Newton gets first tattoo parlor, gallery

When Margaret Moose opened Studio 258 three weeks ago, a couple of guys showed up wanting to be the first people tattooed in Newton – legally, that is.

A tattoo artist and painter, Moose was generally amused by the gentlemen’s effort, but had to tell them they were too late and would have to settle for being the second people tattooed in the city.

Studio 258, located at 106 East B St. in Newton, is the city’s first tattoo parlor, but Moose and her husband, Jonathan Landers, said the studio is much more than that. Though its top priority is tattooing, the studio also houses a full-time art gallery that features the works of local and national artists.   

Studio 258 moved to Newton from downtown Hickory, but Moose and her husband were already area residents.

“We bought an old house in Newton, and that’s what brought us here,” she said. “We wanted to work in Newton, but there was not zoning for the studio here.”

After obtaining the proper zoning from the city, the couple moved their business into the building one block from the 1924 Courthouse in Newton.

The building has been around since 1946 and was once home to a pool hall. Landers has fixed up pretty much everything in the old building, including the interior plumbing, floor renovation and ceiling fixtures.

Landers said the move to Newton has been surprisingly easy.

“I’m just excited that Newton passed the re-zoning of the building,”

Landers said. “It was really surprisingly quick and things happened in a couple of months.”

The move from Hickory to Newton could affect business for the studio, but, so far, Moose said that hasn’t been a problem.

“My clientele is that I’ve had for years,” Moose said. “It doesn’t really matter where I am, but we’ve actually had more walk-ins here than we had in Hickory.”

Along with Moose, the studio features tattoo artists Stephen Busey and Virginia Barnhardt, Moose’s daughter.

Moose said she’s been interested in art her whole life, but only thought about tattooing after a recommendation from Landers. After completing an apprenticeship in Wilmington, Moose traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii, and worked at a busy tattoo shop called “Skin Deep” for two years.

“It was like doing 10 years of tattooing in two years,” she said.   

Before tattooing, Moose obtained undergraduate and graduate degrees in anthropology.

“I’ve always done paintings and portraits on the side, but it had never occurred to me to tattoo until my husband recommended it,” she said.

Moose, who paints with oils, said she enjoys painting more than tattooing.

“If I could make a living oil painting, I would, because it is calm and relaxing,” she said. “Tattooing is more stressful. A lot of people who get into tattooing don’t realize how stressful it is. It’s a one-shot deal and is more stressful than painting. If you mess up, you can’t just paint over it.”

Every painter has a niche, or a specialty, but Moose said her go-to style is universal because of her training. She said her experience at the fast-paced tattoo shop in Honolulu trained her to deal with all sorts genres.

“Because I’ve learned in a busy shop, I’ve never had the luxury to say I want to do Japanese or I want to do tribal,” she said. “I had to do whatever came through the door.”

Despite this, she said she loves to paint anything in color.

A gallery, too

The tattoo shop is just one aspect of Studio 258. The building also houses a large art gallery for public and private shows.

Moose said she will host single artists or a group of artists and even some of the tattoo artists display work in the gallery.

“Because it is such a big space, I don’t think we will have a show with just one artist, but who knows,” Moose said.

Landers is putting the final touches on the gallery for the first show scheduled Aug. 26, and the gallery should be finished in a matter of days, he said. The show, “The Valley Goes Modern,” will feature the works of 16 area artists, including the works of Moose, Busey and Barnhardt. The opening lasts from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Studio 258 is open Monday through Saturday 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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