Tattoos are no longer the concealed hallmarks of underground cultures. But for one band of Adelaide artists a move below ground offers freedom to practise their craft in new ways.
The yet-to-be-named studio in the former Biggies at Bertram site on Coromandel Place brings together sister-brother duo Caitlin (Lucid Lines) and Adam Thomas, and partners Michael Eden and Aimee Niczynski, all of whom have worked together at different times, and in various venues (such as Wolf and Wren, Unseen Tattoo and XO Lavant), over their careers.
This time, it’s their names on the lease. “We’ve all worked [casually] in different studios and have craved stability so much,” Caitlin tells Broadsheet.
The collective is bucking the conventions of a traditional studio. There’s no manager calling the shots and each artist retains 100 per cent of their takings (after their quarter share of rent and bills). “We’re all paying for everything equally. We’re all doing the jobs equally. We’re all making decisions equally,” says Caitlin.
The four practising visual artists and working tattooists have built a workspace that inspires creativity by providing autonomy to work, rest, charge and practise in a way that suits each of them. “We don’t have any [set] opening hours,” says Adam. “If [someone] wants to work at two o’clock in the morning – cool, then do it.”
The heritage-listed basement is secluded and intimate, though Caitlin describes it as “luxurious” compared to some others. The once dimly lit den is being refreshed with several coats of white paint and recycled timber. “We want to showcase artwork on the walls and have it as a creative space,” Caitlin says. “We all love neutral, earthy tones and nature.” When Broadsheet visits the four are all dressed – completely by coincidence – in relaxed jumpers and beanies spanning a fairly narrow colour palette. “We have a weird amount in common, even though we don’t tattoo in the same styles,” Caitlin says.
Finding a perfect location is a challenge for any business, but tattoo studios face the additional challenge of getting a state-issued permit. They’re governed by the same “adult products and services” legislation that regulates sex shops and strip clubs. “We’ve come to learn that there are certain suburbs in Adelaide and South Australia that will never allow tattooing,” says Michael. “We learnt that the hard way,” he adds, as the group tallies up the number of lease applications they’d had knocked back over 12 months of searching.
The four are established enough not to rely on walk-in business, so the lack of street frontage wasn’t a deterrent. Mostly its social media that brings in the work, and “word of mouth in Adelaide is so strong – especially with tattooing”, Caitlin says. “It’s probably the easiest way [to find an artist].”
The group is pushing to get the doors open by the end of June. From then the space will be shaped by the work it facilitates, and the people who inhabit it. “I hope that’s part of the charm,” Michael says. “I want it to be ever-evolving.”