tattoos and fine art.

By Beth Fhaner


Upon entering Laguna Ink Spot & Gallery, you’re forced to leave any preconceived notions about tattoo shops far behind. Located up in north Laguna’s Gallery Row, this studio-gallery has a salon-like ambience rather than traditional parlor vibe. Owner Renee Bangerter, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and mortgage banker, envisioned a space where visitors could view masterpieces by the same artists designing their tattoos.

That idea sprung from a personal desire to share her creations. Renee, a painter and sculptor—when she isn’t skillfully applying vibrant images to her clients’ skin—wanted a place where she and like-minded tattooers could work and display their fine art pieces as well.

Laguna Ink Spot & Gallery is a unique establishment where talent and imagination are constantly showcased. Some of the staff’s original paintings and other creations are highlighted in the shop, while exhibits in the gallery rotate monthly for First Thursdays Art Walk.

We recently spoke with Renee, a mother, grandmother, artist and business owner, about developing a different kind of experience for clients.


Laguna Beach Magazine: How did you get started in tattooing?

Renee Bangerter: I’ve been an artist my whole life doing oil paintings and sculpture. I served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps and then worked 25 years as a mortgage banker. I was laid off during the recession and, a few years ago, I really wanted to learn to tattoo, so I paid someone to teach me. I had a few months of intensive training, and then I worked at home for a year learning how to do tattoos on people I know. I went a very nontraditional route to learning, and I bring the art aspect into tattooing.



LBM: What inspired you to start an art gallery/tattoo shop, and why did you want to do it here in Laguna?

RB: Laguna has always been a special place for me. When I come here as an artist, there’s a special energy for me. When I got laid off two years ago, I decided I wanted [to create] a place to bring artists together. I’m on the Art Walk executive board and on the mentoring committee at [Laguna College of Art & Design]. I also work with veterans at Saddleback College on the Veterans Art Project, which features art shows focused on veterans. Mostly, I wanted to get involved in the Laguna community and to serve the community. I wanted Laguna Ink Spot & Gallery to be a place that I feel comfortable in; and you know that when you walk out of here, you are well cared for.


LBM: What’s the meaning behind your tattoos?

RB: I love to scuba dive, so I have one arm that has ocean-themed tattoos, including a sea turtle, angelfish, octopus, seahorse and a Kewpie scuba diver. My other arm has tattoos dedicated to my heritage—it’s all Norse mythology. I have tattoos of Odin’s crow and Valkyrie—I identify with her. With my Marine Corps background, I go in and fix things.


LBM: What advice would you give to someone who is considering getting a tattoo?

RB: Be really sure you want it. Spend a lot of time researching the artist you want to go to, and make sure you’re on the same page. Know exactly what you’re getting, so there are no surprises. The part of the body you put a tattoo on is very important. Have at least one in-person consultation, then a lot more via email, including color studies.


LBM: What are your future plans for Laguna Ink Spot & Gallery?

RB: I just want it to be vital and continue to be a small, original place that I can manage. Also, we really keep up with our education here, and we’re always doing research and learning new techniques and processes. We do all hand-painted, custom, original design here, and once we put a design on someone, we remove it. We’re very different from other tattoo shops.

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