Geared towards providing an elevated experience, Black Lotus Tattoo is a custom tattoo studio and art gallery that takes pride in standing out from your typical shop. The standard business-park brown brick exterior is unassuming, but upon entering you’re welcomed into a bright space with warm vibes and beautiful custom art decorating its walls.
For our first local shop feature, things could not have been more chaotic. For the sake of brevity, let’s just say that between a scheduling mix-up, hastily packing up our equipment, and taking the wrong turns to go to the shop’s previous location, the day was off to a FANTASTIC start. We were greeted warmly upon arrival as the shop was getting ready to open for the day, and fortunately our Marketing Director, Michelle, had picked up a round of coffee for our gracious hosts so everyone was in good spirits.
With the perfect balance of being both classy and comfortable, the reception area of Black Lotus is alluring to its visitors and clients. A variety of portfolios and books sit on tables for you to browse, and their open layout lends itself to leisurely perusal of their impressive art and high-end jewelry displays. All featured art is done by Black Lotus tattoo artists and other local artists, and a section is also reserved for a monthly featured artist, which they list on their website here. With three distinct areas arranged with sleek black couches, mounted TVs, and Xboxes to use if desired, the waiting process is a breeze here at Black Lotus. Even the bathroom is decked out with a TV so that you can watch while you’re, you know, taking care of business.
Tattoo artist and owner of Black Lotus, Halo, explains in a video on their site that the space is “dedicated to nurturing art” rather than existing as just another shop that’s cranking out lots of tattoos, and to facilitate that, Black Lotus exists as a collaborative environment.
“The whole studio — we pass our clients around, all of us do. I tell guys when I hire them that you cannot be pissed off if someone else is tattooing your client. If that’s your mindset, you cannot work here, because we give our clients away. Sometimes a client will say, ‘Hey, I want to get a pin up, but realistic,’ and I’ll say, ‘Well I’m not good at drawing pin ups, Merv [Heiner] is. Why don’t we let Merv do your outline and I’ll color it in?’ We do that all the time. This studio is basically set up for people’s strengths.”
When asked about the reason for the shop’s location, Halo hopes that Black Lotus will eventually be “a hub for traveling artists” and “a place of learning so people could come and paint.”
Our visit was scheduled to coincide with one of these artists, Jesse Smith, who is based in Richmond, Virginia. Both Halo and Jesse Smith were contestants on earlier seasons of Spike TV’s Ink Master – Halo in season 4, which aired in 2014, and Jesse Smith in season 2, which aired in 2012.
Despite the criticism that surrounds tattoo reality TV, Halo and Jesse Smith seem to hold a more ambivalent attitude, recognizing that with the bad, there is also good.
“It’s helped a lot of things and it has also messed some stuff up,” Jesse commented, at which point Halo chimed in. “Oh yeah, it definitely hinders some things for sure, but I think that’s with anything . . . Everything that has a positive reaction, you’re going to get negativity, but I think it’s important to look at the good stuff that happens from it. I wouldn’t be able to tattoo all the stuff I wanted to tattoo if I wasn’t able to practice it. I think these TV shows are good as long as there are artists out there willing to contribute.”
With 13 years in the industry for Halo and nearly 20 for Jesse Smith, both artists are at the point where they are sought after for their respective styles. After talking to each of them about how they got into the industry among other things, it became apparent that being a tattoo artist, or an artist in general, comes down to commitment, focus, and challenging yourself creatively every day. Find links to the full interviews with Halo and Jesse Smith below.