Pretty in Ink: Tattoos for Female Empowerment

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( ENSPIRE She Did That ) Jackie Matikas Incorporates Feminism, Anti-Racism, and Community-Mindedness into the Very Structure of Her Business

ENSPIRE Contributor: Adam Cetorelli

Jackie Matikas is the artist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur behind Pretty in Ink tattoos, a Bowie, MD, shop that caters specifically to female clientele. Pretty in Ink embraces a “less grunge, more glitter” approach to tattooing in response to the typically masculine environment of tattoo shops—an environment that can feel unwelcoming to some women.

Various shades of pink, rose gold accents, and flower wall decals create a glitzy yet inviting appearance that stands in stark contrast to the skulls, flames, and gratuitous pinups of the traditional shop. But it’s not only the aesthetic of Pretty in Ink that sets it apart from the pack—Matikas strives to run a business that actively promotes equality for marginalized people. She held a fundraiser for the NAACP in celebration of Juneteenth 2020, offers a day of free mastectomy scar cover-ups each October, and plans to wrap up Women’s History Month by donating to woman-owned businesses in the Washington Metropolitan area. Read ENSPIRE’s interview with Matikas below to learn more about Pretty in Ink, the tattoo shop that wants to do more than just tattoo!

When did you first open Pretty in Ink? What experiences led you to open your own shop?

Pretty in Ink LLC officially opened in 2013. At that time, I was still in business operating with other tattoo artists in my own private space. I decorated my space more feminine which attracted new clientele. When I was working in a studio with all men, it was decorated with skulls, dark colors and had the general aesthetic of most grungy tattoo shops. I knew that I would work better, thrive professionally, and be more creative in an environment that was beautiful and organized with a process tailored specifically to women. Working in the tattoo industry, I knew there were so many opportunities for growth and needed delicate atmospheres that catered toward women. In 2019, we officially opened Pretty in Ink in our current studio and created that atmosphere for women to come in, feel comfortable, and feel beautiful. 

What have you done to ensure that women feel more comfortable in your shop than in others?

The Pretty in Ink experience begins long before you enter our door. Women in general love organization, clear information and testimonials, right? So, we don’t take that lightly.  We have everything from real reviews from real women with real experiences to an extensive informational site with clear processes that make you feel like you’re in great hands before you step foot in the shop. The four artists at Pretty in Ink are my best friends in real life–so coming into an inviting atmosphere with a group of women with great intentions, positive vibes, and tons of laughs automatically makes people feel at home. We do not take walk-ins, so there aren’t people constantly coming in and out which allows for an intimate experience, especially with tattoos in more private places. To ensure privacy for those who prefer it, we have privacy curtains. Beyond these intimate touches, our artists are extremely positive and uplifting. We make sure that the energy is always high so that women leave feeling happier and confident. We don’t want you to just get a tattoo; we want to provide you with an experience. Pretty in Ink is more than just tattooing, it’s building a group of women that share a common vision and support all things girl power.

How has the pandemic affected Pretty in Ink? You mention that you are appointment-only—is this just a COVID precaution, or a normal practice for the shop?

The pandemic was initially very rough! The reality is, the tattoo industry is commission-based so that means if we do not work we do not get paid. We had to shut down the shop for almost 3 months. During this time, we focused our attention on making the Pretty in Ink “fempire” even stronger. We revamped the website, worked on process efficiency and remained students in our industry. We learned new techniques and constantly drew new pieces to generate new ideas. During this time we were also accepting consultations. That allowed us to still serve our clients virtually.

Although the pandemic was initially a huge hit to business, we came back even stronger than before and had our artists booked out for months.  We buckled down and worked extremely long hours upon return–not only to replenish our bank accounts to feed our families but also because we missed the interaction with our clients and the impact we make on their lives, and the overall love for the art. 

No Walk-ins have been a part of our process because we really enjoy having an intimate atmosphere, well-thought-out tattoo ideas, and easy communication with the artists throughout the whole process. It’s also very important to us as women that we plan our schedules so that we can spend time with our families. Our process was developed in this manner so that we can give clients our FULL attention while at the shop, give our families full attention at home, and use spare time and late-night hours to communicate with clients and plan for the days ahead. Work-life balance at its finest.

What does feminism mean to you? Who are some women who inspire you?

Whew! What a loaded question! If you’ve been in the shop–you know that we LOVE Beyonce. We even have her flawless lyrics written on our bathroom wall–” a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.” This definition, originally taken from a Ted Talk, really sums it up–equality and both women and men that acknowledge it. We are all things girly in an industry that is employed mostly by men. We aim to revolutionize the industry with all things girl power.

Mastectomy scar cover-ups are highlighted on your website as a specialty of Pretty in Ink. Speaking from your experiences doing these tattoos, how do the women coming in for them feel about covering their scars with beautiful art? And tell me about the free cover-up day you offer—what day and why that day in particular?

Since we specifically target women as our ideal client and offer intimate, stress-free healing experiences, it was a no-brainer that we aim to help women who have battled breast cancer and other traumatic health battles. If I could describe the overall experience working with our post-mastectomy clients, I would say “life-changing” for both the artist and the survivor. Our warriors have been through SO MUCH and during the process, they have little say in exactly what is happening to their bodies. Once they are through a long process of trauma, anxiety, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and initial healing of the body–they are left with scars and an entirely new image that may make them feel less sexy and remind them of a journey they would love to bring to a close.  

Having the final say on how their body looks after all of the trauma allows the client to take control of their healing and gain closure.  Most clients are extremely emotional and share their stories, struggles, and hardships during hours of tattooing, which ultimately changes the artist’s lives as well. Being able to help these women feel beautiful again and walking them to a mirror to see their new body is life-changing for both parties. 

For our cover-up day, we select a day during October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month) to shut the shop down and service a few select candidates for free that have been nominated by close friends and family as our way to show support and give back–it is the LEAST we can do for these women who have been through SO MUCH!

How does anti-racism fit into your business?

Anti-racism sits at the base of all things Pretty in Ink. As a female empowerment-driven “fempire,” Pretty in Ink tears down any wall, barrier, or belief that encourages hatred, or oppression of anyone based on gender, religion, sexuality, or race. We don’t stand for it and actively fight against it. Because we are located in PG County, one of the most affluent African-American communities in the US, we feel it is important to give back to its community… often done through donations to NAACP and other charities. Pretty in Ink has a zero-tolerance policy for racism, sexism, and any other “ism” that perpetuates hate or oppression. 

You’ll be donating $1000 split between two woman-owned businesses in the DMV for Women’s History Month. How can women enter their businesses for consideration, and when will you announce the winners?

Yes, we are so excited to pour into women business owners through financial support and mentorship. You can review the guidelines and initiative at www.prettyinink.net/prettyproductive! Women can enter by filling out the form on the website. The deadline to enter is March 30. On March 31, we will announce the finalists.

Follow Pretty in Ink on Instagram to see recent pieces and keep up with the shop’s philanthropy.

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