Dale Durfee wrote in her table-top book, Tattoo, that tattoos were once thought to be barbaric and only worn by the lower classes – ex cons, sailors and the like. However, evidence indicates that people were tattooing their bodies thousands of years ago. More, it is quite to the contrary about who wears tats. They are the result of the most developed cultures. Kings, queens, politicians and many more sported this form of expression – sometimes in secret. For example, the Maori people of New Zealand created a face tattoo, which tells the ancestry and life of that person. Others have used this art form to ward off evil spirits or to announce an important event.
So, what's our fascination with this body art form? I've been curious about tattoos (aka tats) since I was a kid. I believe that this is one of the most authentic forms of self-expression and individualism – shouting what you want the world to know about your personality!
As a writer and artist, I have always changed and altered things – without fail. Clothes. Make-up. Recipes. Restaurant orders. Words. The same holds true for tattoo art. I've never been the one who wants the plain butterfly or the hearts. I've always thought – how can I make that design mine and have it speak without speaking? And, in my mind, I see the end changes – a tat that says peace, love and change.
With this in mind, I decided to stop by Ghost Town Odditorium, a popular custom tattoo spot in Ellicott City. Ghost Town's name screams different experiences and the most funky and fresh tats that anyone could want! I was excited to stop in for a few to see Matt Rinks (he's the big honcho), Christian Beckman (tattoo artist), Lee Verzosa (tattoo artist) and Nate Banfi (the guy you see first when you come in).
Ghost Town beckons you to its studio front with all of the cool things and inspiration for a custom tattoo design. I wanted to know what people were getting these days. I wanted to know something about Ghost Town. Well, here I go…
Once I was done admiring the great outside, I went inside Ghost Town and spoke with Lee Verzosa. Lee was cool, friendly and really true to his artistic expression. I asked him if people came in and chose designs from a standard book or something. He said, "The shop is primarily a custom shop. Most of the pictures and things were used for inspiration and to spark an idea to develop and draw-up a design." Verzosa also said, "We're different from the average street shop because we're more into the artistry of tattooing."
After visiting Ghost Town, one would certainly agree that it's about the artistry. Aside from the pictures around the shop, there were two vintage bikes resting on a ceiling beam and a dress form in the window – inviting anyone who's curious to come inside. Every piece had a story as every custom tattoo has a story.
What's great about tattoo artistry is that no design is "played" or "whack" because the tats are about individual expression and creativity – not what's hot and sizzling from this year's Fashion Week. I have always thought about what a person thinks before getting a tattoo. And much like my own thought processes with this, I want to be me -- not the girl who just got the tattoo of a key on her wrist or a butterfly on her back.
It's evident that lots of thought goes into each tattoo. It's like a temporary collaboration between the client and the artist. They come together to hash out a design and work together to make it happen. Verzosa said that the time to complete a tattoo varies. He said, "It depends on the complexity of the design, how long the person can sit, body location, skin type and more." So many variables -- striking the right balance to create an incredible work of art!
The perceptions about tattoos have changed and crumbled over the years. It's no longer thought of as body pictures worn by criminals and the non-elite. This was not true then and it's not true now. The ink is darker and richer on the other side as tattoos were a mark of an advanced and sophisticated culture thousands of years ago. Today tattoos are not only a tag to identify a crew or clique, but they are worn by celebrities, the neighbor next door and pop media personalities. Tattoos now have many addresses. Main Street. Wall Street. Madison Avenue. And many addresses in between.
So, if you're looking for a custom tattoo studio, then Ghost Town Odditorium is your place! I really dig everything about Ghost Town – from the name (which is SO odd and AWESOME) to the studio set-up and design to chatting with Lee and Nate for a few moments.
Thanks Matt, Nate, Lee and Christian!
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Ghost Town Odditorium is located at 3700 Mulligan's Hill Lane, Ellicott City MD 21043. They're open seven days from 12:00 noon until 7:30pm.