Mr. Chad Wilderness
Young Chad was one of the lucky ones. From the tender age of 13, he knew exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up.
His mother Peggy Sue began a relationship with a gentleman named Ronald Tribula. He had been recently paroled, after having served at Chino, Soledad, and other reputable correctional institutions. His possessions included tattoo designs on paper and his skin from the facilities he had paid his debt to society in;) His sense of humor intact, he made a strong impression on a young Chad by gifting him his record collection which included The Clash, T. rex, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Rick James, etc. He then taught him to build improvised tattoo machines out of walkman motors, penshafts and guitar strings. This teamed with a developed sense of graphic design and composition lead a young Chad toward the path to tattooing, starting with neighborhood gang bangers, bikers and strangers...
Backtrack! Got a little ahead of myself, allow me to offer the backstory. Apologies as I oscillate between 1st and 3rd person for no good reason. Starting in grade 6, after rendering an obligatory still life, he was accepted into a visual arts program at The Center for Arts and Sciences in Saginaw, Michigan. Wherein, he could concentrate on the observable arts for 2.5 hours each day. His mentor, Gerald Hallberg, the visual arts educator, would require students to pen 10 year plans every calendar year as an exercise to develop goals and strategize for eventual professional success. Each year, former students would drop in and share with the class their professional achievements and developments. One such former student was the artist and tattooer Jack Mosher, eventual owner of Body Armor Tattoo in Kalamazoo, MI and also known by the Japanese honoriffic, Horimouja. It was in these moments that the future vision would begin to gain clarity.
In 1998, his senior year at Arthur Hill High School, Chad chose to transfer from the C.A.S. to the Saginaw Career Complex in order to learn photoshop and graphic design. These skillsets would prove to become indispensible in layouts of tattoos as well as live music event flyers, etc.
With a bit of academic success in high school, options began to emerge. College scholarship opportunities at Delta College, Eastern Michigan University and finally, Rijkuniversiteit Groningen temporarily delayed the path toward tattooer. Achieving an Associate in Arts and later a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree all felt like undergraduate studies for the inevitable and coveted tattoo apprenticeship
In 2003 after completing graduation obligations, Chad went on an indeterminate and indefinite nationwide road trip. After a couple months on the road and a couple weeks in Portland, he got a series of phone calls. Joseph Callahan, a dear friend, had passed on tragically in his sleep. Moments later, a call from his mother indicated his 18 year old best friend and australian shephard had also crossed over. Third call that day was from Paul Feinauer of Sanctuary Tattoo in Bay City, Michigan. He offered to teach him everything he knew about tattooing.
Paul had learned under Erik Mitchell who had been taught by the legendary Long Beach, California tattooer Kari Barba. Eager to earn his place in the skin trade, Chad set course to relocate to mid-Michigan and let the skin perforating fellowship begin. The area was ripe with friends and relatives eager and reluctant to allow him to make permanent markings upon them. In this time, Randal Crawford, humanities director at Delta College caught wind of his former pupil's renewed presence and offered him an adjunct faculty position teaching 2 dimensional design. At this point, the teaching and learning became a daily occurrence.
After only a year, Paul decided to relocate to Daytona Beach and Erik Mitchell returned and resumed his role as owner/operator of Sanctuary Tattoo as Chad enjoyed the additional opportunity to learn from another seasoned professional artist.
Following the apprenticeship experience, Chad took his first professional tattooer position at Allied Starship Tattoo in Bay City.
In 2005, feeling the need to be back in southeast Michigan, he would be joined by Adam Gabriel Winnie and open Natural Canvas Gallery & Studios on Main Street in Ann Arbor. For the next 4 years he experienced the pros and cons of self-employment.
Becoming disillusioned with the fast paced nature of city life he aimed to get more rural, mountainous and homesteady. He bought 1.61 acres of hilly landscape near Asheville, North Carolina from Robert Blackmon for around 10K. He then began to realize his dream of an off-grid lifestyle by turning a carport into a cabin and learning the ropes of the homesteading realm. Shortly thereafter, he joined the veteran crew at Ace of Spades Tattoo. After 2 years, and finding even this to be more urban than he desired, he set sights on the sparcely populated Madison County, NC. Just 22 miles north of Asheville, the county seat of Marshall, with a staggering population of under 900 residents was exactly what he was looking for.
In 2010 he made it and eventually they came;) The rest, my friends is future history, and could prove to be interesting.