Thomas adds new ink to Chef Derek Emerson.

Thomas adds new ink to Chef Derek Emerson.

It’s a first for a Mississippi tattoo artist.

Jason Thomas, owner of Fondren’s Electric Dagger Studio, has received a coveted guest spot at Tattoo City in San Francisco. The bay area’s oldest studio is owned by Don “Ed” Hardy.

Thomas had originally contacted Hardy’s studio months ago, but says he was “blown off.” “But then I got a text message asking if I was ‘@coiled_snake’ on Instagram,” he tells. “They said everyone at Tattoo City liked my work and asked me to come out for a guest spot. I’ve had a smile on my face ever since.”

To date, no other Mississippian has been invited to sit in and work with Hardy, known for his incorporation of Japanese styles into more traditional American ones. While Hardy no longer tattoos, he will supervise Thomas, who will view the master’s archives and personal studio. “It’s an honor,” Thomas says. “This is unbelievable, kind of, ‘Holy crap!'”

While in California from September 1-15, Thomas will sit in at other friends’ shops, too, reminiscent of his earlier days, before his child was born. “Before I had my daughter, I’d be gone two weeks out of the month,” he explains. “People have been asking me to come back out west. I said the only way I’ll come back is if I get a guest spot at Ed’s shop.”

When he was younger, Thomas says he didn’t have an appreciation for Hardy’s style. He says, “Then I realized traditional values are what holds tattooing together. I started understanding that and realizing who the masters were. They paved the road for us today.”

In his nearly two decades of tattooing, Thomas has become a household name in his industry. The guest spot, he says, is a chance to step up his game. He calls it “going to play with the big dogs.” “Here, I feel I’m not pushed to my limit artistically,” Thomas says. “There, I’m a small fish in a giant pond of amazing artists. It’s putting a fire under me for sure to show off what I do, to say, ‘This is Jackson.’ It’s everything I’ve worked my tail off for for the last 16 years.”

Thomas says Fondren has been good for Electric Dagger — and for his customers. “We tattoo so many people from outside of Jackson, who know nothing about Jackson, and come here and say, ‘This is a cool neighborhood.’ I’ll see them upstairs and ask if they have an appointment and they’re just eating or shopping. That’s cool. The vibe and the energy is amazing. It’s made us much happier. And customers say they feel welcome here, too.”

Electric Dagger will host the Tattoo Across America Tour on October 9 featuring Chicago-born blues musician and actor Jake La Botz.

Learn more about tattoo artist, master print maker and now Berkeley professor Ed Hardy in the 2010 documentary, ‘Tattoo The World,’ available on Netflix.