Earlier this year, my friends Steve Ratcliffe and Britton Asbury opened Cloak and Dagger Tattoo Studio in the Dayton area (near UD). With a customer service driven mission, these guys – as well as Nathan Palmer, apprentice Jeremy McGrady, and piercing artist Alex Hannan — have been putting holes in and inking stellar work into the skin of satisfied customers for a few months now. I recently caught up with the guys in the shop to find out more about their business and this is what they had to say.
You Indie: What can someone expect from a visit to Cloak & Dagger that is unique to your business?
Steve Ratcliffe: Here at Cloak and Dagger we strive to have great customer service by doing a variety of different things. Some of those are as simple as getting to know every client’s name up front and treating them like a person, not just another tattoo. We also really listen to what our clients want and make suggestions, being careful not to completely change their idea into what we want to tattoo. Those are just the start of things we do, but to get the full experience you’ll have to come in and see for yourself.
You Indie: What type of person do you believe would have the best experience at C&D?
Steve Ratcliffe: Everyone, we try to make a comfortable/custom experience for everybody that comes in to our shop.
You Indie: Who were your mentors along the path to this career?
Britton Asbury: Although we had a falling out and went our separate ways, David Klaiber is the one who gave me a chance to get in to the industry. Almost ten years ago he taught me how to pierce. And even though he never really taught me a lot as far as tattooing goes, I did watch him tattoo A LOT when I started tattooing my friends and stuff. And, he encouraged my art and ideas as I was trying to develop my style, and would try to answer any questions I might have. Next to him I would say the guys I worked with at Blue Byrd. Mainly Naryan Claudy and Chris Fullam. Also, despite having taught him, I feel like Nathan Palmer pushes me to do more solid tattoos… you can’t have your student kicking your ass.
Steve Ratcliffe: My mentors when I first started were mainly Cameron Fuhrer, Jesse Perrault, and Dave Hopkins, but as I’ve moved around and met other tattoo artists I’ve also learned a lot from them too. Most recently though I’ve been learning a lot from our very own Britton Asbury.
Nathan Palmer: I did my apprenticeship under Britton when he was working at ACME tattoo in Cincinnati. He gave me a chance to get into this industry, so I really have to give all the credit to him.
Jeremy McGrady: I started my apprenticeship under another individual but through and lack of direction on their part, Britton Asbury took me under as his apprentice and is teaching me the art of tattooing.
Alex Hannan (piercer): Jesse Braddam and Steve Haworth
You Indie: Steve previously served in the U.S. military, correct? Did you begin you career as an artist before or after separating? Do you ever do military-related tattoos now?
Steve Ratcliffe: I started my apprenticeship after I got out of the Marines, and I do military tattoos still. But, I think that every tattooer does those. We are close to an Air Force base and do a lot of military tribute tattoos for people’s deceased loved ones.
You Indie: What is the favorite piece you’ve ever done? What was your least favorite piece?
Britton Asbury: I don’t really have a favorite piece, I have a lot of different pieces that I really like. Recently I did a Buddha that I’m pretty excited about. As far as least favorite… boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, baby mama/daddy names. I always tell them it’s a bad idea and 90 percent of the time you see them again to cover it up.
Steve Ratcliffe: Favorite-I just recently did a matching tattoo on my mom and little sister and that was an honor for me to do. Least…I’d say it would be the end of the day on a hot summer day, somebody who has been active all day and comes in wanting their feet tattooed. I have no problem with foot tattoos, just have some kindness and make sure that they don’t smell horrible.
Nathan Palmer: My favorites are when I have complete creative freedom. My least favorites are people who don’t want to plan out their tattoo and just want tattooed right then and there.
You Indie: Who or what are your influences as artists? What do you believe your strengths are? How do those strengths complement each other in the context of Cloak & Dagger?
Britton Asbury: I take influence from a lot of different sources. Even tattoo artists (and artists in general) that I don’t necessarily think are great artist can have great ideas. But, I follow guys like Phil Holt, Grime, Tim Biedron, Jason Vaughn, Adam Hathorne, Craig Driscoll, Dave Tevenal, Steve Moore, Kore Flatmo and a few others that are slipping my mind right now. But, I check out all these guys’ work who I look up to pretty frequently. I actually still look at Dave Klaiber’s work a lot. My contribution to the shop would probably be my versatility. I do a lot of different styles off tattooing. I just try to find what I think best suits the piece, unless the client has something specific in mind. I like doing semi realistic tattoos and larger colored pieces.
Steve Ratcliffe: My influences are mainly other tattooers like: Tony Ciavarro, Jime Litwalk, Jesse Smith, Joe Capobianco, Nick Baxter, and Scotty Munster. Non-tattoo though I really dig Mark Ryden and Alex Grey. I feel my strengths are in color theory, I really love to work with as many colors as I can and use them to compliment and contrast each other. As far as how I feel our strengths work as a shop, well we all have something different to bring to the table. With that being the case and constantly teaching each other new things, I think it improves the overall quality of the shop as a whole.
Nathan Palmer: Adam Hathorne, Jeff Ensminger, Tim Biedron, Jeff Gogue, and a ton of other artists. American traditional, hard lines and bold color. No one else here at the shop is as focused on traditional style tattoos.
Jeremy McGrady: Growing up I was always very into comic books and graphic novels which sent my artwork into a very graphic design style. But as I’ve been learning tattooing, many of the industry’s top artists have inspired me to push my artwork to make it something more. David Tevenal has as of recently driven me to progress as an artist and explore new mediums of art.
You Indie: Do you guys do art outside of the tattoo arena?
Steve Ratcliffe: Yes we do, in a variety of other mediums: watercolor, acrylic, oil, colored pencil, and marker.
You Indie: Britton, when is the next Minutes show?
Britton Asbury: Everyone has moved away. TJ is in Indy now, and Luke has a grown up job at Cincinnati Bell so it’s hard for us to get together. Me and Luke did start to write some new material similar to Minutes but a little more stripped down. We planned on putting vocals to it and it being something along the lines of American Football, but our schedules and the drive make it rough to get together. Maybe I can get him to write a song with me and we can release it as a YOUINDIE exclusive.
You Indie: So we’ve got a software that records what people search for on our site. In addition to stuff like “indie tattoo,” two of our most popular searches are “weed tattoo” and “face tattoo.” Can you accommodate those?
For more information on Cloak and Dagger Tattoo Studio, visit them at Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Cloak-and-Dagger-Tattoo/119187811492483