Walking into Ink Gallery seeing the string lights and faux foliage decorating high vaulted ceilings indicates to any visitors that this is no ordinary tattoo studio.
Owned by Montclair State University alum Tiffany Perez, Fairfield’s newest – and New Jersey’s largest – tattoo studio is a place where all are welcome to express themselves through any art medium they see fit, most notably through the art of tattoos.
Perez chose to name the shop Ink Gallery for this very reason, saying that she wanted the judgment-free shop “to feel almost like an art gallery, but more connected with tattoos.” She creates a welcoming environment for her customers, but she also strives to do this for her employees as well.
“I always knew that I wanted to be in and create a shop that would feel like a family, like a home, a place that would encourage inspiration and creativity,” Perez said. “So here I like to call it my Ink Family.”
Her Ink Family didn’t come out of nowhere though, as Perez has spent years perfecting her craft and growing her customer base. After being gifted a tattoo machine by her dad during her junior year at Montclair State, Perez fell in love with the art.
“Tattooing was something that was not in the plans for me, it just kind of fell into my lap, so once my father gave me that machine, I grew this passion for it,” Perez said. “And I said, ‘I want to be a tattoo artist.’”
Since then, she has done hundreds – if not thousands – of tattoos, and worked on countless celebrities, including the Jersey Shore star, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi. Perez has also appeared as an artist on the TV shows “Best Ink,” “Black Ink Crew” and “How Far Is Tattoo Far?”
Perez graduated from Montclair State in 2009 with a BFA in art with a concentration in drawing, additionally spending time studying art education during her degree. She says her time at Montclair State has helped her as not only an owner but a tattoo artist and mentor.
“I’m using what I learned from Montclair [State] and teaching that to my apprentices, a.k.a. my students,” Perez said. “So it’s funny because when they’re in this program, they have a whole binder and every week they have homework assignments and things that they have to do.”
One of her apprentices, Jordan Tinitigan, attended Montclair State from 2020 to 2022 and is thankful for the opportunity to be mentored by Perez at Ink Gallery.
“She’s teaching me how to tattoo, teaching me ways to pull a line and shade – but also seeing how she runs the business and manages the 20-plus people working here, and how she became the biggest shop in New Jersey,” Tinitigan said.
As an apprentice, Tinitigan has just started accepting clients. One of which, Bailey Zrebiec, is a senior mathematics and education major at Montclair State University. She spoke about her experience with Tinitigan.
“[Tinitigan] was very professional, mindful of my comfort level and easygoing,” Zrebiec said. “[Tinitigan’s] mentor [Perez] gave a lot of good feedback and advice to [Tintigan]. I’m super happy with how my tattoo turned out, and I can’t wait to go back.”
Ink Gallery’s original location in Woodland Park sported three shared booths within its walls, but at its new location in Fairfield, NJ, the two-floor studio holds 12 artists and three apprentices, along with a piercer and space for guest artists.
In the future, Perez hopes to use the space to host more events for the community.
“I can throw more events, more connected to the arts, whether that’s like, you know, painting nights or poetry night or live music,” Perez said. “Just bringing all the arts together in this place, I think is a great way for the community to get involved.”
Their next event will take place on Feb. 22, and will be a fundraiser for Lyme disease, with a portion of proceeds from its dedicated flash sheet going toward a foundation benefiting people with the disease.