Shop History and Philosophy

Dogstar Tattoo Company opened it’s doors in May of 1997. The owner and founder of the shop, Kathryn Moore, started out in another local Durham shop eventually setting out on her own. Opening the “right kind of place” she had in mind was not an easy task. Tattoo shops didn’t exactly have the kind of reputation other businesses wanted nearby which made finding a retail space difficult. After searching Durham and the surrounding area for nearly four months she finally found a space on Ninth Street. With Duke University located nearby, Ninth Street seemed like a good fit. The street was lined with unusual shops and restaurants that made a tattoo studio a lot less conspicuous than it would have been in the local suburban strip mall. With its many independently owned businesses and older buildings, the street also had infinitely more character than a bland shopping center.

Kathryn has a BFA in Fine Arts from Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh concentrating in sculpture. She then went to flight school at ComAir Aviation Academy. After earning her Multi-Engine Commercial and CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) licenses she came back to the Durham area and started teaching. She taught for about a year out of a small grass strip north of Durham, barely making ends meet thanks to her student loans.

“A good friend of mine, Annie, knew the owners of a local tattoo shop. She thought it would be a good idea for me to try tattooing as a job knowing that I was struggling to keep things together as a flight instructor. She managed to secure a space for me to apprentice. Unfortunately I didn’t have a very structured apprenticeship and I began tattooing six days after I arrived! Annie was the brave soul that was willing to be my first guinea pig. For the most part I learned as I went along. Fortunately there were great artists at the shop, Danny McNeil and Dave Scearce being two of them, who I could learn from. I started out with very small pieces and worked slowly towards larger, custom pieces. Pretty quickly I discovered that realism was going to be the easiest style for me to pursue initially because of my foundation training from Carnegie Mellon.”

“So I kind of fell into tattooing; it wasn’t my planned career choice. But I quickly discovered how much I loved the work. It wasn’t long after starting that I felt I wanted to work independently, creating as professional a shop as possible. I noticed that tattooing, like so many other “alternative” cultures, was gaining in popularity in terms of mainstream interest and I knew that a professional, clean, attractive shop in an upscale area could do extremely well. With that in mind I began looking for the best spot to achieve my vision and the best name to capture the idea of tattooing I wanted to express in my shop. Naming the shop was a lot like naming a child or a beloved pet, it took quite a bit of searching and consideration. I wanted to avoid the ink-this/ink-that type of name. I wanted the name to convey more complexity, and a name that expressed my interests, outside of tattooing. That’s when, immersed in reading Robert Anton Wilson, I decided on the name Dogstar. Wilson, in The Cosmic Trigger, describes the Dogon tribe of Mali that for countless generations have verbally passed down specific information regarding a dark companion to the Dogstar that wasn’t “discovered” by the modern world until relatively recently. Their explanation was that beings from the star cluster came to Earth and told them precisely where it was located. According to their description the stars mark the home of these celestial beings that are privy to the inner workings of the universe. So, people searching for spiritual and worldly understanding of the universe and their place in it would “look” to the Dogstar for guidance and direction.”

“The people who envision a tattoo as an expression of the inner search or understanding, of their connection to the universe and our world, will hopefully discover that this shop has been opened to allow that search and expression to emerge through the tattoos produced by our artists. So if you have discovered your inner path or want to commemorate an important event in your life and want to representation it visually on your skin, you will find that Dogstar is a place that will help you realize your vision.”

Kathryn Moore