KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kalamazoo tattoo shop is helping survivors of domestic violence feel comfortable and beautiful in their own skin.

Owner Mae Risk says tattooing is therapeutic to Heirloom Arts‘ clients.

“What’s so funny is that this (building) used to be a therapist’s office. So… therapy comes through,” Risk said.

So does expression and storytelling through the many designs of Heirloom’s six artists.

“We get… people just wanting a memorial tattoo for someone who’s passed, even their pet… (to) someone who just wants a silly tattoo,” Risk explained.

A few clients who survived domestic violence decided to heal their scars with tattoos from Heirloom at reduced cost. The program is supported by the YWCA in Kalamazoo, which works to support victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Mae Risk of Heirloom Arts. (Feb. 1, 2023)
Mae Risk of Heirloom Arts. (Feb. 1, 2023)

“We’ve been connected to the YWCA through friends who worked there from the beginning,” Risk said. “The first client that we had was through their (program and) was back in the middle of the pandemic, so pretty quickly after we first started… We’ve worked with lots of survivors before that as well.”

Since then, around 30 survivors — either on their own accord or recommended by the YWCA — walked into Heirloom to, as Risk says, reclaim their bodies.

“You’re stronger than what’s on your body. You survived it already,” Risk said. “You get to feel at home with who you are. That affects everyone here who works at the shop. We all have had issues with body image, things like that. Going through tattooing to love parts of you that you might not love about yourself, that is something we love to give to our community and it’s something that we all feel so passionate about.”

Risk and Heirloom Arts can be reached through email or found on Facebook or Instagram.