The Gypsy Vault is a boutique tattoo shop tucked away in a carriage house, behind the historic Charles MacDougal House on Wayne Street. It’s been around, in one form or another, since 2013, and its metamorphosis has taken the Gypsy Vault from Wayne Street to The Landing, and to its current digs on Fairfield Avenue—where it houses artists Freddy Ray and Bryce Moodie.
The space is cozy and unique. With warm walls embellished with art, and plenty of space to kick back and relax, the Gypsy Vault feels more like a home than a traditional parlor. Turns out, that’s what Freddy and Bryce had in mind when they moved in.
The Gypsy Vault’s success is due in part to their relaxed, home-y environment. Another big reason for their success? Their friendship. The two quickly bonded over their dedication to their craft and their love for all things nerdy—lots of fantasy, sci-fi, and superheroes. They got along so naturally that their “temporary arrangement” has been going strong for five years.
There’s never a dull moment between them. When I popped in to talk to the pair about their new setup, they were doing what they do best—tattooing and having a lively conversation with their patrons, this time about Freddy’s past life as an undercover police officer.
Meet the guys behind the Gypsy Vault — Freddy Ray and Bryce Moodie!
Molly: So, the Gypsy Vault has been around for awhile, but it has undergone a few transitions and relocations. Tell me about the space now, and what people can expect when they visit.
Freddy: Yeah, we’ve been around for about ten years, but only in this space for a few months. We moved over here because it was just such a cool space. I believe the building was built in the late 1800s. It was originally a carriage house where horses were kept. The place was super neat with a lot of history.
It was important for this space to feel really comfortable. I didn’t want people to feel like they’re in a tattoo studio. I wanted them to feel like they’re in someone’s basement or a cool hangout spot, as opposed to the stereotypical tattoo spot where there are a lot of tattooers everywhere, blaring heavy music and being loud. That can be really intimidating for people. Bryce and I wanted the Gypsy Vault to feel different—to feel welcoming and relaxing.
Molly: You’ve definitely achieved that. It’s a cozy spot. Despite moving around, the Gypsy Vault has always been downtown. Why is it important to you to be located Downtown Fort Wayne?
Freddy: Well, my ex-wife and I used to live out in the suburbs, but everything we did was downtown. All the restaurants, the activities, the arts—everything we wanted to do was happening downtown. We just kept coming here, and eventually, we decided it made a lot of sense to move downtown. The community here is very central to my life, even before the big revamp of Downtown Fort Wayne.
Molly: Speaking of your life, Freddy, your backstory is really interesting—like something out of a movie. I heard that you started your tattoo career because you were working as an undercover cop at the time, and you wanted to fly under the radar.
Freddy: Sort of, I had an informant give me a hard time about not having any tattoos once. They couldn’t believe that I didn’t have any tattoos. To him, it seemed like a giveaway that I was working undercover.
Everyone had tattoos. So, it made sense. I was like, “You’re right! I need to go get some tattoos to be more believable.” Up until that point, I had never even considered getting a tattoo.
I went to a gentleman who taught art at my high school, who had left teaching to become a tattoo artist. I started getting tattooed by him regularly. After the third tattoo he did for me, he asked me who was doing my drawings. I told him that I drew them myself, and he told me that I could be a tattoo artist if I wanted to, because my drawings were really clean. A lightbulb went off in my head. I was like, “Man, if I was an undercover cop working in a tattoo shop, I could arrest so many people!”
So, that’s how it started, but I grew to really love it. During my apprenticeship, I really liked the people I was working with and the clients I was meeting. And then I became concerned that, if I was working cases out of a tattoo shop, that would come to end real quick. It only takes a few cases before word would get out, and then it would all be over. So, I decided to keep things separate, to split my work between being a cop and being a tattoo artist.
Molly: You eventually transitioned out of law enforcement and into tattooing full time. Can you tell me more about that transition and what inspired you to make the change?
Freddy: There were a number of things that happened that inspired the transition. For starters, the tattoo industry definitely grew on me. But by the time I left the police force, I had been doing it for 23 years. That’s a long time to do that job, you know? It was starting to come to an end naturally.
I was working 50 hours at the police station, 30 hours at the tattoo shop, and another 10 hours at home drawing for tattoos. It became too much to handle. It became time to move on and put my focus toward tattooing full time.
Molly: You’re both seasoned tattoo artists who have worked with other artists and at other studios. Can you talk about your partnership and the vibe you’ve created here versus other places you’ve worked?
Freddy: Well, Bryce and I got to know each other through The Golden, when it was downtown. We were both patrons. One night, he came in looking sad and told me that he ended up leaving the shop he was tattooing at, and he didn’t know what he was going to do next. I didn’t know too much about him, but I told him that if he needed a spot to tattoo in the meantime, he could come to my shop. I worked alone and had some space.
At first he didn’t take me up on it. Then, two weeks later, he showed up on a Saturday and asked if he could tattoo out of my shop. I thought it would be temporary while he sorted things out. I’m older, and he was young, and I figured he’d want to be at a funner shop with more people. But then I started tattooing with him, and he was a lot more mature than a lot of tattoo artists. He would show up on time, he was prepared for clients, he paid me on time—it was just super easy.
Then, we found out that we had a lot in common. We’re both nerds who love Star Wars and Game of Thrones, and it turned into a friendship more than anything. So, we’ve been together ever since—for about five years now.
Bryce: Yeah, like Freddy said, I was working for the person I had apprenticed under when we met. It was a private space like this one, but things weren’t a good fit. I didn’t feel very aligned with the shop. So, I left.
When I went to work with Freddy, I wasn’t sure if it would be a long-term thing. It ended up being a pretty cool gig. When you can work with your friends, it just makes life a lot easier. And we both wanted to make a cool spot where clients could feel at home. So, it worked out really well.
Freddy: We also have a really fun banter that I think people enjoy being around. We just talk about the most ridiculous things. It ends up inadvertently entertaining the people we are tattooing. We’re just being ourselves, but it seems to be what people enjoy.
Molly: It definitely seems like a fun environment to be in. What about the work? Can you explain what styles you gravitate towards?
Freddy: I’m more of a fine line, precision tattooer. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a particular style. I’ll tattoo just about anything. But I do want it to be precise and neat. That’s how I’d describe my style, even though it’s not very specialized. Bryce is more specialized than I am.
Bryce: Yeah, I’ve always gravitated towards black and gray realism. I do also enjoy doing some other stuff, like video games, or anything nerdy, really. That can fall into the realism category too, but oftentimes, people will want something more stylized when it comes to their fanfares. Overall, black-gray realism is probably what I do the most, and what I’m most known for, but I’m always game to do some other fun stuff too.
Molly: Is there anything you want people to know about your work or the Gypsy Vault?
Freddy: Yeah, I think Fort Wayne has become quite a tattoo town, right? We have a lot of tattoo shops with so many options. So, if people are curious about us, we’re more of a boutique-type tattoo shop. People seek us out purposefully for the environment and quality of our work. We don’t get clients who just want to go get a tattoo wherever they can. We cater to clients who know it will take some time and thought. We’re normally booked out two to three months at any given time. So, if people want to book us, that’s what they can expect.
To see their work or learn how to book Freddy or Bryce, check out their website! You can stay in the loop by liking the Gypsy Vault on Facebook or following the guys on Instagram—@freddyray and @brycemoodieart.
Molly Conner is a Fort Wayne native and freelance writer. Having lived in Downtown Fort Wayne throughout her twenties, she loves watching her stomping grounds grow. With her love of storytelling and community in tow, she’s eager to tell Downtown Fort Wayne’s story piece-by-piece—exploring the people, spaces, and organizations that make it thrive.