Curious about tattoos, piercings, and maybe even obscure relics from around the world? Time Bomb Tattoos & Curiosities in Frederick, Maryland, the latest venture in our quest to explore open-minded studios, is by far the most distinctive shop we’ve visited yet. Clients seeking an experience that compounds the indelible process of permanent body art can flock to Time Bomb for a holistic, memorable, and (appropriately) curious appointment.
A massive preserved giraffe peers through the front window of Time Bomb, an inviting figure rather than an imposing one. This idea of being inviting is a far cry from the fringe shops of a formerly exclusivist era in the industry. Capt.Gordon Staub, owner of Time Bomb, began his artistic career during that era:
Back then, sharing information was just a no-no. It was a highly secretive, coveted craft and art form. People did not want to divulge that information, they did not want new people in the business So, it was a big issue back then, and granted, that was almost 27 years ago.
Capt.Gordon first picked up professional work at Capital Easy Riders back in the 90s, after an "audition" in which he had to tattoo the General Manager, Smokey, under the threat of being bludgeoned with a bat. He passed with flying colors, by the way, and is now the owner of the legendary bat in question.
Capt.Gordon has since created his own lasting mark in the industry. He first introduced safe body piercing to the Frederick area through his own companies; then he worked at distinguishing his businesses with a flourish and a captain’s hat. So, how does Time Bomb offer a different experience from alternative studios out there, and what gives it that “curious” element?
We’re basically trying to foster a museum and spa-like experience [...] And that’s what we wanted for this location. I did not want to [come] down here and look and feel like every tattoo shop in the land I’ve stepped into. It has to be dramatically different.
Today, the studio has become a hybrid of a tattoo shop and a menagerie of obscure and eye-catching artifacts collected from a variety of different vendors around the globe. Walking in, we were immediately drawn to shelves upon shelves of deformed alligator heads, crab claws, historic paintings, twin-headed calves, and so much more of the charmingly bizarre. Ava Khalsa, General Manager of Time Bomb, weighed in on the shop’s allure:
People will come in having zero idea that we’re a tattoo shop [...] So, you know, particularly having our giraffe in the window [incites] huge walk-in traffic. People walk in, and say, “Can I just take a photo?” And we’re like, “Yeah, absolutely!” Then they walk around and they’re like, “Wow, we can buy these things!” And then they’re like, “Wait, are you tattooing in that corner?” It just kind of snowballs into [giving] them a little piercing, and, you know… [laughs] Gateway them through!
While this could be perceived as a cunning business tactic, it’s in fact more of an effort to introduce the world of tattooing and body piercing to people that would have otherwise been opposed to the idea.
I feel like we definitely get those [instances] where people surprise themselves, you know what I mean? They’re like, “I never even thought I would come in here” and then [...] [they’re like], “Oh, I accidentally stepped through the gates of the tattoo shop!” [...] “I’ll start with this piercing!” Then they get their piercing and they’re like, “Oh my God, it’s so amazing! I trust you implicitly! How about a tattoo?” [laughs]
Ava assured us, too, that one of the most rewarding aspects of their work is giving clients, especially first-timers, an experience that is better than what they could have imagined. Indeed, sometimes it’s that initial modification that has to push people toward open-mindedness and, at the very least, an appreciation for the art form.
Frederick’s clients are uniquely different from most other cities [...] I feel like here [in Frederick] we’re really, really blessed in that regard, because people up here wanna know your ideas as an artist. They wanna remain open to what you professionally think is the best thing [for them].
Of course, this part-studio, part-menagerie also offers plenty of high-quality and varied body jewelry. We were grateful and excited to see a large variety of our own PainfulPleasures body jewelry available at the front desk.
After a brief discussion about daith piercings, their potential effects on migraines, the idea of the placebo effect, and more general chit-chat, we got into what we thought might be a slightly instigatory realm; that being, the fact that Time Bomb Tattoos is in close proximity to so many other tattoo studios in the Frederick area. Capt.Gordon gave his optimistic perspective on the shop’s busy location:
It creates a little bit of a food court [effect]. Unless you have the one shining star restaurant that you’re always going to go to, if you have no idea what kind of restaurant is in town, you’re normally going to go to the area that has the majority of options and stop there first and check out what’s going on. And so, I feel like with our guys across the street here, we kind of have that [...] It’s healthy competition from my perspective. They may not feel that way, but I do. Dave Waugh is world-renowned and he’s tattooing right across the street.
So, if you’re seeking your first tattoo, it may serve you well to browse the food court as it were. Capt.Gordon Staub, accomplished artist and captain of more than just his little shop of curiosities, is ready to welcome anyone seeking a life-changing experience:
The thing that I’ve learned is, if that first tattoo for someone isn’t a good experience, they’re a lot less likely to get tattooed again, but if they can immediately identify that this is an amazing, awesome, life-changing experience, they’ll be back five minutes later. They’re definitely already planning their next tattoo.
Capt.Gordon Staub had a lot more to say about his experience as a business owner and a tattoo and piercing artist. Check out our full interview with him and Ava to learn all about his beginnings, his influences, his preferred style of tattooing, and, yes, (we know you’ve been wondering) how he earned the title of “Cap’n.”