When you walk in to the Trufant Bros tattoo parlor at 227 S. Chadbourne in San Angelo, the first thing you notice is how clean and organized it is. The shop isn’t just clean, it’s clinical-level clean. Everything prepackaged and wrapped and is sterile. This isn’t some backroom tattoo parlor in south Dallas, this is a beautiful shop with 2 intelligent and creative brothers running it, Aubrey and Alex Trufant.
The shop is busy, with customers in the front waiting for ink and those in the back that are getting their ink.
Aubrey and Alex own the most successful tattoo parlor in this city of 100,000+ people. They are also the creators and driving force behind the West Texas Tattoo Convention. This year will mark the convention’s 11th year and Aubrey says that the convention gets bigger each year, “Last year we had 2,800 attendees and over 150 artists over the 3 days of the convention.”
Another thing you notice about the tattoo parlor are the certificates thanking them for their various involvement with charities around the city, such as the Christmas for the Homeless event, churches and more. They aren’t just in the city, they are an integral part of the city.
The old negative stereotype that says that only convicts, gang members and sailors get tattoos has fallen by the wayside, and rightfully so. Now, everyone from CEOs to doctors to your banker has tattoos, many of them having more than just 1 tattoo. The stigma has changed, and especially so in San Angelo due to the work of Aubrey and Alex. Change takes time and Aubrey says that they embrace the change, “We want to help the public understand what tattooing is all about and to let them see what a good tattoo looks like. We started to help change the culture in San Angelo. When we opened our shop 15 years ago, there were maybe 3 tattoo parlors in the city.” The Trufant brothers’ success has had them moving to bigger and bigger locations. The shop on Chadbourne is the 3rd location for their shop and it’s in the heart of downtown.
Aubrey and Alex are both cerebral, putting serious thought into everything that they do. The brothers marry their creativity with their intelligence, not wanting to just put some ink on someone and get paid, as Aubrey points out, “When you leave someone with a good experience, it can give them confidence. It can change how they view themselves and how others view them.”
The West Tattoo Convention is an extension of their creativity, seeing something that was needed and getting it done. Aubrey says that the success was noticed quickly by the City of San Angelo, “We were praised when we started the tattoo convention. The city wanted us to have it twice a year because they saw how successful it was. People come from all over the state. That tells me the impact that the tattoo convention has.” Alex says that the convention helps them out in many ways, “It’s very fulfilling and it gives us a purpose. We’re all about putting smiles on people’s faces.” Aubrey agrees, “We’re very proud of that.” Aubrey says that their customers come from all demographics, “We have a very wide range of customers. People from all walks of life come to our shop and to the convention. It’s nice to know that we’ve changed the culture and how tattooing is perceived.”
Aubrey says that not everyone who comes through their door has a firm idea of what they want. He says that many want the tattoo artist’s input, and talks about the process, “It’s hard to describe. When people are talking to me and describing what they want, the best way to describe the process is, ‘magic.’ It’s a transfer of energy coupled with pride in your work. My goal isn’t just to give someone a good tattoo; my goal is to establish a relationship with someone. Many of my customers become my friends.”
Being a tattoo artist is similar to other occupations where someone spends a lot of time with customers, such as a bartender or hairstylist, because most people spend hours getting just a single tattoo. Some have to come back several times for large, intricate designs. Aubrey says that gives them a lot of time to talk, “There is a special connection made. It takes skill and creativity to do the art. Sometimes people share deeply personal experiences with us that they might not share otherwise.”
The brothers are both also Air Force veterans and know discipline and self-motivation. Those qualities are evident in the orderliness of their shop and the respect that they treat each customer with. Whether you’re a guy off the street, a laborer or a business owner, every person is treated with the same respect. It’s apparent that that it what endears them to so many people and is a tribute to the success of their business. It is also a key to the success of the tattoo convention. The brothers treat the other artists who come for the convention like they treat their customers and their friends. When you get a tattoo from Trufant Bros, you’re getting more than just some ink to show off; you’re getting a true personal experience and maybe making a new friend.
Many of the artists who will be at the convention are already booking appointments. Artists come from California to New York and all areas in between. There will be over 150 artists again this year. For more information you can check out the Trufant brothers’ website: www.trufantbros.com
This year the tattoo convention will be from February 28th – March 1st. The hours are: Friday – 2 p.m. – 10 a.p.; Saturday – 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Sunday – 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. This year the West Texas Tattoo Convention will be held at the Foster Communication Coliseum at 50 E. 43rd street.