La Plata’s new Shop 53 show­cases art­work along­side tat­too­ing

Own­ers hope to change neg­a­tive per­cep­tion of ink shops

Maryland Independent - - Business - By DAR­WIN WEIGEL dweigel@somd­ Twit­ter: @somd_bized­i­tor

A new tattoo shop opened in La Plata last month and its own­ers are hop­ing it will help change the per­cep­tion of skin-borne art­work by hosting the kind that hangs on walls and sits on pedestals.

“We are re­ally try­ing to change the per­cep­tion and the stereo­type that most peo­ple cling to when they think about a tattoo shop,” said co-owner Shan­non Wang of Wal­dorf. “We wanted to make it more of an art ex­pe­ri­ence and have all dif­fer­ent types of art, not just a tattoo shop, not just an art gallery, but marry the two and put every­thing to­gether.”

Wang and her part­ner Mona “Guc­ci­dare” Wise of Leonard­town have de­voted half the space at the new Shop 53 to an art gallery that will swap out multi-artist ex­hibits ev­ery cou­ple of months. The two opened the shop May 13 at 6 St. Mary’s Ave., just down from the Green Tur­tle Sports Bar and Grille.

“I’m the res­i­dent tattoo artist and I also do pierc­ings,” Wise said. “I’m also an artist, I paint, wa­ter­color is my main thing.”

Wang, though, is the one with a mini-stu­dio in the cor­ner. “When­ever I’m here I’m draw­ing and paint­ing com­mis­sions,” she said.

“She’s the res­i­dent artist,” Wise said. “She does acrylic paint­ings and she does maps. ‘Maps with mean­ing’ she calls them, where she does like Poe on a Bal­ti­more map or Lin­coln on a D.C. map, that kind of thing. It’s kind of cool.”

“I have my own lit­tle mini-gallery,” Wang said point­ing at hang­ings around her work ta­ble. “We didn’t build [the shop space] for us, though. I wanted to high­light other things. I’m here but not in a huge way.”

Wise, the tattoo artist bet­ter known as Guc­ci­dare by her clients, won’t be the sole artist of her type ei­ther. A sec­ond tattoo artist, Kim Ewell of Hol­ly­wood, took up res­i­dence this week and there is a third tat­too­ing room wait­ing for ei­ther an­other res­i­dent or guest artists. The tattoo spa­ces have slid­ing doors for those that want their tat­toos done in pri­vate.

“Right now we’re kind of hop­ing to do guest spots be­cause we’d like to have dif­fer­ent types of [tattoo] artists com­ing through,” Wise said. “There may be a few peo­ple in­ter­ested from around the area.”

“We’re still get­ting es­tab­lished and get­ting the word out there,” Wang added. “It’s pretty com­mon for tattoo artists, re­ally all over the world, to travel. They’ll work for a day or two [in one place] and then go to an­other spot. So, that would be the ideal sit­u­a­tion — have new blood in, new tech­niques.”

The prox­im­ity to the busy Green Tur­tle and the help of the close-knit La Plata busi­ness com­mu­nity has al­ready got the traf­fic flow­ing through the mod­ern in­dus­trial stu­dio space. The two had a meet­ing sched­uled with the La Plata Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion last Fri­day to get tips and point­ers and to see how they could get in­volved in the com­mu­nity as well.

“We’ve had good walk-in traf­fic from the Tur­tle, as well as [Mona’s] clien­tele,” Wang said, re­fer­ring to Wise’s pre­vi­ous work at a Wal­dorf tattoo shop.

“We’ve had a lot of peo­ple walk in just from word of mouth around town, too,” Wise added. “The other lo­cal busi­nesses are re­ally sup­port­ive and tell peo­ple — not nec­es­sar­ily peo­ple that want a tattoo but want to look at the gallery. That’s what we want to see hap­pen­ing be­sides just the tat­too­ing.”

The first four artists show­cased on Shop 53’s walls are James Walker and Shan­non Jones, both of Vir­ginia, and Charles County artists Shon Simp­son and Eric Giles. There’s also a semi-per­ma­nent bronze skull on dis­play by Leah McKin­ley.

The first-time busi­ness own­ers are hosting a grand open­ing 6 to 10 p.m. June 18 where the public can meet the artists, tattoo and oth­er­wise, and lis­ten to a mu­si­cal set by Matt “Mule” McKin­ley start­ing at 8:30 p.m.

“It’s ex­cit­ing. It’s scary and it’s fun,” Wang said of get­ting the busi­ness off the ground. “I think we’re both re­ally, re­ally happy and proud of how it turned out. The feed­back from every­body com­ing in, even peo­ple that don’t like tat­toos, has been re­ally good.”

“A big thing that we re­ally wanted was for peo­ple to walk in and feel re­ally com­fort­able,” Wise added. “Walk­ing into a tattoo shop can be pretty in­tim­i­dat­ing. We wanted it to feel com­fort­able, every­body to feel com­fort­able re­gard­less of age.”


Shan­non Wang, left, of Wal­dorf and Mona “Guc­ci­dare” Wise of Leonard­town opened Shop 53, a tattoo stu­dio and art gallery, May 13 in La Plata.

Shan­non Wang of Wal­dorf and Mona “Guc­ci­dare” Wise of Leonard­town opened Shop 53, a tattoo stu­dio and art gallery, May 13 in La Plata.

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