If you’re gonna spend a couple of hours having your body inked up, you’re going to wanna to be chill as possible. And that’s exactly what Melanie Judkins and Matt Dinovo, owners of Black Squirrel Tattoo do. Not only are they hoping that clients will trust them with permanent displays of body art, Mel and Matt also want their clients to feel right at home during the whole process.
As soon as you walk into Black Squirrel it’s like walking into a friend’s living room, except that your friend doesn’t have a cute, tattooed receptionist to welcome you. With it’s wood floors, black leather furniture, and wide variety of artistic expression covering the walls, Black Squirrel Tattoo just feels like a place where you could kick back and relax.
With a diverse client base ranging from rollergirls to cops, Mel and Matt are able to grow as artists and as business owners. In fact, Matt points out that their main priority in deciding to open Black Squirrel Tattoo was to provide a relaxing environment that encourages the creative process for both the artist and the client which contributes to their success. "We wanted to create a comfortable place that’s warm, that’s conducive to creativity. When developing the rooms and other areas, we wanted it to be a place that, if we were going to get tattooed, that’s where we’d want to go," explains Matt. Mel nods in agreement and adds "We wanted it to be stimulating. The colors, the artwork, the different styles, we wanted people to see what their options are."
Both have earned thier stripes as talented and respected tattoo artists in the Omaha area over the past several years, Matt and Mel joined forces last year and opened Black Squirrel Tattoo in mid-August, 2010. Since then, business has grown at a steady pace for the pair. "Every day, the new business starts to come in," says Matt. "They tell somebody and then they tell somebody." And why name the shop "Black Squirrel?" Explained it’s a Midwest thing, specifically Matt and Mel’s hometown of Council Bluffs. Only after opening their new business did they learn that a black squirrel is also a sign of good luck.
Both Mel and Matt have backgrounds in art and in business. After going to art school, Mel ended up in a military town without much to do so she ended up doing an apprenticeship at a local tattoo shop. What was meant to be a temporary venture turned into something that she really enjoyed and eventually turned into a career. She’s been at it for 11 years now. In addition to working as a tattoo artist, she’s also taken on a management role in some of the shops where she’s worked.
Matt, on the other hand, took the suit-and-tie route. He went to college, got a degree followed by a white collar job and soon discovered that he was miserable and really needed to be doing something that he enjoyed. So he took his lifelong love of drawing and channeled it into a position as a tattoo artist, first in Arizona and then in Omaha. He’s now been in this field for about 9 years.
As far as personal style goes, Matt takes a diverse approach to his art, moving from one style to the next. He says "I like to try and figure something out. Once I figure it out, it’s like I’m bored and I want to move on to the next thing and conquer that." Among the art forms outside of tattooing that Matt has mastered are charcoal drawing, airbrushing, and watercolors. "I should probably stick with something longer though and really kill it before I move on to the next thing," he jokes. But Mel agrees "We have to be a jack of all trades in this business to be successful. When someone gives you a little more freedom with a design, that’s usually the best thing. My favorite thing to do is for someone to allow me to turn something into my own." She does admit to having a preference for fun, colorful designs, specifically pinups and cartoonish art. Her latest creative outlet is trinkets and jewelry with tattoo-inspired designs.
Clients are welcome to swing by and visit with Mel or Matt at Black Squirrel Tattoo at any time. Chances are that one of the artists will have some time open on the spot. If But for the most part, they recommend dropping in for a quick consultation first. Talking with one of the artists in person, going over your ideas, and then making an appointment is the best approach. "We tend to grow a lot of ideas for people, we get their sketches or plans and build it into something custom," says Mel, with Matt adding "If they have an idea or reference, a starting point of something they like, bring that in and we can expand on that and turn it into something better or something custom that’s tattoable." Trying to get a quote for both price and time over the phone, however, isn’t such a good idea. And really, when you’re talking about a work of art that you’re going to have on your body for the rest of your life, it’s worth taking the extra time.
Black Squirle Tattoo
4001 Farnam Street
*Strange Fact: Matt Dinoivo is some how related to Brittney Dinovo, Jan / Feb "MidStarlet"
The Video interview with Black Squirle