By all accounts, Danny Birch is something of a visionary. “The trick is to use hazelnut milk if you want to get the flavour right,” he said whilst handing me the coffee. “It makes all the difference.”
As I sat there and savoured the taste, I couldn’t help but agree. Not content with making one of the best lattes I’d ever had, he also just happens to be the owner of his very own tattoo parlour.
It’s called Heart for Art and from the word go you really get the impression that it’s more than just a job for him.
You could forgive me for thinking I’d walked into the wrong building, what with the custom-built Mutt motorcycle on one side and an impressively hand-carved wardrobe on the other. The room was no bigger than a bedroom, but that was just part of the illusion as the man of the hour emerged miraculously from a secret door like he’d just stepped out of Narnia.
This is a tattoo parlour with a difference. After giving the grand tour and treating me to one of his own coffee concoctions, we sat down and discussed his plans for the future and why being a tattoo artist means so much to him.
‘Timeless, bespoke body art’ isn’t just Heart for Art’s mantra but a way of life, according to Danny. Getting a tattoo is one of the most important parts of some people’s lives, so making sure that they get something that’s special and unique to them is pivotal.
“We strive to create a positive experience,” he says. “This art will tell your story now and forever. It will project your individuality to the world and everyone you meet.”
He says he wants to break the ‘tattoo taboo’ by offering body art for everybody and he means it, too. He went into great detail about the significance of getting a tattoo, saying that it’s something everyone should feel free to experience, even those who previously felt they couldn’t. One vision that he’s currently working on revolves around adding tattoos to prosthetic limbs so that even limbless tattoo enthusiasts can share in the process.
In spite of his best efforts however, there’s still something of a stigma surrounding tattoos in the mainstream media, with the suggestion being that mainly convicts, gang members and aggressive people would consider getting something permanently inked on their bodies.
However, this is something that Danny and his team at Heart for Art are keen to educate us on, as he suggested that body art means something. At its core it has values, which is something he was adamant his team got across in every piece of work they did. That’s the message behind ‘timeless, bespoke body art,’ he says.
“Education is a big part of tattoo culture for me,” he says. “Getting one is a big deal and not everyone understands just how permanent they can be.”
As part of this philosophy, he revealed that he’d like to give lectures to young students and explain the risks and dispel the stigmas behind getting inked.
“I’d tell kids not to get a tattoo at 18 to be honest. You need to think on it. We aren’t the same people when we’re that age as we are in ten years, so I’d like to get that across.”
His lessons aren’t just restricted to schoolkids, however, as he holds monthly ‘tips and tricks’ meetings with his staff so that they can share ideas.
“Personal development is very important here, as it helps us find new ideas and get the best for our customers.”
It’s this mentality that has taken Danny and his team so far. Having initially started out in a tiny room inside an old mill in Mossley with his brother Tomm (with two m’s), they soon opened up a much larger place in Stalybridge – the very same workplace their great granddad worked in the 1940’s – and recently opened up another studio in Sale.
After a bit of hard work and plenty of happy customers, Danny and his brother now have their eyes firmly set on the future where they have plans to open up a shop in all four corners of Manchester. He’s already halfway there.
If you want a timeless, bespoke piece of body art make sure you check out Danny and his team at Heart for Art.