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It’s a Living with Lisa

“Mercury” rising with tattoos’ ubiquity

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There’s a legend in my family that my grandmother found the tattoo my grandfather had gotten in the Navy so repugnant she insisted he wear a long-sleeved shirt at the dinner table even in July.

For decades, tattoos were considered appropriate only on sailors and, later, motorcycle gang members.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving last month when families sat down to eat turkey and, in some cases, to admire Nana’s new tatt. Possibly Nana got it at Mercury Tattoo Studio on Donaldson Street in Doylestown where three very accomplished artists ply their trade.

Owner Scott Bramble went to Pennridge High School with the class of ‘91 but dropped out to start a tattoo apprenticeship. He opened a studio in Glenside first, but the desire to be closer to the place where he’d grown up led him to his present location. Scott says, “The history in Bucks County combined with the cultural interest of the people in the area has made for the perfect fit.” Scott also draws and paints.

Lots of art goes on at Mercury Studio besides tattooing.

“It’s a hub for local art shows and craft markets, and it’s been a pleasure to be an active part of the art and business community here,” Scott tells me.

Frank Guthier has been a painter his whole life and a tattoo artist for 20 years. His specialty is traditional old-style tattoos from the early 1900s. He also loves Neo traditional which he explains “is a mix of old and new.” He has done guest spots in Europe and around the United States.

Perhaps the most colorful of the artists at Mercury is Carl “Shotsie” Gorman. Scott introduces him as “an accomplished poet and writer, and a fine artist across several mediums and styles.” Speaking for himself, Shotsie says, “I’ve been living my life out loud for 72 years!”

Shotsie is extremely knowledgeable about all things related to his art. He tells me that most people come in looking for a symbol to commemorate some rite of passage — a birth, a death, a divorce, some major life change.

He is an engaging raconteur. And, boy, does this man have some great stories. He lived in New York City in the ‘70s as a sculptor who worked at carpentry. He tells me there were unwritten rules back then.

“If you were a sculptor, you worked at carpentry,” he said. “If you were a painter, you worked with electricians. If you were an actor or musician, you waited tables or tended bar.”

Shotsie got into tattooing when his friend started getting tattoos at underground shops. From 1964 until 1994, it was illegal. Shotsie joined his buddy in operating their own illegal shop.

He laughs and says, “Tattooing was a lot easier than carrying sheet rock up a flight of stairs.”

He has published magazines about tattooing, was named one of the “50 most innovative artists on the planet” by Tattoo Flash magazine, appeared on numerous television shows advocating for his art, and has been the subject of a short film, “Birdnan.”

He now lives with his wife in Lambertville, N.J., a town he calls “the perfect village for an artist.”

The portfolios of all three men are showcased on Mercury’s website, and appointments for consultations can be made there. They accept walk-ins every first Saturday of the month.

Currently, the studio is hosting a Christmas market featuring original art and limited prints. Guthier has an exclusive line of apparel and home goods.

Shotsie has a solo show coming up next year at the George School in Newtown.

Scott is working on an 8-foot-wide digital pen-and-ink drawing that explores the legend of the Doan outlaws of Bucks County, rumored to have hidden their plunder in a Tinicum cave. It will be featured in an upcoming exhibit at the Mercer Museum this spring.

Are you making a living doing something unique? Has your career taken a sharp turn in the direction of your dreams? Tell us about it in an email to herald@buckscountyherald.com. Put “It’s a Living with Lisa” in the subject line.


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