One of Milford’s newest businesses, Delaware Branding Company, located on Northwest Front Street in the historic Gellinger Building, may not be considered traditional, but its owners, Amy and Mike Perfetti say that their business fits in well with the artistic vibe that exists in Milford. Mike, who has spent many years as a graphic artist, and who Amy said won several awards for his commercial art, said that it was a natural progression from graphic arts to tattooing.
“I have a BFA in commercial design,” Mike said. “There was a lot of computer work involved in my work as a graphic artist, so I wanted to do something just a little different. I started out tattooing my own legs and had a lot of friends with tattoo shops that were there to help and guide me.”
According to the couple, tattooing is a way people use to express themselves, a method for having something permanent to commemorate an important event in their lives, to display a personality trait or just because they like a particular design.
“We have all ranges of customers who come in,” Amy said. “Sometimes the person has a sketch or a drawing that is already complete that we simply must transfer. Other times they come in with nothing more than an idea. This means that our artists must render the tattoo design from scratch, working directly with the customer. There is a lot of ‘yes, I like that’ and ‘no, not quite like that’ that goes on during the process, but we work to be sure the customer leaves here with body art they can be proud of.”
Research indicates that most people who become tattoo artists have a strong interest in art and identify themselves as artists or artisans. To the majority of tattoo artists, ink on the body is just another form of artistic expression. In addition, tattoos do not have the stigma that they held many years ago when it was rare to see someone with a tattoo. Today, Mike says that young women make up the majority of his clientele.
“I do caution people when they decide to get tattoos to think about their future,” Mike said. “Although tattoos are more accepted than they were years ago, many sections of corporate America still find them offensive. Even the military, an organization that was often known for members with multiple tattoos, have become strict about where they can be displayed and what they can say. I’ve had to cover tattoos for people because they had curse words or were visible where the military said they could not be.”
Mike says that he and Amy have created a tattoo parlor that is different than most. They are using social media to connect with the community and the shop displays the works of a different local artist each month.
“Many people think of tattoo parlors as scary, dark, dirty places,” Mike said “We don’t want that. We want this to be a fun, upbeat shop that people enjoy coming into.”
Recently, Mike developed a promotional campaign similar to one he used for his shop in Pennsylvania. At his former shop, he would give business cards to clients and ask them to hand them out, calling them the Headhunter Program. After a certain number of cards were handed out, a client could receive a free tattoo. A few weeks ago, Mike decided to do a similar promotion using social media.
Delaware Branding posted an advertisement on Facebook asking others to share the post on their news feed. The first person who came into the shop with 70 likes would receive a free tattoo.
“People went crazy,” Mike said. “One girl actually got blocked by Facebook because she tried to tag so many people. Amazingly, the winner, David Vezmar, got 70 likes in one day. Social media casts a really big net and the fact that we, as a tattoo parlor, use it to reach out to the community also shows that we are a fun, upbeat company.”
Mike also cautions people who think they can simply purchase a tattoo gun and start a business on their own that it can be a dangerous proposition.
“You are working with bodily fluids,” Mike explained. “You have to learn about blood-borne pathogens, the importance of sanitation. You can honestly cause serious problems for someone if you don’t know what you are doing. You can’t just pick up a gun and muddle your way through. I had a lot of help as I learned, people who showed me the right way to do it.” Although Mike says that some tattoo artists apprentice with an experienced artist, it can be difficult to find apprenticeships. He suggested that anyone who is considering becoming a tattoo artist talk to someone with professional experience to learn what they should do to begin their own career.