Behind the cherry-red front door of Old Hand Tattoo is a shop that gives off the American traditional tattoo parlor aesthetic, with antique wood and leather chairs. Scattered around the shop are trinkets including a globe, a sewing machine and a vintage Fisher Price record player that spins classical music. There are also Old Hand T-shirts neatly folded on a table and apparel displayed near the entrance.
Mitchell “Deso” DeSouza, 37, is the owner and primary artist of Old Hand Tattoo. After years of tattooing at his shop Virtuoso in Hurst, Texas for 15 years, Mitchell decided to put down new roots in Denton after getting a taste of the community while participating in local jiujitsu competitions.
“I got that homey feel [in Denton],” Mitchell said. “I was born in Fort Worth and raised my whole life in Hurst. My business was built there. The hardest part about my life was building a business in the city I was from. People [you know], they don’t give you the benefit of the doubt, so you have to prove yourself.”
Mitchell said the past three months Old Hand has been open to the public have been “beautiful” and the support he has received, from other local tattoo shops as well, has made him feel welcome.
“[Old Hand Tattoo is] going to cater to Denton to show that our tattoo artists involved here are not scared to be part of the community,” Mitchell said. “We don’t have anything to hide. We are artists, we want to deal with people because people keep us inspired so we can keep doing our thing.”
Over the course of the two decades he has been tattooing, Mitchell said he has learned the importance of making customers feel comfortable because tattoo shops can be intimidating for some people.
“I want [clients] to come in and know [their] money is respected here, that not everybody can afford a thousand-dollar tattoo, so if you came in here with $100, you’re going to be treated with the same respect as someone coming in here with $1,000,” Mitchell said. “I’m going to do my damnedest to give you the best tattoo I can.”
Trey Burke, a friend of Mitchell’s, met him four years ago at a vintage motorcycle shop in Fort Worth and since then, has gotten tattooed by him.
“I hit [Mitchell] up last minute to go get tattooed out in Denton because I couldn’t find anyone [else] and he brought me in,” Burke said. “I got a rose with a Creedence Clearwater Revival cassette tape coming out of it for a friend’s dad who passed away and I was really close to. I went [and] got it on his birthday.”
Burke said he trusted Mitchell’s artistic ability and wanted Mitchell to make his own mark with the tattoo he gave him.
“I know a lot of the stuff he does is traditional style, but I think he kind of puts his own touches in there,” Burke said. “Whenever he tattooed me, some people might be a little picky, but I just told him, ‘Do your thing.’”
All of the merchandise in Old Hand’s shop, down to the jewelry, shirts, jeans and jackets, are made by either Mitchell or his wife Sonja, who tattoos under the name QD.
“It’s stressful because you’re maintaining two different-style businesses, but I merge them all through art,” Mitchell said. “It all comes from [the] art side of my brain. Art inspires me when I see colors and images and it gives me dreams and visions for my life. I decided to say, ‘Hey, take stress out of the equation and find out the positive common ground,’ and it was art. Everything is created from a human’s vision or imagination.”
For now, Mitchell is Old Hand’s only permanent artist, but he often invites guest artists to tattoo customers in the shop with him. In the future, he said he hopes to invite friends who are “master tattooers” in other parts of the world like Europe, Colombia and Asia to come to the shop and tattoo.
“I wanted to do a one-man show so I can build a reputation around Denton before I start hiring people so Denton knows what my standards are,” Mitchell said. “I can hire 10 guys right now, but someone might be lazy, someone might give off the wrong vibe. I’m new to the community and I want Denton to know anyone hired through us is going to treat you with the same respect I would, whether I’m here or not.”
Out of the hundreds of tattoos Mitchell has done, he said his favorite is the piece he did on Sonja. The tattoo is on her lower forearm and is of a queen above the phrase “self taught.”
“My wife is my best friend, and that was like a badge of honor for her because it empowers her being a mother and the way she carries our family,” Mitchell said.
Sonja, who acts as Old Hand Tattoo’s Shop Collaborative Artist and Designer, said she is partial to Denton as well and supportive of the new era of tattooing that Old Hand will bring.
“I’m very excited for [Mitchell and me] to be in the Denton community,” Sonja said. “It is one of my favorite neighborhoods in the DFW and we look forward to being a part of the eclectic culture Denton is known for.”
Featured Image: Mitchell “Deso” DeSouza sits by a wall of flash tattoo designs in his new Denton tattoo shop. Mitchell is the owner and primary artist at Old Hand Tattoo. Image by: Will Baldwin.