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Chris Sheehan inspired to set up shop locally

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There is no question that Black Mountain has provided inspiration to artists of various disciplines throughout the years.

So perhaps it is fitting that when Chris Sheehan decided he wanted to open a tattoo parlor in town, he was inspired to create something that defies common perceptions of the genre.

"Much of the industry has changed over the past 10-20 years," Sheehan said. "It's a shame that the industry has suffered some of these blanket generalizations over the years, because there are custom studios all over the country where people are doing fine artwork."

With his move to Black Mountain from Wisconsin, Sheehan is hoping to reshape some of the stereotypes associated with the art.

"What I am opening up I feel is very harmonious with Black Mountain," he said. "My goal is to open a space that is a private studio, I don't require walk-in traffic. I want to create something that is much more like a spa than a tattoo studio."

In fact, Sheehan's likely location is the former home of Sanavita Spa.

"It's already built for what I would like to do," he said. "I'm an artist by nature. I have a background in interior design, painting, mural work, custom commissions, illustrations. And I've written a children's book. Tattooing is one aspect or my repertoire."

The environment will support relaxation in an effort to optimize the experience, a concept Sheehan developed over his 15 years in the business.

"What I am looking to create is a custom experience where there is consultation first for myself and the client to decide whether or not we're an appropriate fit for each other," he said. "It's also an opportunity for them to reflect and examine why they want the tattoo."

Sheehan's designs are intricate, influenced by sacred geometry and inspired by nature. He is also experienced in stippling, or dot work, in which complicated geometric images are created using only dots. He has what he calls an appreciation for Japanese-style tattooing as well.

"My approach to tattooing is based on the idea of positive transformation through the artistic embodiment of uplifting intentions," he said. "My goal is to offer a holistic tattoo experience to each of my clients in our time together."

Sheehan hopes his studio in Black Mountain will transcend negative stereotypes about the tattoo industry.

"My wife and I were looking for a family-oriented town and access to the outdoors and something with a relaxed vibe in which to raise our 4-year-old son," he said. "We kept being drawn to Black Mountain because it offered everything we wanted."

Something the town also had was an ordinance that made it difficult for Sheehan to find a location for his shop. He was unable to find a single location that met the requirements of the tattoo parlor ordinance in the town's land use code.

"There were five things that were stipulations for having a tattoo parlor, and they were proximity requirements," Sheehan said. "It could not be 500 feet from a church, school, public park, residence or place that served alcoholic beverages."

His options limited, Sheehan asked town staff what he could do pursue opening his studio. He took his concerns to the planning board in December 2015.

"They looked to me to kind of propose something," he said, so he presented a plan. An amendment allowing tattoo parlors only in the traditional neighborhood district was passed unanimously by the board of aldermen on July 11. The revised ordinance meant Sheehan could work in Cheshire Village, where he found a space to lease.

"It was a lengthy process, but I'm grateful that the town worked with me," Sheehan said. "I want to contribute to the unique quality that my wife and I believe makes this place so great."

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