If passersby don't look carefully, they might miss Treasure Tattoo (2350 St. Claude Ave., 504-344-7989; www.facebook.com/treasuretattoonola), a vibrant little tattoo shop nestled on St. Claude Avenue.
"We got lucky," owner Jamie Ruth says. "It's a really beautiful building."
Though the shop opened in 2015, Ruth used the studio space in the rear of the same building as a tattoo parlor for several years before expanding. When the front area became available, Ruth snagged it and remodeled, adding a gallery space in the entrance, wooden partitions and cheerful yellow, teal and red paint in the customer area.
"I kind of look at what I do as classic American tattooing," Ruth says. "I do a wide variety. I started tattooing in a real street shop, which is very different from what I'm doing now but influences my style. ... We take walk-ins, but we mostly work by appointment."
In 1995, Ruth moved from Michigan to apprentice for "English" Craig, a tattoo artist in Kenner.
"He still has a shop out there," Ruth says. "I met Craig when I was 18 and I wanted to learn how to tattoo, so I moved to New Orleans to learn from him. After that, I traveled a lot and lived in lots of different places and eventually made a decision to live in New Orleans."
Clients can make an appointment with Ruth or Stacey Colangelo, the other tattoo artist at the shop.
"I wanted to create a space for clients, for people who wanted to get tattooed by me," Ruth says. "It's a private feeling."
Ruth's clients get a lot of individual time and a calm, comfortable atmosphere. Clients have a consultation with the artist before getting inked. Ruth or Colangelo might spend a whole day working on one tattoo.
"Our goal isn't really to be a high-volume shop," Ruth says. "We do it sometimes, if people want that and we have time, but we really like to work with people who have given it some thought and want us to tattoo them. It isn't on purpose, but we tattoo a lot of women, who feel comfortable here, especially since we have a private area."
Ruth prides herself on being among only a handful of female tattoo artists in the city.
"When I started, there were only two or three women tattooing in New Orleans," Ruth says. "There weren't too many of us. At the old shop, I'd occasionally get someone who didn't want to get tattooed by me because I was a woman or would be surprised that I tattooed."
The tattoo world remains male-dominated, but Ruth takes it in stride.
"This is true of every aspect of your life," she says. "You're held to a bit of a higher standard as a woman. It makes you work a bit harder."