Amanda Graves has felt a “super strong connection” with the Harry Potter series since she was a kid.
“It was just this world that I became so immersed in, so obsessed with,” Graves, 31, said. “I love talking about it. I love learning about it. Every time a book would come out, I was there waiting for it.”
Graves owns Dark Arts, a Harry Potter-inspired tattoo studio in Bel Air.
“It was a no-brainer to include [it] into my life and my livelihood,” she said.
The shop’s name is inspired by the Potter series — there was an infamous class at Hogwarts called Defence Against the Dark Arts. She said the three main types of tattoos people request are Harry Potter, animé and Pokemon.
Graves started her tattooing career at Spill the Ink in Edgewood. Graves describes her style as “realistic color botanical,” mixed with cartoons. She was at the Edgewood shop for five years before deciding to open her own shop. A month after she opened it, the pandemic hit. So, like many bored internet users, she turned to TikTok.
She thought to herself, “If I’m not gonna tattoo, and I have no job, and the world is burning to the ground, let’s make a TikTok.”
“And that blew up,” she said. “I’m not famous or anything, but it grew our shop, so that’s kind of like how we got to where we’re at.”
Her TikTok account, @amanduhgraves, has more than 473,000 followers and 5.8 million likes on her posts.
Following trends and being social media savvy helped her unlock the key to TikTok success: “I just need to have fun and try not to make anything feel like it’s ever like an advertisement.”
Her 15 years of competitive cheerleading didn’t hurt either.
“Of course, I like performing,” Graves said. “I’m going to learn these stupid dances. And while I do these stupid dances and get your attention, I’m going to educate you on tattoos.”
Graves estimated that about 90% of Dark Arts customers find the studio from TikTok. While she had her own following before, she said the attention has helped some of the newer artists in her shop.
Because of the shop’s success, she moved down the street in November from a 900-square-foot space to one with 3,400 square feet. Graves also recently hired her ninth artist, giving Dark Arts a total of 10.
Kim Stinebaugh, of Fallston, has mutual friends with Graves and has followed her on social media for a while.
“It was fun to see her popularity grow on social media,” Stinebaugh said. “To me, that just proves what an amazing artist and human being she is. If she can get that many people attracted to her for what she does and what she has to say, that’s pretty cool.”
Stinebaugh got her first tattoo, realistic red roses, from Graves about a year ago when Graves had a cancellation in her schedule. She noted it’s hard to book an appointment with Graves.
“She does fill up her book pretty quickly,” Stinebaugh said.
Stinebaugh now has around 10 tattoos from Graves, including a “pink bubbly sparkly beer mug,” a dagger with a woman’s face in it and two different Pikachu tattoos.
Stinebaugh said she especially loves the shop’s vibe.
“You feel so relaxed and so comfortable when you go in there,” she said. “All the artists that work there, they’re like family, so they make you feel like family.”
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Another frequent Dark Arts customer, John Smith of Abingdon, agrees with Stinebaugh’s sentiment.
“It’s not like going to an appointment or anything,” Smith said. “I’m going there to hang out with friends all day and end up with amazing pieces of artwork.”
Smith, now 28, hadn’t gotten a tattoo since he was 18, but after a friend of his got a tattoo from Graves, he decided to visit the shop last August and got three tattoos from another artist. But shortly after that, during a trip to Disney World with his fiance, he saw a cancellation in Graves’ busy schedule.
“She had a Snow White design drawn up, and me and my fiance are big Disney fans,” he said.
Graves was able to squeeze Smith in, and now he’s getting a princess sleeve done on his lower left leg. He has a Pocahontas tattoo as well, and has plans for an Ariel (from “The Little Mermaid”) and Tiana (from “The Princess and the Frog”).
Since August, he’s gotten 13 tattoos from the shop.
“[Dark Arts is] able to take parts of your body you wouldn’t really pay much attention to and then add something beautiful,” he said. “And then you love that part of your body even more.”