La Plata’s new Shop 53 showcases artwork alongside tattooing
Owners hope to change negative perception of ink shops
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.