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Ink over Avenue A

Tattoo shop opens in Turners — first in town

Leah Caldieri has opened Charon Art Visionary Tattoo on Avenue A in Turners Falls.  Recorder/Paul Franz

Leah Caldieri has opened Charon Art Visionary Tattoo on Avenue A in Turners Falls. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

Recorder Staff

TURNERS FALLS — Leah Caldieri believes tattoos can be more than skin-deep... but not in a bloody way .

The idea that tattooing involved buckets of blood and dangers of infection was a misconception that had to be ironed out of the antiquated local health regulations, according to Caldieri, before Montague’s first tattoo shop could open.

Her shop, Charon Art Visionary Tattoo, is in the process of a soft opening in a newly renovated space on Avenue A.

Tattoo has grown from a fringe art form illegal in much of the country to a mainstream decoration, celebration, memorial or rite of passage, says Caldieri, 28, and she sees room for her particular interpretation.

“I think what makes this tattoo studio unique is that I’m offering ... I call it ‘visionary tattoo’ ... because I’m encouraging people to bring the meaning of the tattoo with them,” Caldieri explained.

“So ‘I want to get this star on my arm because ...’ I’m interested in the ‘because’.”

She says she views her role — ideally — as a facilitator of personal transformation.

Caldieri says she named her shop Charon Art after the ferryman of Greek mythology who carried the shades of the dead across the river Styx to Hades.

She says she sees tattoo as a transformation rite similar to vision quests or tribal coming-of-age customs. “Sometimes they incorporated something dangerous or something painful or something ritualistic, and that idea is something we’re sort of bringing back here, that you can find that transformation through tattooing: get an image of an animal whose strength you want to embody ... or of your father who passed away.”

A typical session at Charon might include meditation and Reiki massage — in which she is certified.

Or, on the other hand, a random image found online is fine, too. “I’m not going to push the spiritual element on anybody, but I’m not going to say leave your (baggage) at the door, which is the attitude a lot of tattooists have — sit down, shut up and let me tattoo you,” Caldieri said.

“That’s very old-school and it stems from an era when tattoo was illegal and underground.”

It isn’t anymore.

Clients include 18-year-olds just legally allowed to have themselves indelibly inked, middle-aged men in for touch-ups to faded designs ... and now middle-aged women. This was the last demographic to appear in shops, Caldieri said, likely because those shops were gruff and unwelcoming.

Caldieri has been tattooing since 2011, after apprenticing at a shop in her hometown of St. Johnsbury, Vt.

Caldieri studied art, got a BA in studio art from the University of Vermont, and was determined to make a living as an artist.

She walked into the shop, the owner liked her work, and she has been learning and tattooing since.

Her first shop is a product of her philosophy, with the last shop she worked in not being interested in her approach. She now lives in Northampton with her husband, Sergio. Caldieri said she asked around regarding a place to open her first shop, Turners Falls came up and she found local artists and shop owners unusually welcoming.

Charon’s hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 107 Avenue A, on the second floor. The shop is open on a provisional basis, pending the fulfillment of bureaucratic requirement related to bathrooms.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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