Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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‘A piece of the puzzle to Evanston’: City welcomes only tattoo shop

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Photo courtesy of David Libert
David Libert, an artist and owner of Sweetheart Ink Tattoo, said he hopes to create a safe and educational environment for customers.

Since 2010, Tia Ng has gotten 84 tattoos. Her most recent — an outline of a goose holding a knife from a popular meme — was the first-ever tattoo done at Evanston’s only tattoo shop: Sweetheart Ink Tattoo.

Ng learned of the shop’s opening when the owners, fiancées David Libert and Isabella Viola, stopped next door at Hoosier Mama Pie Company, where Ng works.

“I was like, this is a wonderfully terrible idea, because I will spend all of my money there,” Ng said.

After receiving city and state approval, Libert opened Sweetheart Ink Tattoo at 530 Kedzie St. on May 8. Ng saw a post about the store’s opening on Sweetheart Ink Tattoo’s social media and hurried over, wanting to be their first customer.

While there, Ng received a small tattoo and a consultation for a larger piece. She said she was a “proud neighbor” to see the shop up-and-running.

Libert had been tattooing for almost seven years before opening the shop. He said he gravitates toward the Chicago new school style — incorporating color, warped perspective and lines of varying weights.

Viola, on the other hand, began tattooing eyebrows last year. She said she had been drawing on her own brows since she was young and got her certification in September. She is planning to learn other body art tattoos. 

Before the store could open, Sweetheart Ink Tattoo had to receive a city special use permit. Viola said they attended three meetings to present their business plan and answer questions from city officials. Their  request was ultimately approved at the April 29 City Council meeting.

“Everything worked out so perfectly with what we had planned and everything that we wanted to do,” Viola said. “It was almost like it was meant to happen in my eyes.”

The couple said the community’s response to their store has been overwhelmingly positive. Libert said it felt like their shop was “a piece of the puzzle” that had been missing from Evanston. 

Before working as a tattoo artist, Libert was a graphic designer for 13 years. At Columbia College Chicago, he designed his own degree in game art and originally planned to create concept art professionally. 

“Tattooing chose me in a really weird way,” he said. “I wasn’t planning on it. It just presented itself to me.” 

Libert said a friend suggested he do a tattoo apprenticeship while tattooing Disney’s Stitch on the back of Libert’s leg. Shortly after, Libert started an apprenticeship under the same artist as his friend.

At Sweetheart Ink Tattoo, Libert said he is excited to give people their first tattoos and hopes to create an educational environment, setting customers up for success should they choose to get more tattoos. 

“When I talk to people about their tattoos, I make sure they fit form and flow to the shape of their body,” he said. “It’s going to look like it fits, that it’s not a temporary tattoo and that you’re not designing around other things.” 

For Libert, operating a tattoo shop requires trust and customer service, not just artistic ability. He said customers will remember their experience every time they look at their tattoos, so he wants to ensure they have good memories. 

“I’m really just excited to create the experience that we envision,” Libert said. “And now I have the ability to do that without hindrance, pretty much in any way possible.”

Email: [email protected] 

X: @hannahe_webster

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