By Carol Stiffler

Luce County’s first licensed tattoo artist is a woman, and she’s extremely busy. Sydni Brodock, a 2015 Newberry High School graduate, is a self-taught fine line tattoo artist. She opened Wyld Flower Studio on Newberry Avenue in August 2023 and soon had a grand opening event of sorts where she inked 31 tattoos on clients who were waiting in line on the sidewalk before her shop even opened.

Tattoos are having a moment, Brodock said. She’s currently seeing clients as young as teenagers – though she’s established a policy that she won’t tattoo anyone younger than 16 – and as old as grandparents.

“I’ve tattooed the side of nurses’ necks. I’ve given sleeves to doctors. I have a police officer who comes and sees me,” Brodock said. “Very professional people have tattoos now, and it’s amazing.”

Wyld Flower Studio is open every weekday from 2-10 p.m., and Brodock fits an average of three to six tattoos into a day’s work. Clients schedule out well in advance, and her planner is full.

Brodock has a number of tattoos herself, though not as many as you might think.

“They’re just kind of, weirdly, not my thing,” she said. “I just really love the art, and I love when other people have tattoos.”

To learn the art, she practiced on fruit and vegetables and people who “didn’t care” what tattoo she put on their bodies. While other tattoo artists are mentored and told to start with the largest needles to make the broadest, most forgiving lines, Brodock took the opposite approach.

“I thought when I started, I’ll use the smallest needle. That way if I mess up, I can cover it,” she said. “And it just worked out to where I now am the best with fine lines.”

Fine line tattoos allow her to create intricate pieces like flowers with delicate petals or highly detailed designs.

Brodock sees the body as a canvas for art and piercing, another service she provides. As an artist, it’s an interesting position to be in: she’s the artist and the work is hers, but the design and placement may not be; she might not even enjoy the finalized design. She works with clients to develop the tattoo they’ve been dreaming of, and creates the approved tattoo even if it’s not what or how she’d prefer.

“The main goal is that the client is happy,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if I like it or not. It matters if the client likes it.”

Though there are no regulations about what she can and can’t tattoo on an individual, Brodock has established some limitations of her own. She won’t provide a racist or hateful tattoo – no swastikas, for example – but will cover up someone else’s racist or hateful tattoo for free.

Brodock also won’t tattoo a pregnant or breastfeeding woman, and she’s legally not able to give someone a tattoo while they are drunk or high on drugs.

There are hardly any state regulations in Michigan for tattoo artists. The artist doesn’t need to be formally trained or licensed, but the tattoo studio must be licensed. Inside the studio, rules about cleanliness are plentiful – surfaces must be disinfected and covered; the artist has to wear gloves and replace them at least three times during the tattoo; all supplies except ink must be single-use and sterile; and the disinfectant must kill tuberculosis.

Brodock gave her fiancé, Brett Burton, a full-color tattoo of a seven-inch brook trout on his left arm last week. A devoted angler, Burton had been designing and planning the tattoo for years, he said. Burton is no stranger to tattoos – he’s got a bunch, including four from Brodock. He says he has a steady hand and gave himself three tattoos on his leg, and has tattooed his friends.

“I used to do the tattooing,” he said. “I was never as good as her, that’s for sure.”

Burton sits quietly during his sessions, sometimes gazing at his fiancé with admiration while she works. “She’s very talented,” he said.