Sutton Ink and Cannock Ink are two sisters studios in the Midlands, just 25 minutes away from each other. Co-owners Chris Salt and Simon Pateman are dedicated to ensuring the studios are meeting the needs of their customers. Over the years, the two studios have developed a strong presence through creating incredible tattoos day-in-day-out and by ensuring honest, respectful conversation with their clients.
I met Chris and Simon through social media and we’ve kept in touch at conventions and online, as I’ve watched the studios grow, and they’ve helped me grow this blog. Today, I wanted to introduced Inkluded readers to the men behind the brand, and over the next few months we’ll be giving an insight into the day-to-day workings of these two busy studios. From artist interviews, to apprentice diaries… you’ve got it all to come. For now, let’s go back to the very beginning…
In 2007 Simon Pateman took the plunge from his full-time career in banking to rent spaces for small businesses. Then one day, someone made a suggestion that the town of Cannock needed a new modern tattoo studio. A spark went off in Simon’s head. The rest, they say, is history…
With some poor tattoo experiences himself in other studios, the initial ideas of what a good tattoo business should be were already very clear. ‘I had a plan of what I wanted to achieve based on what I had seen not happen in other places. Then, starting up, I was lucky to find artists Vicki Norton and Adam Thomas to become part of the Cannock Ink family, whose undoubtable skills helped the studio grow,’ says Simon. ‘My role is to keep in the background, make business decisions and try to generate interest locally through networking and meeting new people.’
Encouraging conversation is at the heart of everything they do. They strive to have an understanding on what’s happening locally, nationally and even globally – in terms of tattooing, and running a business. Chris truly believes that the ability to have an honest and open conversation based on constructive feedback, is difficult to find in the tattoo industry, but is something which has truly helped the development of their studios and artists.
Both studios run successful social media sites – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google+ – you name it, they’re using it. Chatting to customers, sharing their work and absorbing their clients’ opinions. ‘It’s been such a successful effort because the studios have constantly been looking for ways to improve based on customer feedback,’ Chris says. ‘Social media is a massive part of what we do, as it allows us to interact and network with customers, artists and fellow businesses.’
In Chris and Simon, each studio has one full time manager, who can have the mental space to really focus on the customer experience. Because of this, the studios are growing and growing every day. ‘When people are satisfied with what we do, our diary get busier, as people return and recommend us to their friends,’ says Chris. ‘We have various artists working across the two studios and want to give our customers the best tattoo possible, in the style they want.’
Aside from the day-to-day, (managing a diary effectively, liaising constantly with clients, cleaning and sterilisation), the main aim of the studios is to give the customer exactly what they want, and this includes an enjoyable experience. ‘We want to make tattooing affordable and accessible, so we have a sliding hourly rate, which allows us to be flexible. We believe that we can do the best possible tattoo for them,’ says Chris. Both studios also put a big importance on decor, creating a bright, colourful and relaxing place for their clients.
There has recently been a discussion on the Inkluded Facebook page about some artists making clients feel uncomfortable when they ask for certain genres of tattooing. A few Inkluded fans said that they’d experienced this themselves, and often felt looked down upon for asking for a smaller traditional or small quote tattoos – perhaps seemingly more ‘simple’ designs to some.
At Cannock and Sutton Ink, with 8 artists, 2 studio managers and 5 apprentices, no tattoo idea is ever looked down upon. ‘Tattoos are so individual and that’s what we love. Any tattoo for us has it own merit and it should be completely down to the individual to make that decision and be happy with it. There’s certainly no tattoo snobbery here.’
The industry is changing in various different ways. Simon says, ‘For me, it’s because of the people who are now choosing to get tattooed. That, and the amazing work produced by artists who, five years ago, wouldn’t have even considered tattooing. As the industry becomes more mainstream and accessible, people are learning more about tattooing, which is a great step. Treat artists as artists, not tattooists. I show them respect every day and if the studios don’t ever deviate from these values, we’ll get bigger and better as each month goes by.’
Chris is excited about the next year. ‘If the previous 12 months are anything to go by, this coming year will be awesome. We’ll be continuing to look at the services we provide, from the artists to the studios, to branching out and looking at other services and products we can bring to make us more accessible on different levels. It’s exciting.’
For me, family men Chris and Simon just talk common sense. They’re two respectful gents who have a good old conversation at the heart of everything they do. It’s that simple. They have actually played a big hand in helping me get Inkluded off the ground because of their open, friendly and collaborative attitude. When I was starting up, they were ready to greet any question with open arms. So, if they welcome and help their clients the same way… I think they’ll be doing this for a fair while.