Amy Dowell opened The Painted Lady tattoo parlor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on April 1 and already is booked solid for roughly the next year.
And that’s no April Fool’s joke.
Her art, see above, is lauded (she has won more awards than can be easily counted) and her new business venture is flourishing to the extent that her client list is now global.
Before tattooing, Dowell painted. Of her work, the Jackson Hole News & Guide recently noted in a profile:
“Her black-and-gray surrealism is as timeless as Alphonse Mucha and as elegant as winter’s first snow. Her color paintings of cherry blossoms circling modernist caricature portraits hang in galleries and museums across the valley.”
Clients depart wearing Dowell’s renowned artwork on their bodies and carrying her personal guarantee. “I insure all of my work for the life of the tattoo,” Dowell recently told Small Business Trends, “so any touch-up or restoration work is free.”
Art was among her high school loves. Her passion for sketching and painting expanded to include a fascination with tattoos.
While attending the University of Wyoming to obtain her bachelor’s degree in drawing and painting, she joined the local tattoo lifestyle scene, making monthly pilgrimages to Fort Collins, Colorado, to seek out tattooists to expand her personal collection.
Meeting and chatting with people in the various tattoo parlors made her envious of the community. (She spent about 70 hours under the tattoo needle herself, the Jackson Hole News reports.)
After graduation, she returned to her Jackson home and then served as resident artist at Sub-Urban Body Arts (S.U.B.A.).
Now, she operates her own parlor and packs them in. She even features a “Cancellation List” on her Facebook page, where you can apply in case an existing appointment falls through.
The Painted Lady is located in The Pink Garter Plaza, named for the former classic theater, The Pink Garter Theatre, which remains but is now a bar-and-music venue. Also joining Dowell’s space in the Plaza are a pizza parlor, fine-dining restaurant, art gallery and coffee shop.
“My business fits really well with the other businesses in the plaza,” she said. “We all are bringing a new and contemporary but classy vibe to the downtown.”
Inside her studio, which the Jackson Hole News said was “as tidy as an operating room with accents of a Hollywood salon,” Dowell turns the music on and gets busy with needle and ink.
Clients generally arrive with a vague idea of what they want “and just let me take it from there. I am mostly sought out for my black and grey work (see sketch above), ambiguous portraiture, and elements of nature.”
Her love for her work is so deep she won’t refer to it as work. She told Small Business Trends:
“I love what I do. For me, it doesn’t feel like work, so all of my free time goes into perfecting and expanding my craft. I try to make sure my clients are treated better than myself and they feel comfortable and excited about their work. Overall, trying to do the best work I possibly can, with the beyond-superb customer service. I think people see that I am passionate about what I do, and that I genuinely care about all of the people I work with.”
She charges $125 per hour, an average rate. She adds:
“As I have been booking out further and further, my rate only goes up accordingly. Most tattooers start somewhere around the $100 per hour mark and slowly increase. Some artists charge well over $300 an hour.”
All of her drawing time is included in the session’s price, plus the insurance that lasts for the tattoo’s life.
Dowell advises other entrepreneurs and new business owners to prioritize “for you and for your clients. Make sure you are ready for a serious time commitment. For my particular region, Planning and Zoning was probably the most challenging aspect.”
Also helping drive people into The Painted Lady is social media, which has been “huge” for her business for the simple reason that it enables her to present her work to a vast audience. Facebook and Instagram are her chief platforms, she said. Clients eyeball her copious artwork samples online and journey to her shop from across the country — and now from even outside it.
“Many of them say they found me via Instagram or Facebook. Without those forms of social media, I may have never gotten those clients. It is also ease of access. Tons of people use Facebook and Instagram. I try to update both daily with either new drawings or tattoos from the day, and that keeps people actively engaged.”
Social media also is a great way to keep in touch with her existing clients, who can “hop on Facebook or Instagram and see what’s new,” she said.
Images: The Painted Lady