On a Monday afternoon in Columbia Heights, a client fell asleep while getting a chest tattoo at a new studio called Trilogy Atelier.
“The music put them to sleep,” says the shop’s co-owner John Jafari, who was playing Bedouin, a band known for hypnotic, Middle Eastern inspired melodies. “They’re like, ‘When I go into a tattoo shop, I’m expecting metal.’ Don’t get me wrong, I’ll play some Pantera or Tool. I love that. That’s what you think of in a traditional shop. But I put on Bedouin, and the guy literally fell asleep.”
Trilogy Atelier opened on August 5, and it wants to be the kind of tattoo shop where clients feel comfortable enough to doze off. The shop, which doubles as an art gallery, is run by a husband and wife who say they’re hoping to redefine what a tattoo studio can be—starting with “excellent customer service” and a welcoming environment, says co-owner Toni Durantine.
“I’ve gotten a lot of tattoos. I’ve met a lot of artists. And I felt like nobody was really taking the concept and making it more modern,” says Jafari, who isn’t an artist, but has connections to the tattoo scene. “Everybody had a very traditional mindset. Nobody was really taking it to like a whole ‘nother level.”
They plan to hold monthly art exhibitions with local and international artists. Jafari’s father owns a bar under the shop, so visitors can grab a drink at the bar before heading upstairs for the art events. Durantine says she wants to provide a “360 perspective” on artists’ work—tattoo artists often work in multiple mediums, and that can translate into their style of tattooing.
“I want to kind of connect the dots for people,” says Durantine, a paramedical tattoo artist who works on patients to camouflage scars or other physical differences.
Trilogy Atelier also wants to welcome artists overlooked at other studios. The first artist they hired, Kristin Pilkerton, has a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and says Trilogy Atelier is the first tattoo shop she’s worked in that will accommodate her needs. Pilkerton sometimes tattoos clients with Ehlers-Danlos and says artists often turn away clients with the condition due to their skin’s elasticity.
“With Trilogy Atelier, I feel seen beyond my disability,” says Pilkerton, who goes by the name “Faith” professionally. “They saw me as an artist.”
Durantine says she wants Trilogy Atelier to be a collaborative space for their artists to learn and grow. The shop plans to bring in international artists whose styles aren’t already available in DC, and they’re hoping resident artists will get the chance to learn from the guest artists. In November, they’re bringing in a tattoo artist from the UK specializing in color realism, and the owners are in talks to bring in an artist from Iran who inks traditional Persian-style tattoos. Eventually, Trilogy Atelier wants to bring in tattooers who ink with ancient techniques and traditional body-modification artists.
“The lectures, the artists that are coming in—I want to get even crazier down the line,” Durantine says.