August 01, 2012 - A new business in Lake Orion's downtown looks to make it's mark on the little community.
Apprentice Derick Nabarrette, Owner David DeRue and Manager Breezy Tucker. Photo by G. Ouzounian (click for larger version)
It's also likely to do the same on its customers.
Tattoo Nouveau, located at 18 N. Broadway, takes a different approach to tattoo parlors. Owner David DeRue hopes to take a more responsible approach, with ernest consultation, top-end equipment and a realistic outlook.
"I just want people to treat tattoos as an investment on their skin," said DeRue. "People tend to be quick when deciding on an artist and there are a lot of shops that are not run by artists, but businessmen just making a sale. I find that the integrity is lost in that process."
Derue, a professional artist of 10 years, began his career working in comics and as a freelance artist. His work took him from his home state of Michigan to Nevada and California where he continued to work in the comic book industry. During his time in Nevada, he learned how to apply tattoos but began to miss his family.
He said being away for seven years gave him perspective and he bought a ticket home.
He started looking for places to open a shop as he already had a client following in the area. He looked in Clarkston but he said because of Lake Orion's relative lack of tattoo shops he found a need in the community.
"Everyone told me I couldn't open a shop out here - they said the village was very tough on who they let in," said DeRue. "I respect the fact that they are not easy on newer people because it gave me confidence they're being smart about it. Still everything was straightforward and fair. Any questions they had they also helped me out on and I found it was not as difficult as everyone told me."
Concerning the art itself, customers only need step into the parlor to see the difference from the stereotypical tattoo place. DeRue called his shop more of an art studio and said he wants his customers to take their time when deciding on what to wear. To this end, before an ink can be applied, he walks customers through a consultation process.
"I build the work custom to the individual and part of that process is learning who they are and what their tastes are," said DeRue. "That is what makes the tattoo powerful for the wearer. I take the time to think things through and want them to do the same.
"A lot of shops jump for the dollar a little quick and that can result in regrettable tattoos. There is a trend, for example, with kids getting tattoos when they're only in high school. It's very easy to say yes and take their money but I want to make sure no one is getting their career hurt."
DeRue mentioned those going into law, teaching or business really cannot have tattoos on visible skin and cited wrist tattoos in particular as a common mistake. He said he would deny requests like this and said he found that when he cares, the feeling is reciprocated.
"I think it's time tattoo artists became more responsible," he said.
Being an artist by trade, DeRue said he was not satisfied with typical image searches as inspiration for tattoos and instead opts to design each tattoo himself. This design is part of the consultation - figuring out a customer's desire for a tattoo and honing that request has lead him to call the process closer to fine art.
The process does not come cheap, but DeRue believes his work speaks for itself.
"I'm fair in my opinion and my regulars think so but I'm not the cheapest," said DeRue. "I'm working very sterile with medical grade cleaning supplies and the highest quality equipment. After a tattoo I throw away everything down to the tubes in the tattoo gun. I consider myself a germophobe and it makes me safer, it makes the customer safer and it was what I was taught when I started.
"I'll spend more on equipment, but it makes for a better tattoo. You get what you pay for."
Finally, DeRue plans to bring in special guest artists occasionally and customers can book in advance to have a tattoo done by a recognized name in the industry.
Tattoo Nouveau can reached online at facebook.com or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. A website at noutattoo.com is under construction and a telephone number will soon be available.