ORLEANS — A tattoo studio, which would be the only one between Hyannis and Provincetown, may be coming to Main Street in the village center.
Eastham native Sean Shea, a body artist with a bachelor of fine arts degree in illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design, hopes to open a “tattoo sanctuary filled with art, sculptures and a few plants” at 64 Main St., formerly the location of Mr. Ken’s Barber Shop. He was to meet with the site plan review committee yesterday (July 1) for an informal review.
“Growing up on the Cape, you come and you go,” Shea said in an interview. “You have to explore other places to realize how valuable this place is.”
After graduation from Nauset Regional High School and RISD, Shea came back to the Cape and worked at Cape Cod Photo and Art. He’d gotten his first tattoo at 18. “I got a shamrock, for my heritage,” he said. “Usually when you get your first tattoo, it’s not always the wisest decision, but I figured I couldn’t go wrong with that one.”
After that, Shea added another tattoo every year into his mid-20s but still hadn’t made one. Then he had a show of his art at Mooncusser Tattoos in Provincetown, where owners Khristian Bennett and Andrea Tasha invited him to do an apprenticeship.
“I was hooked right away by the chance to create the art,” Shea said. After seven years, he accepted an offer from Phuc Tran, owner of Portland’s Tusnami Tattoo. The studio in Maine was mostly by appointment. If he’s able to open in Orleans, he said, “I won’t take too many walk-ins, if any at all. It will be more of a studio, less of a parlor.”
When he and his wife, also a Cape native, had an opportunity to buy land in Eastham and build a home, they decided to move back from Maine. “We were down here when the whole virus started,” he said, “and that’s when I started to look into opening a shop.”
The former Mr. Ken’s space in Orleans was available, as the grandson of the founder had decided to move to Texas. Shea said his wife’s family knows the owners from whom he plans to rent.
Shea’s work, which can be seen at tusnamitattoo.com, has a quality reminiscent of scrimshaw. “A lot has to do with just growing up on the Cape and drawing,” he said. “I enjoy the history of the Cape as a seafaring community.” He was thrilled to discover that “I could create art every day and make a living.” He cites Andrew Wyeth, M.C. Escher, and Rodin among his influences. Shea, who is also into hot rods and motorcycles, admires detailing legend Kenneth Howard, “the master of the modern Pinstripe.”
In his proposal to the town, Shea wrote that “I strive to combine a focus of illustration with the simplicity of American tattooing. I call my style illustrative realism.”
Everyone he’s spoken with at town hall has been “extremely nice,” Shea said. “There haven’t been any issues or negative feedback. I’m sure there’ll be quite a lot of communication that needs to happen between us to figure this out.”