Tattoos and coffee shops: collecting moments through ink

"Tattooing is more about the experience—the multitude of events surrounding its creation."

Photo Credit: David Zuccarelli

Tattoos and coffee shops: collecting moments through ink

Written by: David Zuccarelli
March 26, 2018


Elizabeth Grace was 18 years old the first time her parents pleaded that she not get a tattoo. 

“They begged me to wait until I graduated high school, and I did,” Elizabeth says. “But the day after I graduated I went and got my first tattoo. And they cried.” 

That day was almost eight years ago, and today Elizabeth is a freelance photographer in Indianapolis and a part-time barista at Sip Coffee House in Crown Point. She also has many, many (many) more tattoos, and even amidst a societal divide regarding tattoos in the workplace, her boss at Sip would rather Elizabeth show them off than hide who she is. 

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Elizabeth Grace was 18 years old the first time her parents pleaded that she not get a tattoo. 

“They begged me to wait until I graduated high school, and I did,” Elizabeth says. “But the day after I graduated I went and got my first tattoo. And they cried.” 

That day was almost eight years ago, and today Elizabeth is a freelance photographer in Indianapolis and a part-time barista at Sip Coffee House in Crown Point. She also has many, many (many) more tattoos, and even amidst a societal divide regarding tattoos in the workplace, her boss at Sip would rather Elizabeth show them off than hide who she is. 

“As an employer, I would think you’re not getting the full potential of that person if they have to cover up who they are in order to work for you,” says Rhonda Bloch, who opened the restaurant in 2012. 

Both Rhonda and Elizabeth remember Elizabeth’s first day at Sip: it was a particularly hot May afternoon, when Elizabeth arrived dressed in pants and a cardigan to hide her ink. As soon as Bloch spotted Elizabeth, who at this point admits she was somewhat of a sweaty mess, Bloch insisted she do away with the winter-like layering. “She was like, ‘Take that off right now. You need to show off your tattoos,’” Elizabeth says. 

This quick exchange between Bloch and Elizabeth paints a perfect picture of how a shop like Sip Coffee House is constantly bustling with people of all ages, from all backgrounds, displaying all kinds of different appearances. As Bloch likes to put it, the atmosphere is very much ‘Come as you are.’ 

However, a shifting mindset toward tattoos goes beyond the workplace or societal acceptance for Elizabeth, as through the years she’s noticed her own attitude about getting inked change as well. “When I got my first few tattoos I had the mindset that I can’t get anything unless it’s ultra-deep and has some big meaning,” she says. “But sometimes it’s different, because you can just like something, or maybe you’re inspired by the tattoo artist or art in general.” 

More than that, for Elizabeth and many others alike, tattooing is more about the experience—the multitude of events surrounding its creation—than the final product. 

Photo Credit: David Zuccarelli
Elizabeth Grace is a barista at Sip Coffee House in Crown Point.
Photo Credit: David Zuccarelli
Elizabeth Grace is a barista at Sip Coffee House in Crown Point.

“As an employer, I would think you’re not getting the full potential of that person if they have to cover up who they are in order to work for you,” says Rhonda Bloch, who opened the restaurant in 2012. 

Both Rhonda and Elizabeth remember Elizabeth’s first day at Sip: it was a particularly hot May afternoon, when Elizabeth arrived dressed in pants and a cardigan to hide her ink. As soon as Bloch spotted Elizabeth, who at this point admits she was somewhat of a sweaty mess, Bloch insisted she do away with the winter-like layering. “She was like, ‘Take that off right now. You need to show off your tattoos,’” Elizabeth says. 

This quick exchange between Bloch and Elizabeth paints a perfect picture of how a shop like Sip Coffee House is constantly bustling with people of all ages, from all backgrounds, displaying all kinds of different appearances. As Bloch likes to put it, the atmosphere is very much ‘Come as you are.’ 

However, a shifting mindset toward tattoos goes beyond the workplace or societal acceptance for Elizabeth, as through the years she’s noticed her own attitude about getting inked change as well. “When I got my first few tattoos I had the mindset that I can’t get anything unless it’s ultra-deep and has some big meaning,” she says. “But sometimes it’s different, because you can just like something, or maybe you’re inspired by the tattoo artist or art in general.” 

More than that, for Elizabeth and many others alike, tattooing is more about the experience—the multitude of events surrounding its creation—than the final product. 

Take her most recent tattoo, an eclectic-looking wolf on the back of her right hand, for example. She got it just a few months ago, when she and her husband Luke, a professional tattoo artist himself, both had a bit of free time in their normally busy schedules.  

“Luke had this wolf drawn up, and he really wanted to do it,” she says. “Jokingly, we both were like, ‘Oh, it would look super cool on your hand,’ and then his best friend at the shop put the stencil on my hand just to see it.” 

They all immediately agreed that her hand was indeed the perfect location. At the same time, Elizabeth’s husband wasn’t thrilled initially, as he’d have to see his own work every day on one of the most visible areas of his wife’s body. In fact, Luke paced the room for 30 minutes before finally deciding to do it. 

“He held his breath the whole time,” says Elizabeth, smiling as she looks back on her husband’s dramatics for the sake of perfection. “But that was pretty cool how it kind of organically happened.”

And so another tattoo and memory among many was added to this photographer and barista’s collection. As for the space that she has left for future tattoos, Elizabeth plans on traveling and meeting new people in faraway places, adding another piece of art from each new experience to her collection. Indeed, the way Elizabeth puts it, she and her husband are “tattoo collectors.”