by Karen Landry | Photography by Heidi Sawyer
“Show me a man with a tattoo and I’ll show you a man with an interesting past.”
— Jack London
Have you ever thought of getting a tattoo? Or do you want more? Whether the thought of permanent art on your dermis entices or repulses you, the notion is rather interesting. The word tattoo derives from the Tahitian tatu whose translation is “to mark something.” Throughout history, tattoos have signified a myriad of meanings – from which clan you belong to, how much you adore your lover, as a protection from curses, or just because you think a particular design is so darn cool. No matter the reason, the Lewiston Auburn area has many fine choices to fulfill your ink-fueled dreams.
Tattoo studios in Lewiston Auburn
Captain Morgan’s Tattooz
Let’s face the facts. If you got a tattoo in Lewiston Auburn within the last thirty odd years, you probably were inked by either Captain Morgan himself, or one of the many tattoo artists who have trained under him. An undisputed master of his craft, Captain Morgan has been creating in this area for the last few decades.
After tattooing in Old Orchard Beach in the 80s, Captain Morgan moved up to LA in the early 90s. Originally his clientele was largely made up of bikers and military veterans. But the popularity and accessibility of tattoos has grown, and won’t be going out of style any time soon. Captain Morgan has grown and adapted with it. Anyone is welcome at Captain Morgan’s. Temporary tattoos are even offered to any little ones that might stop in to see how mom and dad are doing “under the gun.”
There are two other artists that work at Captain Morgan’s Tattooz: Frankie Morgan (Captain Morgan’s son), and Justin Graves. Both young men have been in the business for about a decade. Frankie, known as a family man and the comedian of the bunch, is talented in all areas and does a lot of smaller pieces, as well as body piercing. Justin is a family man as well; he put off his apprenticeship at age 18 to start his family. Justin, who has previously tattooed in Portland and Brunswick, likes to do pieces based in realism, such as animal and human portraits. He prefers black and grey for these types of tattoos. “Color portraits look cartoony to me,” he notes.
Captain Morgan says, “We can do all styles, from wild to mild.” But one thing they definitely will not do: “We don’t do copycat art.” If somebody comes in with a picture of someone else’s tattoo, they will not copy it, so don’t even ask. However, they will come up with their own concept based on another tattoo. Captain Morgan will research extensively on the internet, using tools like Pinterest, to help make it an original design.
And if Winona ends up not exactly being forever, they also offer excellent cover-up work. “There are a lot of street hacks out there. We clean up after them,” Captain Morgan mentions.
Captain Morgan has also participated in tattoo conventions, from Las Vegas to Bangor. He’s racked up so many trophies and plaques that he can’t fit them all in his shop. Sure, he’s won Best in Show. But the award that means the most to him was a surprise. Presented by Tatouage La Marc in Quebec, Captain Morgan was called up at the Downeast Tattoo Convention in 2006 and given a lifetime achievement award that acknowledged his experience and skills in the arts, and his willingness to teach others.
“I did my first tattoo in 1979, before my son was even born,” Captain Morgan notes. Besides a break in 2012 to recover from throat cancer (“It’s why I sound like one of the Sopranos now”), Captain Morgan has been going strong for decades now. He once tattooed for 13 hours straight, back in the 80s. He can still work on a piece for 6 or 7 hours at a time, if needed.
And with a heart as big as his acclaim, Captain Morgan offers pro bono ink for the community. He recently held a contest on his Facebook page offering a free tattoo. The winner he chose was a woman who had recently lost her 10-year-old daughter. The result was matching butterfly memorial tattoos for mom and her friends who nominated her. (shown below) Captain Morgan also offers 20% off to EMT’s, first responders, police, firefighters, and the military.
Find out why their slogan is “The Treasure is in the Ink,”
Captain Morgan Tattooz
675 Main Street Suite 12, Lewiston
Facebook: Captain Morgan Tattooz
C+C O’Leary Tattoo Company
Located inside of an old carriage house built before the train tracks were even laid down, C+C O’Leary Tattoo Company is anything but old-fashioned. Opened in 2013 by husband and wife team Christopher and Carrie O’Leary, you will find a group of tattoo artists that feel like family, and are talented as all heck.
A few things that stand out in this tattoo studio are the pups, the women, and art. Let me explain…
C+C O’Leary Tattoo Company feels like an art studio. Original sketches, drawings, and paintings cover the walls. You can even get a peek at Christopher O’Leary’s pyro art — if you don’t know what that is, I suggest you pop into the shop and find out!
Company of 5
The five tattoo artists that create at the studio are the aforementioned O’Leary’s, plus Tori Gilliam, Sara Nichols, and Stephen Leppanen. They all can really draw, and have participated in the local Fuel the Arts Expo, held annually at The Ramada Inn in Lewiston. All their work is custom. Christopher O’Leary, Leppanen and Nichols have all worked with Captain Morgan at some point. You could really play “Six Degrees of Captain Morgan” in this town.
The O’Leary’s miniature schnauzers, Lenora and Ivan, are like the tattoo studio’s little mascots. It’s no surprise, considering how much the company does for local animal welfare. They do a good deal of animal tribute tattoos, usually paw prints, and donate half the money from those tattoos to The Greater Androscoggin Humane Society. Proceeds from their merchandise are also donated to the animal shelter. The cause is so close to their heart that they even donate money out of their own pockets, if sales are slow.
When it was rare to find a female in this business, Sara Nichols was one of the first. Other women, like Carrie O’Leary and Tori Gilliam, have followed in her footsteps. Gilliam remembers when she was discouraged from following her passion. She was told a tattoo parlor was no place for a woman, and that she was just a distraction. Not to be dissuaded, Gilliam worked two jobs while she apprenticed, and stayed up all night drawing.
“When you want it, you want it. I used to always hear, ‘You’re the first tattoo I ever got from a chick.’ Now you really don’t hear that anymore,” she shares.
Carrie O’Leary says,” Christopher isn’t just my husband. He’s my teacher too.” Now mostly retired from actual tattooing, Carrie O’Leary is now concentrating on running the business. It’s obviously another talent of hers because the studio is busy. They recommend booking your appointment in advance. Popular artists like Christopher O’Leary are booked 5-6 months out.
O’Leary states, “It’s a passion. You don’t want to waste your client’s time. And you don’t go into art to get rich.”
C+C O’Leary Tattoo Company
214 Minot Avenue, Auburn
Facebook: C+C O’Leary Tattoo Company
There’s some new blood in town, and they’re hoping to bring new life and revenue to the Auburn area where they’ve landed. James McGrory and his wife, Lindsey, purchased the Engine House in Auburn last year. They’ve been busy revitalizing this old landmark, which used to be a fire station, setting up their tattoo studio, and establishing more small businesses inside the building.
In fact, they already held an open house involving a variety of local small businesses this past November. This event, featuring Lewiston Auburn favorites such as Great Falls Delivery Cafe, Bella Fiore Boutique, and The Beauty Bar, was a successful and brilliant way to bring together our hometown collective.
Using words like “personal” and “exclusive” to describe their studio, this appointment-only business is dedicated to giving their clients a one-of-a-kind experience tailored just for them. McGrory specializes in black and grey tattooing and leans towards the realism genre, but he doesn’t shy away from color if it suits the design.
West to East
James McGrory has been tattooing for 22 years, and opened Fianna Studio in 2010 after moving to Maine from Colorado. After seven years in Portland, Fianna was relocated to Auburn, following the purchase of the historic Engine House. McGrory says,” Maine has such a strong sense of community and the quiet quality of life that fits the idea of Fianna Studio perfectly.”
The other tattoo artist at Fianna, Brad Burkhart, hails from San Diego. He brought his 10 years experience to Maine for much of the same reasons as the McGrory’s – a better quality of life and a studio where he could grow his skills. Burkhart is equally as versatile as McGrory, with laser sharp focus and a little more of a hint of traditional application.
McGrory notes,”We both feel strongly that a quality tattoo is more important than making a quick buck, so our clients get the best approach for a tattoo that’ll look great for their whole lives, not just the first few years. Our clients appreciate that dedication to their tattoos, and the relationships we have with them, which is why they travel from all over Maine and around the country.” The new business they’re bringing to town undoubtedly boosts our local economy and forges fresh relationships throughout Lewiston Auburn.
158 Court Street, Auburn
Tell Your Story
Central Maine is fortunate to have quite a few options for tattoos. Our local tattoo studios offer the highest caliber of talent, topnotch cleanliness, and friendly professionalism. Why not let a tattoo tell your story?
The Lewiston Auburn area has other tattoo parlors that are worth checking out. Some of these are:
Altered Images Tattoo
1384 Lisbon Street, Lewiston
Ink Junkies Tattoo
892 Lisbon Street, Lewiston
Skin Deep Tattoo and Piercing
417 Main Street, Lewiston
We would like to thank all the ladies who came out to help us get a great cover shot. One thing is certain, LA has some great helping hands, and even better ink. Thanks again for helping us tie together another great issue!
Pictured from left to right, back row: Natalie Michaud, Hannah Dieterich, Sarah Zeihm, Lauryn Hottinger, Jaime Lyn Allie, Renee Coolbrith and in front, Pam Ashby.