As they gear up for their grand opening, SinnerG Tattoos lets us know what to expect from their haunted-house-style tattoo shop.
As dark arts enthusiasts and intricate artists, local couple Sabrina Elliotte and Jorge “Gwooki” Aguirre look the part — and they’re damn good at what they do. Talented as the pair are, they’re just as friendly as they were when they started working together back in the 2000s. Now, though, they’ve got significantly more body modifications and vintage clothes — and they’re bringing real artistry to their tattoos.
Gwooki specializes in dark, surreal, and biomechanical tattoos, which are less about the object itself and more about textures.
“I like doing more blackwork,” said Elliotte, speaking about a form of black and grey realism that is created through use of black ink.
SinnerG Tattoos‘s brick-and-mortar location, which will soon open at 315 W. Broad Street, is set to bring haunted house elements into the world of the tattoo shop.
“It’s going to look like a haunted house from the way it’s designed, but it’s not actually going to be a haunted house,” said Elliotte. “It’s going to be more of a walkthrough gallery with scares set up.”
The couple has been collecting the items they plan to decorate the shop with for years, starting around a decade ago. Among other items, SinnerG will have a skull from Borneo, in addition to both a voodoo skull and a skeleton from the 1800s.
“It’s going to look like you’re in a haunted house — it’s not going to be just a store,” said Gwooki. “It’s going to have walls that look like catacombs, and [a dark atmosphere]. It’ll be like a haunted-house gallery where we sell art, have installations, and also a work area where we tattoo.”
They’re adding a museum-like context to the gallery, providing historical and evolutionary facts about their artifacts.
“We’ve got a French bulldog skull,” said Gwooki, “and we’re going to have the skull of a [natural] dog next to it, so people can see how deformed their skulls are because of the way humans have bred them.”
Having heard all of that, you might expect some supernatural aspect to be present in the shop. However, the couple are not superstitious. Not even a little bit.
“Maybe that’s why, because I’m not scared of it. It’s like, challenging it. I think that I try to get people to be less superstitious, actually,” said Gwooki.
“For me, it’s very liberating,” said Elliotte. “I don’t find it dark — to me, it’s beautiful. Other people, they see these skulls and think of death, but to me, it’s just a cycle of life. You’re celebrating life, almost, or seeing a part of history. A lot of people are into antiques, so when I see a skull from Borneo, I think, ‘Whoa, this is interesting! I want to know why these people did this.’ It makes me want to do research, versus someone seeing a skeleton and thinking, ‘I don’t want to touch that, that’s a dead person.’”
They may not believe in fate or superstition, but SinnerG’s owners have had some pretty wicked events happen to them. Gwooki got a chance to tattoo one of his personal heroes (and a Richmond legend), Dave Brockie of GWAR, before he passed away.
“That was a huge honor,” said Gwooki. Gwooki explains that GWAR’s entire presence as a band was a major formative influence, one that helped lead to his tattooing Brockie in the first place.
“I’m a big fan of GWAR. They changed my life since I was a kid, in a sense of feeling more comfortable of who I was. Seeing their costumes and seeing them perform helped me [feel comfortable being myself],” said Gwooki. “At one of their shows, I saw him walk by in the crowd, and I asked if I could take a picture with him. He said sure, and before he left I left I gave him a flier of my whole portfolio printed.”
As for the supernatural side of things, Gwooki’s thoughts have evolved over time.
“When I was a kid — when I did believe in it — supernatural stuff did happen to me,” he said. “Then as I got older, I took psychology classes and started second-guessing it. Now, I think it was just chemicals in my brain making me believe something that wasn’t actually happening.”
Nonetheless, spooky tales and imagery retain an undeniable hold over him.
“I’ve always liked dark stuff, since I was a kid. In cartoons, I always liked the bad guy more,” Gwooki laughed.
“I personally believe that a lot of the dark things that people see usually aren’t [dark], and the things that are supposed to be presented as ‘good’ are secretively more evil than the things presented as dark,” said Elliotte.
“It’s like any other superstition,” Gwooki said. “It works for people who believe in it, but when you don’t believe, it doesn’t work.”
SinnerG’s brick-and-mortar location isn’t open yet, but you can get in contact with them via their website, sinnergtattoos.com. Or you can call them on the phone, at (804)429-9666 — and no, the last three digits were not a coincidence.
“We just asked if, by any chance, we could get a different number ending in 666,” Elliotte said with a grin. “Somebody’s got to have it. It was funny to us, just a little touch. It’s just a number, right?”
If you agree, SinnerG just might be the tattoo shop for you.
Photos via SinnerG Tattoos