A focus on friendly engagement with customers and a respect for their artists’ unique styles has seen Wolf & Wren Tattoo Collective thrive as their trade transforms.
Adelaide ink: Wolf & Wren Tattoo Collective
It was not so long ago that getting a tattoo was up there with getting arrested and wearing socks with sandals in the list of things that could make you unemployable.
Generational change has revolutionised the business of tattoos, which no longer exists on the edges of society. Instead, artists are being appreciated for their craft and creativity and SA is developing a nationally respected niche industry.
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But the cultural relationship to tattoos has changed. They’re no longer seen as the mark of outlaws, and are now becoming accepted as a form of personal expression. With this acceptance has come other things – like reality TV shows and celebrities sporting ink – that have further normalised the art form.
“Even in the last year or so I’ve noticed different people coming in,” says Michael Eden – the studio manager of Wolf & Wren Tattoo Collective on Payneham Road.
“We have that friendly vibe and we do a lot of the smaller stuff, which means that people who may not have been getting tattoos before are a bit more likely to get the things they’ve been thinking about. They’re coming in with cool unique ideas and working with the artists and that means they have more chance of getting something a bit more timeless too.”
Late last year the State Government passed legislation placing more onerous operating conditions on tattoo parlous. While considered restrictive and invasive by some, Michael and the Wolf & Wren team have broadly welcomed the change, which they believe puts the nail in the coffin of the idea that all tattoo studios are still bikie-affiliated.
As a result of society’s freshly enlightened view on the art form, tattoo artists themselves are now being appreciated for their skills and recognised for their distinctive styles.
Wolf & Wren has five artists operating from the studio – all of whom vary in their aesthetic, which gives the business broader appeal and allows the artists to work in a way that resonates with them rather than having to attempt mastering all possible approaches.
“Social media is definitely part of the change,” says Wolf & Wren apprentice Adam Thomas.
“It’s a lot easier to find artists online and look at it straight away and go, yep, this is what I like… you can talk to people privately and get the design you want and it’s a bit of an easier process.”
The studio, which was opened under the moniker Empire Tattoo by owner Carly Sanders more than five years ago – has noticed a swelling in the ranks of small, independent studios like them, something Michael says is “a beautiful thing”.
For Wolf & Wren, the more tattoo artists there are practising their craft, the more sustainable the revitalised industry will become.
“Really – it’s just artists being supported to do really cool things,” says Michael.