I open the door of Charmed Life and quietly walk into the room. I hear the faint “ZZzZzzzzZZZz” and it chills me to my bones. The hairs raise up on the back of my neck and I start getting that butterfly feeling deep in my belly. The clean antiseptic smell enters my nostrils and my heart starts thumping. Do you know what time it is boys and girls??? It’s time for some epic new ink!
Kenin and I were celebrating one year of non-stop traveling with The Constant Rambler, oh yeah, and our 10-year wedding anniversary . We chose to do something fun, permanent, and very representative of our lifestyle. We chose to get INKed! Now for the hard part, finding the right people to tattoo us in a city that we were just breezing through.
Kenin managed to do top notch work in scouting the local shops to find the best tattoo shop in Baltimore (where we called home for 5 weeks). He stumbled upon a little place just north of the city called Charmed Life. Charmed is exactly what I felt when I walked in their door. Charmed Life only does custom tattoo work and, as an extra bonus for me, the shop also has an art studio. This is a big deal to the both of us. When you can find a group of tattooists that are also artists with other media you typically get a much higher quality of work in addition to a deeper commitment to their craft. Charmed Life also does a monthly art show which features some of Baltimore’s finest artists.
When you first walk in through the front door, you will see a display of drawings, paintings, and other various forms of art. The displays change frequently and are also available for purchase so you have the chance to see different works of art every time you visit. It actually takes a couple of minutes to realize there’s a tattoo shop in the back, until you hear that all to familiar buzzing.
I was thrilled to find this steampunk inspired piece that made me itch to have a house to display it in.
The National Bohemian guy is probably the most notable icons in Baltimore depending on your age . This guy is the symbol for the once local beer of the same name that can be found in almost every bar in Baltimore. He is a staple of hipster culture in the Charmed City and to prove my point, they were recently bought out by Pabst (PBR), but I digress…
the real reason we are here…INK! The smell of a tattoo shop is enough to get me excited, but the sound of that needle hitting skin at over a hundred times per second is enough to make me downright giddy!
I get my skin all shaven and cleaned, then the custom drawn stencil goes on. I know that Kenin is going through the exact same process in the next room. We might be walls apart, but I can feel his excitement too. Now it’s time. Let’s get this show on the road!
My artist is Mike Kohler. He’s a 10-year tattooing veteran, and actually hails from the east side of Baltimore. He specializes in the traditional Americana and nautical themed work which is perfectly suited for the work we were looking for. I gave Mike a handful of details about what I had in mind for my new ink and he came up with something beyond anything my imagination could create. He managed to take “girly compass with 10 years of love rising in the east” and turn that into something tangible. He took my mental ramblin’ and put an actual image to it…Brilliant!
I have a pretty intense love of tattoos and this is pretty much the happiest you will see me look while under the needle. While I love getting new ink, I am pretty much a chicken shit when it comes to pain.
Kenin chose Charmed Life to do our tattoos because of this guy right here. This is Darl Gnau, the owner/artist of Charmed Life Gallery. Darl, working under the stage name Apocalypse Gnau, has been featured in local art shows and is a student of both traditional media, working with watercolors and oils, and digital media. Even though his primary areas of focus are bio-mechanical and pseudo-Japanese works, he’s always willing to take on a new challenge. With 16-years of tattooing experience under his belt, Kenin saw a his usage of bold colors and detailed shading and knew this was someone he wanted to work with. When we approached Darl with the idea of doing a couples’ piece, he was just as excited as we were (we’re contagious that way). He had such great vision of what we wanted (probably more so than we did) and was confident that he and Mike could do complimenting pieces for us. Kenin wanted a masculine compass with the same touch of wander lust and love mixed with a nautical/steampunk feel.
The work these amazing guys did was mind-blowing. We were ecstatic with our final works of art.
In celebration of 10 years of marriage and an immense draw to the nomadic life that we have chosen to live, Darl and Mike have bestowed upon us two mirror works of art that reflect our personalities through and through!
If you are looking for a custom-made piece of art to adorn your body (or your wall) I can’t say enough good things about the team over at Charmed Life. They’re talented, passionate, and surprisingly affordable! There are a lot of tattoo shops around where you can walk in and point at some flash on the wall and get something done quickly. This isn’t one of those shops. This is a place where the artists understand that what they’re putting on your skin is a permanent reflection of their work and your personality. Because of that mindset, you can be confident that you’ll have a tattoo that you will enjoy for the rest of your life.
If you are interested in more information about Charmed Life Tattoo, and want to see more samples of their work, take a look at their official website. A quick look at their galleries will show you why I think they’re the best tattoo shop in Baltimore.
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