World Famous Tattoo InkWorld Famous Tattoo InkWorld Famous Tattoo Ink
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Ryan Gatt bought a funeral home.

He’s not a mortician, nor is he relatively protestant. But his morbid pursuit is linked to salvation.

As he transforms a funeral home in the Poconos (the Poconos) into his second tattoo studio, he’s using this full circle moment to build another artistic fortress comparable to the first one that he says saved his life. So full circle, he’s decided to name this one Black Flame – as in reviving Bette Midler and her sister cronies in the film Hocus Pocus, Black Flame. The man who was once homeless, starving for food and purpose, is now living the dream with his amazing wife and daughters. And he’s got his supernatural talent and the refuge he created in his first shop, Salvation, to thank for it.

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Getting...Potty Trained?

For Ryan, tattooing is not just a profession; it's a transformative art form that has shaped his life for the past two decades. Hailing from Long Beach, New York, Ryan's journey from a troubled youth to the proud owner of Salvation, a tattoo shop with 15 years of history, is nothing short of extraordinary.

“I was a troubled youth, as I’m sure a lot of tattoo artists were,” he said. “When the first shop came It saved my life. It’s the most positive experience I’ve ever had.”

Before the tattooing maestro strummed with a tattoo machine, he was a bassist in a punk band and desperately needed an upgrade from the glamourous life of sleeping on the drummer's floor. So, he decided to pursue his GED. Destiny pulled his card when an adult student observed, "You draw a lot." He suggested that Ryan should get into tattooing, which Ryan thought wasn’t a half bad idea.

He swung open the doors to one of the sketchiest tattoo parlors he could find, and never looked back.

“At the end of the day, the love had sparked,” he said. “And I was like, ‘You know what? This might be a way that I can survive and thrive.”

He was just a kid living out of a single bedroom. Yet business is booming so much that he’s had to change his contact info an obscene number of times. But as a 16-year-old high school dropout, having more clients than a graveyard has tenants is good trouble. To Ryan, what mattered was getting the clients in the door. Or in his case, the bathroom where he was stationed.

“I was very lucky people didn’t care if you got a crappy tattoo,” Ryan said. “I just needed to get bodies.”

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Building Legacy…Literally

Beyond tattooing, Ryan’s diverse talents include carpentry, evident in the unique ambiance of his studio. Once an old attorney’s office, it now resembles an “old pirate ship with a touch of bougie rebellion.” His inspiration stems from overcoming personal struggles, poverty, and a rebellious spirit that turned into a multi-faceted business. For Ryan, the motivation lies in leaving a legacy for his family and aggressively chasing long-term goals.

“I have two little girls and a beautiful wife that I'm going to leave the world to,” he said.

But Ryan isn’t just “giving” the world; he’s creating them in a galactic neuro-trip fashion with his unbelievably transferable tattoos.

For the first 5-7 years, he focused on Japanese style. Ryan loved the traditional layout: the bold solid saturation, and the movement traveling from the foot to the shoulder with “one motion.” Now his style has metamorphosized into nostalgia with a cosmic twist.

For him, art is a conduit to rekindle forgotten dreams. "Everything I create is with the purpose of bringing happiness or warming someone up," he said.

“I really try to make all the ‘glue’ happen. You can take four or five pictures of anything and figure out how to glue it together. The glue I think is where my magic is.”

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Mental Illness. It’s Good for Business.

In a world where art can happen in an instant, he values the richness of handmade creations, emphasizing the connection people feel when looking at something crafted by hand. He says that tattooing something that’s become a part of someone's life and sparks conversations is one of the most fulfilling parts of the experience.

As he puts it, "With a tattoo, they're out living their own life that you're not in control of."

But the most powerful thing about Ryan is the very thing that people told him was wrong with him is what made him be embraced the most. “I think the craziest part of all is this is what they told me was mental illness as a teenager,” he reflects. “I'm inspired because I have been super f*****g poor.”

So yeah. Ryan bought a funeral home. And the dream has never been more alive. “[I’m going to leave the world to my family.] And if tattooing… and being aggressively focused on a long term set of goals is gonna do it, then that's what I'm gonna f*****g do.”

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Long Island Tattoo Artists, Big Joel MacDonald

Inkiverse: Big Joel MacDonald

Dec 19, 2023 Common Thread Collective
In the past,  Big Joel” MacDonald knew one thing – the future wasn’t always a guarantee. But a daring encounter with a tattoo artist opened the door to new opportunities... and a chance to ink his own story.
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