Tattoo artist Lilly Hibbs specializes in rudimentary renderings of cartoon characters such as Patrick Star, Spongebob Squarepants’ best bud. She’s a novice, but with an advantage — edgy artistry runs in her family.

To date, she has only tattooed seven clients, including both of her parents, but she’s in no real rush. She’ll have plenty of time to practice her potential profession this summer, before she enters the fifth grade.

“Lilly gave her first tattoo when she was seven,” says Stephen Hibbs, Lilly’s father and owner of Suffer City tattoos on Garland Road near White Rock Lake.

“If you look up ‘7-year-old learning to tattoo’ on YouTube[.com], you can watch her give me this,” says Stephen, pointing to a smiling starfish inked just above his inner ankle.
Lilly seems fated to be an artist. Aside from having a tattooist for a father, her mother is a staff artist at Obscurities, an Oak Lawn-area piercing and tattoo studio. And her stepmother, Maria Hibbs, just opened Squaresville Studios two doors down from Suffer City. Stylishly stark, the photography studio complements the strip’s ultra (if covert) coolness.

Stephen, who opened his pristine, award-winning tattoo studio about 12 years ago, met Maria, an apprentice photographer, while visiting Leipzig, Germany, in 2004. The two fell in love, and Stephen briefly considered staying. Not wanting to separate little Lilly from either of her parents, however, Maria and Stephen returned to Dallas together and married in 2005. They made a home in Little Forest Hills close to Stephen’s tattoo studio, and Maria went into business as a freelance photographer.

With a flair for producing uniquely colorful and whimsical prints, Maria’s client base blossomed, and she soon set her sights on a storefront. A fire had recently destroyed a business two doors down from Suffer City. When the fire-riddled space went up for sale, Maria and Stephen figured that was opportunity knocking.

“It seemed like the right thing to do,” Stephen says. But it took a lot of work to turn the former gift shop into the avant garde studio of Maria’s dreams.

“Remodeling took nearly a year,” Maria says, “longer than we expected.”

Today the studio/gallery is clean and dazzlingly white up front, except for a wall of striking portraits, mostly of sparkly-eyed children. The floors are beige bamboo, and rear doors open to a Japanese garden. Only environmentally responsible products and practices were used during construction, Maria says.

Upstairs offices are homey and overlook the Garland Road corridor — the design pays homage to Maria’s home.

“It resembles a German loft,” says Maria, whose father, an architect, assisted in the design via the internet from his residence overseas.

Though the Garland Road shopping strip, which also houses Kitchen Recording Studios and Dragon Fire Yoga, garners little more than a glance from drivers passing through the White Rock area, the patrons of these funky shops understand businesses that shy away from the norm breathe life into the neighborhood, both economically and aesthetically.

“They might be hippies,” says Gabby Viladas, who works at Deaton’s just down the road, “but they are savvy when it comes to business, and they show a lot of love for this community.”

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