by Britt Chester

Jennifer Spencer to lead General Ink Tattoo | @awfullybrittish

Whereas some might be turned off at the idea of the buzz of needles penetrating your skin, Tommy and Emily Alphin are not opposed to tattoos. The couple just moved back to Winston-Salem in March, and they actually loved the idea of tattooing so much that they wanted to open a shop. They chose a Winston-Salem artist to head up the new operation: Jennifer Spencer will be the first artist tattooing original designs and flash at the forthcoming General Ink Tattoo Company located on 229 5 th St. in downtown Winston-Salem set for a soft opening this weekend.

Spencer has been tattooing for over 10 years, and more than half of those have been spent in the Triad. She’s done sleeves at Ink Well Tattoos in Winston, covered legs at Ink Lab Tattoo and Body Piercing in Kernersville, and sat in at other shops because, like any artist knows, you get in where you fit in.

“With tattooing, I really focus on classical realism and Japanese styles, which makes me sort of sound like a schizophrenic,” Spencer said.

It’s true, given that both of those styles are inherent opposites, but it gives you an idea as to the level of talent she possesses in her hands.

Having been a painter for more than 20 years, a duration that she laughs off, Spencer has learned a lot about herself as an artist by continuing to challenge her work with new styles.

“The artists that trained me were really a lot of plein air painters”¦and I felt stuck because I was painting a lot of the same stuff over and over because that’s what sold,” she said.

Plein air is a French style of painting that is most commonly associated with painting realism outside. It is translated as “in open air.”

“Tattooing was awesome because when I switched over I didn’t have a preconceived notion about what I would do that day. It really expanded the way I draw and what I do.”

How she ended up coming over and starting General Ink Tattoo with the Alphins is much more kismet than simply switching her chosen artistic medium.

“I tattooed Tommy and Emily when I was working in Kernersville, and I expressed that I wanted to open a shop one day,” Spencer said.

The Alphins took this much more seriously than Spencer anticipated.

“When we were driving home after (Jennifer) tattooed us, my husband looked at me and said he wanted to open a tattoo shop,” said Emily.

Although the Alphins are relatively new to Winston-Salem as of late, they both grew up here and just recently wanted to come back to let their roots settle a bit.

The Alphins are in their mid-30s and are the parents of two children, one six-year-old son and one four-year-old daughter. Tommy is a classic car dealer while Emily just recently reentered the workforce through employment with an SEO marketing firm.

“We checked out rent in the area and it turns out that downtown Winston was cheaper than we expected,” Emily recalled. “We talked to (Jennifer) and she was on board.”

The shop is slated for a soft opening on Friday, but all of that is dependent upon whether or not the inspections with the health department pass, as well as handling the back-end business licensing.

For now, General Ink Tattoo Company will house one artist, Spencer, to monitor the traffic and business that it is doing. Spencer hopes to bring in more artists as business continues to grow.

“I have clients from Winston and Kernersville that are waiting for us to open up,” Spencer said. “And this new location seems like it will bring a lot of foot traffic for walk-in clients.” !


General Ink Tattoo Company is slated to open its doors for a soft opening this weekend. The shop is located at 229 5th St. in Winston-Salem. You may call them at (336)793-3300to set up an appointment, or walk right in to see the new spot.