But different is good.
As an artist making his living inking tattoos, Thomas says different is what’s keeping him in Jackson. Fondren will become his new business home this October when his Electric Dagger Gallery and Studio move in to the basement of Fondren Corner.
Thomas’s name is synonymous with the tattoo culture in Mississippi. Apprenticing his career just out of high school, he may best be known for his Ink Spot Gallery that was downtown from 2005 to 2010. For a time, he left Jackson to learn how to build tattooing equipment but returned to build the business he know runs from a space next to Sam’s Lounge off I-55.
But recently, Thomas said it was time to go – until he learned of a space he could get into in Fondren. “This neighborhood is my reason to stay in Mississippi,” he explains. “I’ve got offers from all over the world where I’d make a bigger name and bigger money. But I’m staying here. I want Jackson to have a place for quality tattoos.”
Since 2005, Thomas says he has known Fondren as “the heartbeat of any kind of subculture, youth or progression.” Fondren is the neighborhood where he believes his work can be appreciated more than anywhere else in the metro.
Tattoos are mysterious for some and misunderstood by others. Thomas sees it as a form of expression. “When I first got involved in it, it wasn’t on TV,” he says referring to popular reality shows like Miami Ink and Ink Master. “But for decades, it has been a form of progressive art recognized around the world.”
People from all walks of life come through his doors including oral surgeons, chefs and even judges. “I tattooed a judge one time and was in court for a traffic violation and recognized her as a customer,” he laughs. “She looked up with a nervous smile.” Case dismissed.
Getting inked has become a popular way to celebrate an accomplishment, like completing an Ironman or marathon, or memorializing a lost loved one. Late last year, friends of the late Simon Hamburg all got a replica of the late Jacksonian’s Mississippi tattoo in tribute.
Thomas says Fondren is attractive for so many reasons, the least of which is for his customers’ convenience. “If they’re waiting for tattoos, they can get a cup of coffee or have a beer or eat, and all they have to do is walk out of the building. Everything’s there.”
The Electric Dagger will host events from time to time as an art gallery. Original tattoo art from his employees and from artists all over the world hangs in his current studio. “We want to get involved in the big events Fondren holds,” he explains. “I want to be in the neighborhood to be a part of Fondren, to be involved.”
Thomas says the impending relocation is already making him happier at work and at home. “I’ve busted it to build my name and my business, to treat people right and master my trade. Fondren puts me in the mix with more creative people and diversity. To be attached to that, I hope it makes me – and the community – better as a whole.”