Small Business Profile: Independent Ink
Independent Ink, a tattoo and piercing studio located on 100 East Main St. in Frostburg, is far more than meets the eye. Having existed for 22 years, this local business and its rather distinct team continuously cater to tattoo and piercing lovers alike.
Meet the faces behind this unique business.
Tattoo Artist/Owner of Independent Ink
22 years ago, William Bevan turned his dream into a reality. Founder and owner of Independent Ink, Bevan helped introduce unique body art to the Frostburg community.
Having a love for art at a young age, tattooing was practically destined for Bevan. He mentioned, “I guess you could say I was an artist growing up. I loved drawing and graffiti at the time, and that later acted as a gateway into body art.”
Bevan became both a business owner and full-time tattoo artist by the age of 21, so college was clearly not in his plans. However, this small business worked out in his favor as he pursues his passion day-in and day-out.
Being single with no children, Bevan enjoys working on cars; especially on old Broncos. His other main hobby includes 4-wheeling through various trails.
“Bevan eats, sleeps, and breathes tattoos, but outside of that, you’re guaranteed to find him fixing up a car,” remarked Julie Small, the Manager of Independent Ink.
Manager of Independent Ink
Starting in Sept. 1995, Julie Small has been tied to Independent Ink ever since. Describing the shop as a “home away from home,” Small’s life practically revolves around tattooing.
Small laughed before saying, “Bevan and I met when I was 17. We’re both locals. We dated for many years. When we opened the shop, I was 20 and he was 21. But back then, you know, we just winged it. We were young and just wanted to open a tattoo shop.”
Although the two are no longer dating, Small says, “We are best friends now. Both in business and in life. He’s my lifelong friend.”
Small travels to tattoo conventions, meets with clients, and enjoys time to herself when she is not working in the shop.
Independent Ink’s hours are 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Small arrives to work a few hours early to clean, prepare the shop, and get in touch with clients.
Small describes herself as the “face of the shop.” She is the first person that clients and potential clients see when they walk in, so even on her worst days she always has a smile on her face.
“For many clients, it’s their first time getting a tattoo or body piercing. Many of them are nervous, come with various anxieties, etc. Part of my job is to make them feel at home and create a safe environment so to speak,” said Small.
Even Small’s social life revolves around the shop.
“Honestly, my social life involves Independent Ink. Whether I’m socializing with clients, potential clients, and/or my amazing co-workers, I love what I do. I have the best of both worlds.”
Being trained in both traditional and exotic body piercings, Wood can perform anything from a basic ear piercing to micro dermal anchors.
Wood describes micro dermal anchors as, “single-point piercings. For example, a nose piercing is a normal piercing. It goes straight through. Micro dermals are single-point because you typically use a biopsy punch to take a small core of skin out. The anchor is placed under the skin so there is no exit, just a single point.”
Prior to coming to Independent Ink, Wood worked as an apprentice at another shop for three years.
“I started learning on my own. I practiced on friends and did extensive research regarding piercing. I’m not sure why, but when I was younger I was really interested in piercing. I would pierce kids at parties and stuff, and I realized this was something I wanted to do,” said Wood.
Wood’s paycheck depends on how many clients he has at a given time. During the slower season, his personal life is affected by his income.
Wood remarked, “Lately, business for me has been pretty slow. The money I make on a day-to-day basis is very unpredictable. I can go all day without having a single client and then five minutes until close and three friends walk in wanting matching piercings. You just never know.”
When he isn’t piercing, Wood enjoys kayaking, fishing, and participating in dart tournaments with his friends and girlfriend, Alexis. The farthest the two have traveled for tournaments is Pittsburgh, PA. However, their future plans involve a tournament in New York; making their journey about five to six hours long for the love of darts.
“I participate in these tournaments for fun, but you can win cash prizes. We always have a blast. It’s cool having someone to share a passion with, I love it,” said Wood.
Although Joe Thomas has only been at Independent Ink for a little over a year, he has a lot to offer.
“Joey and I were partners and owned a studio for many years in Youngstown, Ohio. I was a professional piercer and permanent makeup artist, and he was the senior tattoo artist of course. Even though I am not currently working in the industry as a piercer, I still teach at studios and manage a lot of my husband’s promo stuff,” said Thomas’ wife, Stephanie Hutter Thomas.
The couple’s tattoo studio, “Skin Ethics Body Art Studio” ran for 17 years before they closed it down and moved to Frostburg.
However, Thomas’ clients from his former location maintain their loyalty and visit Independent Ink for him to do touch-ups, new tattoo pieces, etc.
Stephanie is currently a ABE Distance Learning Coordinator & CE Instructor at the Allegany College (AC) of Maryland and a Program Management Specialist, C.O.A.T. AmeriCorps at Frostburg State University (FSU).
Having been married for about 11 years now, Thomas has taken on two stepdaughters from Stephanie. The couple resides in Cumberland and enjoy collecting unusual findings like gas masks and swords.
“They seem to always have another ‘artsy’ project they’re taking on. Joe loves stuff like that. If he’s not taking on a project then he’s reading. He always has a book in his hand,” said Julie Small.
As a Tattoo Apprentice, Cumberland native Jasilynn Weaver performs duties around the shop such as cleaning, booking appointments, and tattooing clients. Weaver has been at Independent Ink for a little over a year now.
“One day I was getting a tattoo done at the shop. It was a scar cover up and out of nowhere, Will the owner asked me if I wanted to be the ‘counter girl’ and try out an apprenticeship. He mentioned that he had been looking at my art and wanted me to work there. I was so thrilled…I still am,” said Weaver.
She used art as her main outlet before realizing that she wanted to take on a profession in tattooing.
In her spare time, Weaver enjoys illustration, sketching, oil painting etc. “Although oil painting is my favorite, I love experimenting with all kinds of mediums,” Weaver exclaimed.
“I’m also an avid reader. I live for science fiction,” she added.
When she isn’t working, creating art, or reading, Weaver spends time taking care of her pets. She has one Neapolitan Mastiff and two Great Danes, along with a Ball Python.
“Although, I did have a tarantula who passed away recently. I had a little funeral for him and buried him with a poem. I had him for 7 years, and I loved him very much. I’m still pretty upset over his passing,” sighed Weaver.
“I think tattooing is a wonderful way of healing your body, mind, and spirit. You can totally recreate yourself and it gives you so much confidence. A tattoo can be a reminder of who you are when you’re feeling lost so to speak, and can remind you how far you have come in life. Getting a tattoo is a celebration and it can have a positive impact on your life if you choose the right artist,” said Weaver.
Bringing personality, comfort, and amazing talent to the table, Independent Ink has a lot to offer to the community of Frostburg. As they continue to pursue their passions, each unique individual separates this small business from the rest.