A Livingston County tattoo shop is looking to permanently restore what many women have lost.

Custom tattoo designs in a relaxed and welcoming environment are the center point of the Lovely Monkey Tattoo salon in Whitmore Lake. The shop, owned and operated by Dana Forrester and James Trunko, opened in September in honor of a family member who lost their fight against breast cancer. Forrester and Trunko also own the Lucky Monkey Tattoo in Ann Arbor.

Forrester was encouraged to open the Lovely Monkey after she began to receive tattoo requests from breast cancer survivors. The women were looking to cover scarring that resulted from their treatments, as well as feel somewhat “normal” again. Lovely Monkey Tattoo Artist Jamie Epsy Bollerud wanted to help those women feel that too. Bollerud specializes in areola and nipple restoration ink. Her undeniably realistic tattoos bring back a part of the breast that some women lose while battling breast cancer.

Bollerud refined her artistry through volunteers who “donated their skin” by practicing the art of areola re-pigmentation and reconstruction on said volunteers. While some of them had her cover the tattoo with other imagery afterwards, Bollerud says many of them, specifically men, left the areola and nipple tattoo as it was to display their commitment in the fight against breast cancer.

Bollerud and Lovely Monkey Tattoo Artist Bri Howard agree the community has welcomed the shop with open arms. Howard says the Lovely Monkey has less of a “tough-guy biker” intimidating atmosphere, and more of a calming, intimate setting. Noting that many of the women who come in for areola and nipple restoration ink usually don’t have many other tattoos, Howard says the friendly vibe the shop gives off makes the experience even more peaceful for them.

That peace is what the artists at the Lovely Monkey are hoping to bring in the form of their custom designs. Bollerud says before, some of her customers couldn’t even look at themselves in the mirror because of their scarred breasts. She looks forward to inking them and what comes afterward- when “they’re just happy to feel normal again.” (DK)