From Green Gold To Global: The Electrum Origin Story
Posted by Rob Smead on Feb 21st 2022
We've spent the past 10 days celebrating 10 years of Electrum Supply, and we couldn't let the birthday celebrations come to an end without one more look at the beginning.
Here's the origin story, as told by Rod Smead himself:
Let's back up a decade to 2012, when I was working in a street shop in Elkhart, Indiana, owned by my good friend Jason Gist (the shop is Street Ink Studios and is worth a visit).
I was doing a lot of longer sessions and I would take my time and wipe a lot. By the fifth or sixth hour, I'd start losing lines. That's very stressful as an artist, and I knew I needed a better stencil application product.
I recalled an old school method of mixing alcohol, green soap and some melted down deodorant, and how superior that mixture was for stencils, but it wasn't good for the body. The deodorants that work best for stencils contain aluminum, which isn't something we want in our bloodstreams.
I set out to find something that worked as strong but didn't have any adverse health affects. I immersed myself in the science and chemistry of stencil primers and developed what was first called Kryptonite Stencil Solution.
The name didn't last – I received a cease and desist letter from D.C. Comics – but the legacy has continued for a decade. After being told I couldn't use the name Kryptonite, I turned to the tattoo community for help. An artist in Michigan came up with the name Electrum, which is a naturally occurring metal alloy of gold and silver that appears green in color. The name seemed fitting, and the legacy began.
I didn't set out to distribute my stencil primer in large quantities, but there are a few people that were key in turning Electrum into a mainstream tattoo brand.
I sent my newly developed product to my friend Chris 51 (owner of the popular Formula 51 line, which is no longer in production) out in Oregon to find out what he thought of the product. A couple of weeks went by and Chris gave me a call and said "Man, this stuff is amazing and you really need to get this in the hands of other artists."
Chris put me in touch with some distributors, and I eventually built a relationship with a company in the UK called Killer Ink, now one of the biggest tattoo suppliers int he world.
Killer Ink really did Electrum a solid by putting a lot of marketing and effort behind the Electrum name. They took my stencil primer – the one that was developed in a five-gallon bucket in the basement of my home – and they made it the top of the line in the European market within a couple of years.
Pretty soon, I was outgrowing the space in my home where the product was first developed and having trouble sourcing enough ingredients locally (a piece of business that has always been very important to me to maintain quality).
We're very proud of the foundation that the stencil products have built for Electrum, and we've used the reputation to continue to develop products that can outperform everything else in the space. Since Electrum was founded 10 years ago, we've created a line of products that spans aftercare, needles and inks that are made with premium materials and focus on performance.
Since our stencil products were already bringing traffic to the Electrum website, we realized we had an opportunity to become a one-stop-shop for tattoo artists and we moved to full-blown supply in 2015.
As we've grown, customer service and top quality has remained our focus. Through the years, we've focused on maintaining healthy, meaningful relationships with the artists that use our products and returning the love that is shown to us back to the industry.
Now you know how Electrum was started. Where should we go next?