Nothing could be more ironic than a vegan getting a tattoo touting their plant-based status…in non-vegan ink. Even the most dedicated tofu slingers may not realize that there is such a thing as a non-vegan tattoo. A fan of body art myself, on Saturday I headed to Williamsburg to check out Gristle, a darling vegan tattoo shop. Now before I start raving, let me answer a question you may be stuck on: WTF is a vegan tattoo?
Unfortunately, the majority of tattoos aren’t vegan, as many black inks get their ominous hue from bone char. But the good news is as companies become more ethically savvy, they are opting for plant-based dyes.
So maybe you called up your tat parlor to request vegan ink (Intenze and StarBrite are two of the most popular) and you think you’re in the clear. Not so fast! While I think ink is the most important part about the vegan tattoo experience–it stays with you forever, as I hope you have already realized–there are other products used in the tattoo process that may not be veg-friendly, like the gel strips in the razors used for shaving, the soap used for washing you down, and the after-care products the shop applies, recommends or sells.
Lucky for me, and my boyfriend who was also in for some ink, Gristle had it all covered. The shop itself is small and—unlike nearly every other tattoo shop I have ever been in–tastefully decorated. Instead of the tacky display designs usually found in tattoo parlors (think hearts with flaming swords and various examples of script bound for tramp stamps), Gristle’s walls are adorned with artwork I would want in my own apartment, and posters sporting rescued pitbulls with the words I Am An Individual—part of an Animal Farm Foundation program.
The shop is a big supporter of adoption. In fact, this Saturday (the 8th) they are holding an adoption event from 12 – 4 in collaboration with Dog Habitat Rescue. I was actually bummed I didn’t know about it last week, as I may have waited a week and gotten my tattoo during the event, because 100 % of tattoo deposits made that day will go to the animal organization.
But no worries, I plan to try and make it out there on September 22nd for their vegan bake sale to benefit BARC. Yes please!
The shop is also an art gallery; the work on the walls is all for sale, and there are openings held each month.
Okay, but now about MY experience. I fell in love with the shop when, within ten minutes of being inside, they gave me cupcakes. Call me easy, but I’m won over with baked goods. In preparation for the BARC bake sale, owner Dina DiCenso brought in a trial run of some delicious chocolate mini cupcakes.
But it was really the impressive quality of the work done that made my Gristle trip a fantastic tattoo experience. (Cupcakes and puppies are just an added bonus).
While there, I got a small tattoo on my ankle redone; I had gotten it several months back on a trip down south and was incredibly unhappy with the result. It was supposed to be a sprout but looked more like some weird sloppy Asian symbol, and design aside, the actual ink work was terrible.
Gristle’s talented (and super sweet) inkmaster Brittany Bauza took my old design and reworked it, and I love love love it. She added in some color and I think it looks great.
The tattoo fun didn’t stop there. My tattoo took about twenty minutes, which flew by as Brittany and I chatted. However, P got a design on his ribs that took five (!!!) hours to complete, so I hung out in the shop all day, chatting with Dina about the usual…cats and cupcakes.
P’s tattoo was done by Franco Maldonado, an artist from Columbia who seems to specialize in animal designs. When browsing his portfolio, nearly all of his designs feature some sort of feathered or furry friend. And this worked for us, because he came up with a killer design around the idea P had of an octopus fighting an owl. An OctoOwl!
Dina, Brittany and Franco were all really terrific, and I loved the experience so much I am already dreaming up my next piece of work—an elephant. More tattoos, please.
If you’re around September 22nd, check out their bake sale. Buy some cupcakes, help some animals, oh, and get some vegan ink.