Redefining an Industry

When potential customers first enter Steel Paintbrush Tattoo Company in Frisco, they might initially do a double take of their surroundings. With a spacious and welcoming sitting area, white walls with tasteful decorations and a friendly greeting from the shop owner, Dennis Matthews, they might experience the opposite of what one would typically expect when walking into a tattoo parlor. “Our place is completely different from most tattoo shops,” remarks Mr. Matthews. “Most tattoo shops are the standard red walls and black trim. They have been that way since the 1980s, and I think that works in some places, but I do not think Frisco is one of them.”

While he never considered himself an artist growing up in N.J., Mr. Matthews was always fascinated by the ability to create things from one’s own mind. He enjoyed drawing a bit in his spare time, but considered his father to be the talented artist in his family. “I just kind of wanted to learn the business and a buddy took me under his wing,” he comments about his professional background. “Tattooing is a business that is really rewarding and it is a great business model if you do it differently, like we do here.”

When Mr. Matthews opened Steel Paintbrush just a few months ago, he wanted to create a more upscale environment to appeal to his local Frisco clientele, while also alleviating the negative stigma surrounding the tattoo industry. Not only has he achieved this within his own shop, but his wife, Kimberly, is also making her mark with her body-piercing studio, Pin Cushion, located just next door. “With my wife’s shop, 99 percent of the people she pierces are 17 year olds with their parents, and they just keep coming back because both she and her shop are so welcoming,” Mr. Matthews says.

Mrs. Matthews’ business next door is not only unique with its light pink walls, plush furniture and kid-friendly-décor, but also in its business model. Most tattoo shops and body piercing studios are one in the same. However, the Matthews have completely separated the two, hoping to further improve people’s thoughts on the often-stereotyped industries.

Oftentimes, parents take their children to places at the mall to get their ears pierced, simply because they are worried about even entering a typical tattoo and piercing environment. By making Pin Cushion a singular entity, Mrs. Matthews has been able to reach a wider, younger audience. Additionally, Pin Cushion sells a variety of handmade jewelry from local artists in or around Frisco. “I worked in a traditional tattoo shop for nine years and I wanted everything that was not so that my clients could feel more relaxed,” she shares. “Little girls come in here and they love the pink cushions. It is very girly and glittery, but still very sterile.”

The Matthews have two children of their own, a 9-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son, and they love how family-oriented Frisco is and the community feel that the city offers. While the couple hopes to open another Pin Cushion location in the near-future, their biggest priority right now is their kids and making sure they are very involved in their everyday lives. “Frisco is a little big city. It is a great place to raise your kids,” Mr. Matthews comments. “I think one of the coolest things I have gotten to see since we opened our shops is how many families we have come in, which is something I had never seen at any other shops I have worked in. Not long ago, I tattooed a 73-year-old woman who brought her daughter and grandson. It was three generations of people who all got a memorial tattoo for a family member who passed away, so getting to see stuff like that is really cool.”

As a self-taught artist, Mr. Matthews has no professional schooling in artistry, but he has been interested in tattooing his whole life. He has worked as a tattoo artist since 2001. He got his first tattoo when he was 18, and he has continued his collection into his adult years. His most recent tattoo was completed on his forearm by a friend while he was traveling in Germany.

Tattooing is not just the illustration of the stereotypical skulls, demons and motorcycles. For many people, it is an art form developed around the idea of documenting both the good and bad parts of their lives. It is hardly ever about putting off a certain persona. Similarly, Mrs. Matthews has seen an influx of customers coming in to her shop seeking a particular piercing for a surprising new reason: migraine relief.

As Mrs. Matthews explains, the daith piercing is an ear piercing that passes through the ear’s innermost cartilage fold. Once pierced, the earring put into place applies continuous pressure on a large pocket of cartilage that is an acupuncture point connected to headache relief. “We have had people walk in with a migraine that is at a level 12, and by the time they are done and go to leave, it is gone,” Mrs. Matthews says. “I never really believed it, but then I started doing research and I did my own study to make sure this was something that actually worked. I pierced eight of my friends and out of those eight, only one of them still gets migraines, but they are not nearly as common or severe.” Mrs. Matthews has been doing daith piercings for nearly 10 years for aesthetic purposes, but has just recently seen an influx of people coming in wanting it for pain relief. She is now performing several of these piercings every week and even has neurologists and acupuncturists recommending Pin Cushion to patients with severe headache problems.

However, bringing about pain relief through body piercing has really just been an unforeseen perk for Mrs. Matthews. She really wanted her studio to be a destination that is appropriate for children. “As a mother myself, I want my shop to be a place where moms are comfortable bringing their daughters or sons. It makes them feel more relaxed because this is not the kind of environment where they might see or hear something inappropriate,” she shares.

Mrs. Matthews has always had a passion for working with children, having studied respiratory therapy in college and working with young kids through that industry for many years. However, she soon learned it was hard for her to be surrounded by sick children and fell into one of her other passions, the tattoo and body piercing industry. “I love kids. I have been involved with different things around Frisco that involve children, such as Girl Scouts, so I naturally cater to children when it comes to my business,” she says.

For this Frisco couple, getting to share their talents with the community and local customers is a daily occurrence. While the tattoo and piercing industries may not have representation in too many parts of Frisco, the Matthews are bringing new light to their art and adding a little edge to the unique and expanding economy in our city.

Rachel Beaird is a recent University of Arkansas graduate, travel enthusiast and a public relations aficionado.