ST. LOUIS – When Jada Allen finds herself inspired, she often finds herself heading to Instagram to take a look at tattoos.

She had a group of three birds inspired by Bob Marley on her wrist and a lotus flower on her side. Recently, though, she found some more inspiration.

“My grandma really likes butterfly, and I’ve always wanted a butterfly tattoo,” Allen said as artist JW Willis worked on the outline of her new addition. “I found inspiration on Instagram, and I found the placement, so I thought it was the perfect spot for it.”

She continued her Instagram search, eventually finding Willis’ tattoos and artwork, which led her to come in for a tattoo at the Alchemy Tattoo Collective. The shop is one of nearly 600 licensed tattoo shops in the state and one of 100 in the St. Louis and St. Charles areas.

Alchemy Tattoo Collective opened its doors in 2015, with owner Chelsea Holloway looking to create a safe place for people from all backgrounds to have custom tattoos done. The artists in the shop have a wide variety of styles, meaning clients can get custom pieces featuring anything from linework to watercolors to the more traditional style of tattoo art.

“Our clientele is more people who have shopped around and have taken their time,” Holloway said. “You have to find an artist whose style resonates with you and who you feel comfortable with. And once you find that, it’s hard for people to give that up.”

That comfort is something Holloway has seen people drive in for, going on trips from across that, and even crossing state lines to continue getting tattoos from her.

Some people are even willing to cross countries to get tattoos, according to Tattoo the Lou Studio owner LT Woods. He said one of the artists working at Tattoo the Lou had a client come to visit her from Canada.

Woods has been a part of the industry for almost 22 years now and was even an international artist for a few years. Even now, he travels with the other artists in his studio, attending tattoo conventions across the country. On top of traveling social media posts from the studio are bringing more clients to St. Louis to participate in this tattoo tourism.

“You can go, ‘Oh, I want a snake,’ or ‘I like flowers,’” Woods said. “You start going through the internet now and you’re looking for snakes and flowers; somebody’s name will start to stand out, and you’ll see it more often than not. And then you can make the decision, am I willing to travel to this person, am I willing to do the things that they need me to do in order to get this.”

That’s the key in Woods’ mind for people when it comes to getting the best custom tattoo. From his custom work, Wood said he can make over $1,000 a day, something that speaks volumes about the amount of money that could potentially be coming in for the nearly two thousand licensed tattoo artists in the state of Missouri.

Woods said the money is enough for him to be comfortable, invest in his shop and the artists who work in it, and run two different tattoo conventions in the St. Louis area, including Tattoo the Lou in May.

“It brings in artists from all over the world, and it’s an international tattoo convention,” Woods said. “It has been from the beginning.”

Tattoo the Lou sees over 200 artists from around the world and for many who might not be able to travel across the world for an artist, it allows them to get pieces done by artists they wouldn’t get the opportunity to otherwise.

“Once you find someone whose style you really like, you kind of don’t want to let that go,” Holloway said.

The mother of three said she’s not able to travel much, and conventions have allowed her to get work done by artists she wouldn’t be able to visit otherwise.

For Allen, she’s still waiting for inspiration to hit again, but she said when she does, “I’ll definitely be back.”