WALLINGFORD — Driving down North Colony Street you might get stuck at a red light, look up and see a green-hooded grim reaper enticing you to enter a funky purple door.
Through that door is Space Cadet Tattoo, which you can see printed in yellow and orange on the sign next to the hooded reaper.
“Space Cadet came from the fact that I’m a big daydreamer,” said owner Birdie Anderson. “Throughout school, at any grade level, I always had a teacher say that I was a space cadet because I just spaced out or would like doodle all the time. I always thought it was really rad. And also, in middle school I was talking to my grandma and she said there used to be a radio show called ‘Space Cadet’ where these cadets would go into space to help capture these guys that got trapped out there and their adventure.”
Tie together her love of art and horror and you have this grim but colorful tattoo and art studio.
“There are three of us: myself, Paige [Frisbee] and Ryan [Murphy] and we all kind of do a little bit of everything,” Anderson said. “We’re all basically independent artists and licensed tattoo artists.”
The artists do a lot of ’80s nostalgic horror tattoo work, but also a bit of neo-traditional. The shop also offers print work, t-shirts and other art.
“As far as t-shirts and prints, I like to do woodcut, carving the design out and then basically stamping it on to whatever material. They used it a lot on protest posters where you see it’s blocky and chiseled out. I really liked that look, and I wanted to keep that vintage old school look for the shop,” Anderson said. “Paige makes her own stickers and prints by hand, so that’s pretty cool. And Ryan just finished a comic book that we’re hoping to sell here at the shop.”
“I love the name Space Cadet and I think all of the things they do are positive,” said Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. “They offer a range of services and products and obviously there is creativity and marketing so we hope that they are able to continue to have a healthy and strong business here in town.”
Anderson also offers a nonprofit service called Project Atomic. It is a mental health service for people who want to cover up their self harm scars.
“If you qualify you get (the service) for free,” she said. “I was taking four people a month but I slowed it down to just one person a month right now.”
In the future Anderson hopes to sell some of the items on display in the shop, do conventions and offer paint classes and movie nights.
“I’ve always wanted to go into art. Originally, I wanted to go into film, but I decided to go into a regular career to start and went into veterinary,” Anderson said. “While I was working there I had a coworker who was watching me draw and was like, ‘you should pursue this’ so that’s kind of how that happened.”
Anderson said it was a bit of a difficult start entering the tattoo world due to it being a male-dominated industry.
“When I started getting into it, Instagram was just becoming a thing. So I started seeing that there were more artists out there and there were a lot of other styles, not just traditional. I thought that was kind of cool. I'll give it a shot and see how it goes, and it worked out,” she said. “There was a shop that ended up taking me on and I did an apprenticeship for a while.”
Opening Space Cadet Tattoo was an unexpected blessing for Anderson.
“I had been tattooing for a little bit and I ran into some health issues and thought it might be a good idea to have my own space to come and go. It kind of grew and bloomed into what it is now,” she said.
The business started in a small office space in Winsted, but after driving by 28 North Colony St. last summer and seeing the for rent sign, she had the idea to expand.
“In July 2022 I applied and got it,” said Anderson.
Anderson had a lot of work to do to turn the old soap shop into a tattooing space. She sought to expose the old ceilings, open up the space, and add lots of decorations and bright colors.
“I wanted it to be a little different from your stereotypical tattoo shop,” she said. “I want it to be more inviting and just let the personality shine through.”
The biggest hurdle she faced was learning how to become a business owner while battling cervical cancer.
“It made me feel like I had to pick one or the other. Do I stay home and take care of myself or do I keep pushing through?” she said.
Anderson persevered and the shop officially opened on Aug. 1, 2022.
“We always want new businesses to open up in the area and welcome them,” said Liz Davis, executive director at Wallingford Center Inc. “I’m glad they’re here and can add to our business community.”
Anderson shared that everything has been going well.
“We’ve gotten a decent amount of people coming through; it’s nice being on this street because people walk by or get stuck at this light,” Anderson said. “And I’m kind of loud and proud with my morals and what I want the shop to stand for and so I feel like we get a good crowd of open-minded, welcoming people. All the horror fans in Connecticut and surrounding areas will come in and kind of creep on the shop, which is cool too. We all kind of vibe with that in common.”
Anderson grew up in Massachusetts. She moved to Connecticut in her later years of high school. After moving around and traveling she returned to Winsted where she started a family.
“It’s a little bit of a commute, but it’s worth it,” Anderson said. “I like the location; I love the landlord, he’s awesome; and all my neighbors are pretty nice.”
Space Cadet Tattoo can be found on their website at https://spacecadettattoo.com or on Instagram @spacecadettattoo.
Space Cadet Tattoo can be reached by phone at 203-675-1855