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Several months ago, a small sign appeared outside a house on Route 100B in Moretown. “Shady Lady Tattoos” it read in black Gothic lettering.
The house, an 1850s white colonial, had been left dilapidated and deserted after sustaining nearly five feet of water following Tropical Storm Irene, and the opening of Meredith Martin’s business last August was “kind of a one-year anniversary of the flood,” she said.
An old house in the middle of a rural river valley prone to flooding might sound like the last place for a tattoo parlor, “but with any building, there are risks,” Martin said, and the community has embraced her business.
Martin started Shady Lady Tattoos in 2006 in Randolph, after apprenticing and earning her tattoo license in Montpelier in 2004. Today, most of Martin’s clients live between Rutland and Hardwick, but some travel much further for her custom designs. “I have a regular customer that comes up twice a year from New York City,” Martin said. “He came in for the first time while on vacation in Vermont, and he keeps coming back.”
“People generally develop a really close personal relationship with their tattooists,” Martin explained, as the tattooing process “is really intimate and personal, and people have really personal stories that go with their tattoos.”
Last fall, Martin was featured in Vermont Works for Women’s Labor of Love exhibit, which celebrates the transformative power of 25 working women across the state as part of the organization’s 25th anniversary.
“Meredith is a tattoo artist,” Martin’s Labor of Love bio reads, “but she is so much more than that. She helps people work through terrible times they have had in their lives and gives them artwork to constantly remind them of how they came through changed, powerful [and] strong.”
Martin has wanted to be a tattooist ever since she was 16 and got a tattoo of a little flower with a star, she said, but it wasn’t until she was 38 that she started pursuing the art as a full-time career.
“I was always really intrigued about the fact that there was something mysterious and taboo about tattoos—especially for women. But times are changing,” Martin said, as people are realizing that tattoos are really “just another form of self-expression.”
Now, over half of Martin’s clients are women. “They’re nurses, teachers and grandmas,” she said, explaining that the people getting tattoos today are not the stereotypical bikers and ex-convicts.
“You’d be surprised how many farmers come in for tattoos,” Martin said, illustrating the beauty behind Shady Lady’s central Vermont location. “Young gardeners come in asking for tattoos of kale,” she said. “I’ve done so many botanical-themed designs this year.”
And Martin is looking for ways other ways in which to embrace her new community. This spring, she hopes to begin renovating the barn behind Shady Lady to serve as a media sculpture and stained glass studio, where she can offer showroom space for other artists during the Vermont Festival of the Arts in August. “I have a lot of plans to support the arts,” Martin said.
For more information about Shady Lady, or to set up a free consultation,
visit shadyladytattoos.com or call Meredith at (802)496-9616.