tHE NATURAL CANVAS story
It all began in earnest in Ypsilanti, Michigan in 2004 with a brainstorming session to find a name for what would become a Tattoo shop and mixed use art/exhibition space.
We sat in the living room of the late/great Benjamin Burton with a cool enough guy named Greg and a legion of other characters and began spitballing names that could be exclusive to tattooing, yet inclusive enough to serve as an umbrella organization that could include but not be limited to: Art Exibits, live music venue, audio recording/engineering, gardens, art studios, etc.
We stumbled around it, sounded it out, and all at once the words were spoken...
Shortly thereafter, a commercial space at 613 N. Main St., Ann Arbor was secured and the dream seed could now be heated and sprouted in preparation for a fruitful bloom and eventual harvest.
In 2005 Natural Canvas Gallery & Studios was fully realized. Monthly arts shows were curated by gallery director, Adam Gabriel Winnie. Regular live music events and art performances came in weekly installments. A Sculpture Park and Garden area was established in the abandoned lot behind the building. Chad Tattooed almost every day while overseeing the magic as it unfolded. Friends and characters like John Sinclair, Stanley the Mad Hatter, Fred Thomas, Jib Kidder, The Unlovables, Patrick Elkins, Ben Balmer, Matt and Kim, Japanese hardcore heavies Gouka, to mention a few, helped make it feel real special. After nearly 4 great years, Chad began to yearn for a rural life full of wilderness and adventure.
Natural Canvas Roadshow began when Chad purchased a land yacht for 1250 dollars. A 1972 31' Airstream Sovereign, pulled behind a 2001 Green V10 Dodge Ram named the TurtleHead. The front of the motorcoach cabin was swiftly converted into a tattoo studio and took to the streets in search of America. After some time, it felt like working at a lonely circus. At 6 miles/gallon, the rig was just too thirsty and the logistics of the road quickly became undesirable. He returned to Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti to regroup. Kirk Kitchen, genius scientist and perfect weirdo offered to host the mobile tattoo studio in his Ypsilanti backyard in return for yard maintenance. It was time to hatch a new plan.
In 2009 Chad decided to make a massive shift in lifestyle, topography and climate. He purchased 1.61 acres from a mountain man for 22 ounces of silver and 10 thousand doll hairs. Affectionately named it Playersville, and began the gradual transition. After a half dozen or so trips by greyhound from Ann Arbor to Asheville in order to build out the off-grid cabin, it was time to take a full time job. He took a job at Ace of Spades Tattoo and put in 2 years of work before a more rural setting and renewed desire for self employment began to show itself.
Chad had ridden motorcycles to and through Marshall, NC on his way to Dogfight Cove(home of the late/great Matty Dodge... miss you boo) in Spring Creek during his employment. With loads of friends in Hot Springs and a strong clientele base in Asheville, Marshall was the perfect halfway point. John and Amy of Good Stuff(grocery store with alcohol, pool table, and stage) suggested he should open up next door in the Drover's Rest building. Chad fancied the idea and shortly thereafter it was time to realize this fantasy. And so it was.
Natural Canvas Tattoo & Museum opened at 133 S. Main St. in 2010 with a bang! Schoolbuses from southeast Michigan and characters from near and far showed up in force for the official grand opening on July 4th. It was a hot dang champagne jam thanks to musical performances from Pierce Edens, Running Water, Jason York and Jesse Hongisto. Stilted fire breathers, flame dancers and a vast array of people filled the streets. It felt real good. An interest in the history of the tattoo trade played a large role in the facilities look and feel. One of the great historians of skin/ink intercourse, Chuck Eldridge had recently moved his Tattoo Archive from San Francisco to Winston-Salem. Chad and his then-apprentice Cera McGinn made a visit in pursuit of knowledge, blessings, and a thigh tattoo for good luck. After 5 good years, something was bound to change.
In 2015 Chad was approached by gentleman Jack Thompson and offered the purchase of 73 S. Main St. law offices. Playersville was sold to friend, tattoo collector, and pest remediator Jim Gariepy to afford the new digs.
A new chapter with indefinite longevity had begun. Due to the new building's floorplan, the museum aspect was bumped and a podcast studio, book/record library, and jam room took its place. Natural Canvas Tattoo had been reborn, with even more angles. The stability and sense of permanence that a mortgage provided could not be quantified. This operation now felt like it had long, sturdy legs.
In 2019, 6 foot 5 inch Dave Cavnar requested an apprenticeship. His confidence, significant life experience, and drawing portfolio made him a perfect candidate for mentorship. And so it was.
In 2021 Dave and I chose to bring in the lovely, outgoing, and talented Sarah Ghoujeghi as an apprentice. Shortly thereafter Austin, Texas delivered a seasoned 25+ year tattoo veteran in Camille Pinkus. At this point, the studio became fully staffed and poised for a good long run.