If you drive down North Colony Street and get stuck at the red light, you may see a grim reaper in a green-hooded hood tempting you to enter an unusual purple door.
Space Cadet Tattoo is printed in yellow, orange, and black on the sign beside 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 thought it was pretty cool. 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], 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 offers t-shirts, prints, and other artwork.
“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 Project Atomic, a nonprofit service. It’s a mental service for those who want to hide 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 it was pretty 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.”
The opening of Space Cadet Tattoo has been a blessing to 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 store officially opened on August 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 said that things are 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 loud and proud of my morals and what I want the shop to stand for, so I feel like we get a good crowd of open-minded, welcoming people. All the horror enthusiasts in Connecticut and the surrounding areas will creep around the shop. This is also cool. We all kind of vibe with that in common.”
She grew up on the Massachusetts coast. She moved to Connecticut during her last years of high school. She returned to Winsted after traveling and moving around.
“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 is reachable by phone at (203) 375-1855
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