Tattoo machines hummed all day while records spun at a new downtown Casper tattoo shop.
People were already waiting outside the door Friday morning for Wyoming Tattoo Co.’s grand opening party with a flash tattoo deal, the owners said. Charlette Tinnelli and Thomas Walsh tattooed nonstop during the all-day celebration of the business they opened Dec. 12.
“Sanctuary,” is how Walsh summed up what he aims for the shop to offer. “It’s a safe place. Come as you are. No judgment, just love. Giving back, because we love to tattoo, and we couldn’t do it without everybody that’s wanting to come get tattooed.”
The two owners formed a friendship through their love for tattoo art and became a couple about the time they decided to join forces in their business.
Tinnelli, as she goes by as a tattoo artist (and Tinnell, legally) started tattooing when she was 17 on her father, Ryan Tinnelli (Tinnell), who’s been a tattoo artist at The Ink Spot since she was little. He handed her his tattoo machine one day, offered his leg and told her to “go for it,” she recalled, “before I ever had any sort of practice or anything, just straight to skin.”
That’s how she built her skill until she landed an apprenticeship at another local shop. She’s been an artist since childhood and was always interested in tattooing.
“Every day is different. I never have to worry about doing the same thing. It’s just fun waking up every day and getting to make art for a living.”
Tattooing is different from any other canvas or art material, Walsh said.
“But the media itself is the skin, and there’s like something supernatural about that to me, that when you start tattooing people and you’re giving them a badge of honor that they get to wear and getting to bestow that on them is, it’s kind of like the Spider-Man thing: ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ And the tattooer’s responsibility and privilege to get to make the tattoo, you know, we’re the guide. We just get to put the tattoo there.”
Walsh fell in love with tattooing after he started receiving tattoos and tried his hand at the art.
“I think I was born to make tattoos, and so here we are.”
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He began in Douglas and spent about four years at Black Sunday Tattoo in Casper, and he’s tattooed in Cody, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho and North Dakota.
The two met while he was working at Electric Hare Tattoo.
“Charlette was coming to get tattooed and I just, like, could see it on her, that she had it, that she was born to tattoo,” he said. “That’s what her destiny is. That’s what she wants to do, that’s what she was created to do in this world.”
Tinnelli always booked him for his style, which is similar to hers, she said. They’re heavily influenced by traditional and ornamental tattoo art with their own approach that offers something unique in Casper, Walsh said.
They’d talk tattooing and he was helping her look for a studio when they discovered the storefront was for rent with enough space for both, he said.
Walsh on Friday gave his usual quick prayer before each tattoo after asking customers — it’s his thing, which he used to just do silently.
“So I’m a believer in the supernatural presence of God showing up and the supernatural healing power of God showing up, whether it’s a miracle or healing or a solid tattoo.”
Their friend Cari Faye Antonovich helped greet customers and added names to a growing wait list. The assorted flash options were all were designs by the two owners that they’d never tattooed before.
“So a bunch of firsts today,” Walsh said Friday afternoon as he inked a yellow flower on Dylan Thompson’s arm.
Thompson chose the design for his first tattoo because he loves nature.
“I think that everyone here is super cool,” he said. “There was a super friendly, positive energy here.”
The turnout brought more support than the owners expected, they agreed that evening as they tattooed their last customers of the day. They’d head to The Bourgeois Pig coffee shop downtown, where the opening celebration continued with live music by local bands.
Meanwhile, tunes kept playing over the hum of the tattoo machines as the artists worked late, and light shone from the windows of their new shop.
Follow arts & culture reporter Elysia Conner on twitter @erconner