Alumnus connects art, racing

Kate Fechter / Washburn Review

Washburn alum Jake Schell, 31, has taken two of his passions, R/C racing and tattoo artistry, and combined them into a business. Schell opened Absolute Tattoo in September of 2009.  This business has a custom tattoo shop in the front and an R/C race track in the back.

Starting in the front of the shop:

“I’ve been tattooing for about eight years now,” said Schell. “My partner Jason England has been tattooing for about 10 years.”

Schell has an associate’s degree in applied sciences and before that went to Washburn Tech, when it was still KAW Area Technical School, for technical drafting.  He learned the tattoo trade at Fine Line Tattoo in Topeka.

“I describe my style as chameleon -like,” said Schell. “Whether it’s old school, new school, I try to conform to what the customer likes. My favorite stuff is photo realism. If you can do portraits, there is very little you can’t do.”

Schell explained the way pricing is done. Across the United States, the standard price for tattoos is $100 per hour. It can be much more expensive, but that is the standard.

“If it’s big and ongoing we do hourly,” said Schell. “We charge the standard $100 per hour. We can do a lot of work in one hour, so that’s a lot of bang for your buck.  If it can be done in one setting, we tend to give a price up front. Pricing is one of the hardest parts of the tattoo business to learn.”

Though there is no single “most popular” tattoo, flowers, stars and names are very common.    As for placing, the arms, chest, back and ribs are popular tattoo destinations.

“To me the upper arm and shoulder are prime tattoo real estate,” said Schell. “You can do a lot with that area. I’d say the arm is the most popular place to get one though.”

Schell says the shop’s motto is: “Getting a tattoo here is a permanent reminder of a good experience.”

Now on to the back of the shop:

When Mike’s R/C Cars closed, Schell felt the need to bring R/C racing back to Topeka. When he first opened his shop, he didn’t even think of putting a tattoo shop in the front. He first turned it into an indoor race track and the tattoo shop came later.

It took about three or four months of renovations before the track had its first race. With the help of family and friends, Schell built the track.

“I came in and moved around some structures because I wanted to have as big a track as possible,” said Schell. “I built block walls by hand. We also put in pit tables, stands and an announcer stand.”

The track is even equipped with a high tech lap counting system. It’s called the A and B R/C lap counting system.  With the software, the system was about $7000.

“The lap counting system shows we are that much more serious about racing,” said Schell.

Growing in popularity, the track sees up to 60 racers on a Saturday night during racing season, which runs from September to early April. Last season, the track had races on Tuesday and Saturday nights.

“It’s all ages and very family oriented,” said Schell. “We’ve had kids as young as 5 race, and people in their 80s racing.”

There are several classes of R/C racing. The novice class is the beginners’ class. As the racer improves, they move up in class. Racing class also depends on what kind of vehicle you like to run.

Shell explained that although you can practice all year long, as long as the shop is open, during the season points are tracked.

“It’s like Nascar’s point system,” said Shell. “The more you race, the more points you get. It’s $10 per person or $10 per class, if you race in multiple classes.”

For each class, you get three practice races and then a more serious main race. Racers bring their own cars. The cars come in kits and can be already assembled or in pieces where you have to build the whole thing.

“The R/C cars function like a real car,” said Shell. “We have pit tables for people to come and work on their cars.”

There is a thread online where people can come and ask questions or talk about racing. Shell also posts updates there.

“Go to www.rctech.net and scroll down to Kansas/Missouri Racing,” said Shell. “Click that link and then click on Jake’s R/C Pro-Am.”

The cost is $5 per person to come and practice or try out the R/C track. There is no time limit. The shop is open noon- 8 p.m. on Tuesday thru Saturday.

“We have all different skill levels and vehicle types,” said Schell. “It’s awesome.”

Schell explained that although you can practice all year long, as long as the shop is open, during the season points are tracked.

“It’s like Nascar’s point system,” said Schell. “The more you race, the more points you get. It’s $10 per person or $10 per class, if you race in multiple classes.”

For each class, you get three practice races and then a more serious main race. Racers bring their own cars. The cars come in kits and can be already assembled or in pieces where you have to build the whole thing.

“The R/C cars function like a real car,” said Schell. “We have pit tables for people to come and work on their cars.”

There is a thread online where people can come and ask questions or talk about racing. Schell also posts updates there.

“Go to www.rctech.net and scroll down to Kansas/Missouri Racing,” said Schell. “Click that link and then click on Jake’s R/C Pro-Am.”

The cost is $5 per person to come and practice or try out the R/C track. There is no time limit. The shop is open noon-8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.