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Women-led tattoo shop changing perceptions in Grand Rapids

Balm Tattooing opened on the west side of Grand Rapids in early June. It is owned by thee women, wanting to create a different brand of tattoo shop.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — Three female tattoo artists opened their own tattoo shop on the west side of Grand Rapids. Balm Tattooing hopes to create a safe and inclusive space for their clients. 

"I love being a woman in a male-dominated industry," said Tiffany Elmergreen, one of the co-owners and tattoo artists. 

The shop even looks different than a traditional tattoo shop, with plants, art and natural light filling the space. 

"We want people to feel affirmed and warm when they leave here," said Sarah Sun, another co-owner and artist, "and with good work."

Sun said many of her experiences getting tattoos and working for other shops were "just a lot men," and sometimes a not very welcoming environment. 

While Elmergreen said they do have some male clients, the majority are women. 

Credit: 13 OYS
Elmergreen does a tattoo on the arm of a client.

Sun said they pulled their experiences and preferences from getting tattoos at other shops to create their perfect environment at Balm. 

"Some of us are survivors," said Sun. "And for me, I’ll specifically seek out a woman because I know I’ll feel more comfortable there."

Sun, Elmergreen and Emily Kukawka were friends before opening the shop. Kukawka said she hopes this inspires other women to take leaps in business. 

"This is a nice little stepping stone for other artists to think, 'oh cool, I can go and do something with my best friend,'" said Kukawka, "Just changing how tattoos are seen in general and tattoo shops."

To learn more about Balm, visit their website. To book a session, contact the artists directly on their Instagram pages. 

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