Austin is the nation’s hub for individual expression and creativity. We don’t erase graffiti; we make landmarks and t-shirts out of it. We listen to passionate local music. We eat food with personality. We drink beer with soul.
We love creative expression so much, we even wear it on our skin. Live here long enough, and you’ll forget until you go out of town that Austin tattoos are as common as Austin breakfast tacos.
Gully Cat Tattoo has accommodated Austin’s lust for creative expression for 14 years and Mike Terrell–shop owner and Austin native–has been a tattoo artist for nearly two decades. His little shop is just what you’d hope to find on South 1st: a colorful old home turned into a business. This local business adds to the funky vibe that makes South Austin what it is.
Gully Cat Tattoo Keeps Austinites Inked
The vibe inside the shop, however, may not be what you expect from a tattoo studio, which suits Mike just fine. “We try to create a welcoming and unintimidating environment here. We want everyone to feel like their ideas matter and that we’re willing to work with them.”
When I asked Mike what was important to him about his work, I was surprised by his answer. “Education,” said Mike as he apologized for putting a needle into my elbow. “We want people’s ideas to come to life in the best way possible.”
Mike and his fellow tattooers, Jason and Nikki, don’t try to convince clients to adopt an idea they think is better. Instead, they educate clients to help them understand what they may not know about tattoo ink and how images and concepts can transform into even better tattoos.
Tattoo Artists Who Build Relationships With Clients
The three Gully Cat artists have their own unique styles. Mike is known for traditional Americana and Japanese-influenced tattoos. Nikki specializes in big bold color pieces, and Jason has a reputation for motion and dynamic movement. I once caught Jason sketching what looked like a scuba diving dream I once had. The tattoo request? A trippy ocean scene. “That’s all you have to go off of?” I asked as he stared down at his sketch. “Yep.”
These are some of the Gully Cat artists’ favorite opportunities: the chance to bring imagination and individuality to simple concepts.
Mike is passionate about building relationships with clients – and he enjoys a reputation that confirms that. Last week, I visited Independence Fine Foods, one of my favorite local coffee shops, and was stopped by an Austin native who asked about my tattoo artist. When I answered him, he flashed a brilliant smile and pointed to two pieces Mike finished for him 10 years ago. “Nobody can say anything bad about Mike T. He does great work.”
Mike is known first for being a great artist and working with great artists, but he’s also known as a “local guy” and a tattooer’s tattooer.
When I spoke to Mike for the first time, I had visited about seven shops in four months. It was hard for me to decide whether one artist was better than another because all of the pictures on social media and in portfolios looked amazing. How was I going to decide?
What drew me immediately to Mike was his enthusiasm for what I wanted and his willingness to invest in the piece. But to be honest, I would have been happy with any one of the three at Gully Cat.
After watching Mike, Jason and Nikki work with their clients, I know they all share the same attitude: a genuine interest in people’s ideas. I know this to be true because I’ve also seen them turn work away because they didn’t think it would be a good fit. Maybe this is what makes them unique: they are as picky as their clients.
Looking for a new tattoo? Better get in soon. These guys fill up their schedules quickly during the summer. Visit the shop at 2006 South 1st Street, call them at 512-440-7800 or visit their website or Facebook page.
@ATXtherapist wants to know:
Have you thought about getting inked? What tattoo would you get?