JEFFERSON-The life of a tattoo artist can be the life of a vagabond.
You spend an absurd amount of time on the road away from your family. You sustain yourself on fast food and fragile ambitions of stability that can dry up as fast as the ink you sling.
Perhaps with no other choice, these skin-deep Picasos miss countless moments in time with loved ones that can never be replayed as they move from shop to shop looking for that next gig to make ends meet.
Time and time again, these ink slingers are faced with pivotal life events that make them reevaluate their chosen trade and if there really is a better way make a buck that could mean the difference in their family making rent or having enough to eat that week.
For local artist Bryan Brannan, his crossroads came at daybreak last summer when has catapulted from his motorcycle after hitting a deer at 65 miles per hour.
“I skidded for 130 feet,” Brannan said, as he can now reflect on the accident with a smile. “Some of that was on top my head.”
Brannan was laid up only for a few weeks, but he knew almost immediately the extent of his injuries could derail his 14-year career as an artist.
“I was worried because I had hurt my back and hands,” said Brannan. “If you can’t bend over or sit long enough to hold the machine, you’re limited in what you can do as an artist right there. So that was a bit of a concern of mine.”
For Brannan, fate had dealt him a card he couldn’t play.
He had just celebrated his one-year anniversary as owner of the “Anchored in Ashe” tattoo shop in Jefferson. It had been his dream to finally settle down in Ashe and support his family without freelancing at shops across the state.
Now, Brannan was out of work and his future as an artist was teetering on the verge of full collapse until a string of events that seemed unfortunate at time for another local business owner set up a serendipitous encounter between the two men vying to make a name for themselves in the ink industry.
Last month, Joy of Vaping owner Mason Harris had his proposal of expanding his business to include a tattoo shop overwhelmingly denied by the West Jefferson Board of Adjustments
Harris was dumbfounded. He couldn’t believe his luck. After receiving initial approval from the town’s planning board and aldermen, Harris was denied in the final stages of his conditional use permit, as tattooing is currently illegal under current town zoning.
While he was initially deterred, Harris was comforted by the sudden advantage he had at hand. He could simply pick up and move next door to the town of Jefferson, which currently doesn’t have any regulations on the book pertaining to tattoos. He could spend his tax dollars elsewhere.
In a letter from the town, Harris said he was given reasons of real estate depreciation and health and safety concerns that warranted the denial. Harris suspects political maneuvering, but is willing to let bygones be bygones as business is beginning to surge at the ‘Joy of Vaping’s,’ latest offering – Tru Image Ink.
“They actually did me a huge favor,” Harris said on the town’s refusal to allow him to operate, which gave him the impetus to move to Jefferson.
Brannan would soon cross paths with Harris when mutual friend Charlie Seagle put the two in contact after the failed launch of the tattoo shop was well documented on Facebook feeds throughout the county as locals weighed in on the controversial topic. As one might imagine, tattooing can be a touchy subject in the Bible belt and towns as conservative as the Jeffersons.
Since unrolling his tools at Harris’s new shop as the in-house artist, Brannan has seen his appointment book quickly picked filled up.
And Brannan feels the move was a natural transition for him from business owner to just tattoo artist. His latest gig at Tru Image Ink feels like a permanent position, which is just what this father of four has been chasing all these years.
“Even though it s been hard, I keep coming back,” said Brannan. It only took a motorcycle wreck to make you question if I would come back and i still did.”
And his defining moment from that ordeal? His first tattoo back on the job was the completion of a bit of artwork on the gentlemen he purchased his doomed motorcycle from.
Tru Image Ink is conveniently located under the same roof as the vape shop, which is located just across the city line in Jefferson in the shopping center next to Tractor Supply.
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164