Gristle Tattoo, located in the heart of Williamsburg, Brooklyn is the kind of shop we wish we would have gone to for our first tattoo. In lieu of endless rows of flash art, which can sometimes be overwhelming for a newcomer, Gristle’s interior walls are lined with a rotating selection of fine art from various artists around the world. The current art show on display is unicorn themed. Yes, you heard right. Gristle Tattoo is decorated with unicorns. So if this is your first time (or second, or fiftieth) in a tattoo shop, Gristle’s welcoming and somewhat magical interior is there to ease your worried little heart and put you in the right mindset to get a tattoo.
Located on Bushwick Avenue, Gristle prides itself on two things: they are a completely custom tattoo shop, meaning each piece is a unique, one of a kind creation for the client. No repeats, no slight variations — an original. Gristle is also an entirely vegan shop. Founder Dina DiCenso says that many times, people don’t realize that most tattoos aren’t vegan to begin with. “The ink, the stencils, the ointment, and the razors [we use] are all vegan,” DiCenso explains. “It used to be that there would be animal bone char in the ink, but the ink really isn’t the problem anymore, it’s the rest of the products. They tend to have animal based glycerin and lanolin in them.”
Suffice it to say, Gristle is devoted to animal advocacy, so much so that the art shows and flash events that they regularly host often benefit a specific cause or conservation effort. Bear in mind, Gristle’s one-off flash events are as close to a walk-in as you can get here. Since it is a custom tattoo shop, the talented artists here need an ample amount of time to plan and construct a totally original piece of art based on your idea, so appointments are necessary.
Gristle specializes in black work, but that’s about as specific as it gets. With 4-5 incredibly talented artists on staff at a time, each with different preferred styles, the possibilities are endless. “It’s a blend of everything, and it really depends on what the clients want,” DiCenso says. “If they request something that’s sort of illustrative and traditional combined then that’s what they’ll get, but I’d say Ligia does very fine lined black work, Kayla does a very woodcut style, and Dana, [our apprentice], falls somewhere in between those two.” But no matter what you’re looking for, the incredibly kind and helpful artists at Gristle are there to help you put your thoughts to paper and eventually your skin.
The Nitty Gritty Details
Gristle Tattoo is located at 26 Bushwick Ave. in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, about a 3 minute walk from the Grand L stop. While they do occasionally accept walk-ins on a first come, first serve basis, it is preferable for both parties if you book in advance. To set up an appointment, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (347) 889-6422. You can see a list of upcoming art shows and openings here.