Sydnee Smith, Reporter
Pacific Highway in Federal Way holds Clever Rebel Tattoo and Social Club. This is where Pierce student and body piercer Matt Jolly works.
Jolly has returned to college after living a life of tattoos and piercing, he decided to return to college for an associate degree in accounting. After having his daughter, Jolly decided he wanted to create a better future for her.
He continues to work at Clever Rebel performing piercings and body modifications while taking classes.
“I prefer body modification, anything where I get to stitch. I like doing larger gauge stuff like punching cartilage,” Jolly said. “I’ve been doing this so long I just get sick of the norm ya know, so it’s kind of fun.”
The atmosphere at Clever Rebel is casual and social. Employees have a fun time messing around. A TV plays some kind of show, usually a crude comedy. The shop even has a hoverboard which employees use to race each other.
“We’re riding it around, kinda racing it, trying to do tricks and stuff and we’ve all fallen very hard,” Jolly said. “There’s multiple dents in the concrete. One of our artists fell and his elbow hit the ground and it made a dent in the floor, literally destroyed his elbow. I fell and knocked the whole pony wall over. It’s pretty fun, we get bored and do dumb shit.”
Jolly became obsessed with piercing when he was a teenager.
“I got my first piercing at 17 and was just in love with the process and what it was about,” Jolly said. “So I started begging the piercer to apprentice me and he said no, so I just started showing up, doing work and forcing myself in the picture. Until finally he couldn’t say no.”
However, the labret piercing Jolly received at 17 was only his first professional piercing.
When Jolly was 15, the lead singer of a band he was in pierced his ears in the Lakewood Transit Center as they waited for a bus.
He was 18 when he got his first tattoo, a logo of the band Sick of It All.
Jolly started at Clever Rebel after an encounter with one of the tattoo artists.
“I lived in some apartments in North Tacoma and one of the artists here lived there as well and we just got talking and he said, ‘hey man we need a new piercer,’ because their old one was not doing good,” Jolly said. “So I came up and talked with Joe (the owner of Clever Rebel) and he went through my portfolio and gave me the job right there.”
Jolly doesn’t regret any of his decisions to get tattoos or piercings either. He says it doesn’t keep him from any opportunities in life. Even though for his accounting major he must do an internship, the piercing and tattoos haven’t shut any doors. He even got a second interview from a possible internship with all his piercings in. He says times are changing and it doesn’t matter what you look like anymore.
Jolly also wouldn’t change anything about his choice to start piercing.
“I love everything about it, it’s true,” Jolly said. “Fuck it, you only live once man.”
Jolly has had so many opportunities from doing what he does that he wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. He remembers getting to stitch the ears of Davey Havok, the lead singer of rock group AFI.
“He hit me up from LA. I had done somebody’s ears he knew and so he came up here and guest listed me for a show and then came in the next day and got his ears stitched up, actually on my birthday,” Jolly said. “So now Davey and I have become friends and it’s wild because he’s one of my idols. I have his band tattooed on me.”
Jolly also loves tattoos as well. His favorite style is definitely neo traditional. Jolly is hoping to go to Georgia to get a piece done by Yogi Barrett, a famous tattoo artist. He states that his favorite tattoos are probably his Pennywise logo and a watercolor of Rapper Biggie Smalls. Jolly laughs as he flashes his most recent tattoo: a small anti-Trump tattoo on his arm.
Jolly’s passion and enthusiasm for everything he does at Clever Rebel really shines through. He talks about how as times change, although people might look at him funny, it’s not the way it used to be.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time so when I started doing this stuff, I had stretched ears before it was a thing, before everyone was doing it,” Jolly said. “At that point I was a freak and weird and now I’m just normal but back then people thought I was satanic or some shit.”
Now, Jolly is returning to school for his wife and his daughter. Even though at Pierce he might be considered an older student he loves school.
“I want it now, it’s not something that I’m doing just because it’s what you do ya know,” Jolly said. “There’s no way I would’ve succeeded if I went out of high school.”Jolly and his wife have been together for 18 years, they were high school sweethearts at Rogers High School. After Jolly was kicked out of Franklin Pierce High School, he transferred to Rogers and met his now-wife. He says getting kicked out of Franklin Pierce was meant to be.
His daughter, Chloe, is now 22 months old. Jolly is doing everything for her. He wants to better his finances for his daughter.
“She’s the raddest girl on the planet,” Jolly said. “She destroys shit.”
As much as Jolly loves Clever Rebel and the work he does there, he really loves his family. Just talking about his wife and daughter lights a spark in his eyes.
Jolly’s inspiration behind his work all stems from passion and joy for life and the people around him.
He just really wants people to know that even though he has no filter and speaks his mind, he’s just out here doing what he loves and trying to provide for his family.
“People are sometimes afraid to approach me because of the way I look but I’m actually a gigantic teddy bear and a very nice guy even though I speak very abruptly,” Jolly said. “Like if people could see me with my daughter they would have just a total different idea of me. I get super girly with her.”
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