An award-winning tattoo artist has recently set up shop in Cambridge. Corey McKenzie, the winner of 25 national tattooing awards, has opened Stay True Tattoo at 1306 1/2 Woodlawn Ave.

McKenzie is a third generation tattoo artist. Following in the footsteps of many of his family members, his love of tattoos began when he was just 13-years-old.

"When I was 13, I began working in my grandfather's shop. Back then they were all bikers and drinkers, a great bunch of guys," he said.

At the age of 18, he opened his first shop in Mansfield, Ohio. That was just the beginning.

He has since traveled the United States, leaving his mark across the country on the canvas of his choice - human skin. "I have tattooed in all but four states and currently I hold tattoo licenses in close to 30 states," said McKenzie.

A true artist, all of his tattoo work is custom-drawn for each client.

"When someone comes to me wanting a tattoo, I get what they want, why they want it and start from there. I draw it up and work with each client until they are happy with the tattoo. There is no flash art here. I want each piece I do to be original and just as unique as each client," he explained.

His creativity and talent hasn't gone unnoticed. In the 19 years that McKenzie has been tattooing, he has been featured in the well-know magazine, "Tattoo," 18 times.

What brings such a talented and skilled artist to the Cambridge area?

"My girlfriend, Christie, is from Newcomerstown. We decided to move back to her hometown, to bring our children to a small town," he said. "When we were looking for a place to open up our shop, we drove through Cambridge and liked the feel. The small-town atmosphere, the central location, it just felt like the right place to set up."

Christie, is Christie Kitzmann, a Newcomerstown native and graduate of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh who has recently began tattooing. Working as an apprentice under McKenzie, she works hard to make the switch from drawing and painting to tattooing.

"The whole process is backwards," Kitzmann said of the difference between painting and tattooing. "When I paint, I begin with details and colors and finish with outlining. When you tattoo, you start with the outline. It is hard to retrain myself."

McKenzie jumped in, "She isn't giving herself enough credit. She is a great tattoo artist. She takes her time and her biggest challenge is believing in herself. She is good."

Also working in the studio as an apprentice, is Ty Tschantz. He travels from the Mt. Vernon area everyday to work here in Cambridge under McKenzie.

"I have been tattooing for two-and-a-half years," he said. "Corey is the best I've ever seen."

When you walk through the doors of Stay True Tattoo, you will notice the artwork hanging on the walls. All the artwork hanging around the studio has been created by one of the three artists - McKenzie, Kitzmann, or Tschantz.

The next thing you will notice is how clean the entire place is. Each of the tattoo stations is partitioned off to give the clients privacy and to ensure each artist has limited distractions.

"He takes his job very seriously," said Kitzmann. "To work under him as an apprentice, both Ty and I have had to take and be certified in classes on blood born pathogens, CPR, and first aid. We want our clients to be safe and we want to be safe."

McKenzie not only requires his apprentices to have the certifications, but he is also certified. It should go without saying, but all the tools used are sterilized and cleaned. The needles are disposable, opened in front of each client and properly disposed of after each use.

"We are not your everyday street shop," said McKenzie. "We are a tattoo art studio. We stand behind all of our work."

Stay True Tattoo is open Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 8 p.m. and on Monday by appointment only.

The studio's phone number is 432-8899. It is located in the Mr.G's building on Woodlawn Avenue.