by Eric Stearley
Downtown Wabash continues to be a hot spot for the entrepreneurial spirit with the opening of Filament Tattoo Company on Market Street Friday, April 4. It’s clear from the moment you walk in the door that this is not your typical tattoo shop.
Owner Matthew Haynes has been a pastor for the past 15 years. When Calvary Baptist Church closed in January, Haynes was out of a job and decided to go in a different direction.
“I decided I wanted to do something to stay in the community, because we really like Wabash,” said Haynes. “I’ve run businesses before, but I thought, ‘I love tattooing, and I love people, and I love Wabash, so to tie it all together, this would be a good thing.’”
Haynes has been helping out at Studio B Tattoo in Marion for the past couple years, which is where he met tattoo artist and Wabash native Roger Price. Haynes knew he wanted to be downtown, “just because of the vibe,” and when he came across the old bingo hall adjacent to Rock City Café and found out it was for rent, he jumped on the opportunity. In just two weeks, Haynes, along with many helping hands, transformed the smoky old bingo hall into a beautiful creative space.
“It was just a cool looking, massive, giant room, with brick walls and tin ceilings,” Haynes said.
After a deep clean, several coats of paint, construction of booths, and placement of a few giant Filament Tattoo Company logos on the walls, another downtown storefront was transformed from a vacant space into a place for art and community. The shop has three booths for tattooing and a piercing room, as well as an inviting lobby for patrons to meet, decide upon new artwork, and wait in anticipation for their turn in the chair.
Haynes is licensed to tattoo, but mostly leaves the artwork up to the professionals. Price has been tattooing professionally for five years, but anyone who knows him also knows that he’s been tattooing as a hobby for many more – eight more to be exact. On opening day, he gave the shops first tattoo to his brother David. The two made a deal; David got to be first in the chair and get a free tattoo, but Roger got to decide what it would be. He chose the shop’s logo, an old-school filament light bulb.
“We’re the first electrically lighted city in the world, so you go back to the invention of the light bulb with Thomas Edison,” Haynes said as he explained the company’s name and logo. “Well, Thomas Edison is actually the inventor of the modern tattoo machine.”
Edison invented the electric pen in 1876. He intended for his invention to be used as a duplicating device, but in 1891, Samuel O’Reilly modified the device to penetrate skin, creating the first electric tattoo machine.
“It totally changed the industry, so Edison gave us light, and he gave us the tattoo machine,” said Haynes. “You take those things and add the fact that Wabash is a city that’s known for light, so ya.”
Currently, Price is the lone tattoo artist working at the shop, which also has a piercing specialist.
“At this point, we’re only two weeks into it. We’ve been looking for people, but that takes some time to find the right people,” said Haynes. “We’ve had lots of people interested, but they weren’t the right people, so we’re kind of holding out. We’ve got room for two [more] artists without doing anymore building.”
In addition to body art, Haynes hopes the shop can be a place for traditional art as well. What is currently a long, empty wall will soon be an art gallery of sorts.
“Wabash has had kind of a string of tattoo shops, but we wanted something that wasn’t just a street shop. We want this to be a place where art is happening,” said Haynes. “I want all of our artists to really be stretching themselves and trying new things. That’s the environment we want to have here, where we’re really producing some cool art, as well as supporting some artists in the area. We’d love for even kids to be able to display stuff in here. As far as I’m concerned, if we’ve got room on the wall, we’ll hang it up there, and hopefully sell it for you.”
Filament Tattoo Company is open from 12-8 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday and 12-10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. It will undoubtedly be a must-hit spot on future First Friday Art Walks.