Now or never

Now or Never artists offer custom-made artwork and emotional support

Two friends sit on a large leather sofa as one anxiously fills out paperwork. A tattoo artist brings the piece he drew for her ankle. She excitedly approves the design as they walk out of the waiting area that resembles more of an art gallery than a traditional tattoo shop.

Now or Never, located in Downtown Kingsport, is expanding its business to meet the needs of their local clientele by adding new artists Summer Hamrick and Meghan Ortiz for a total of six artists: shop co-owners Joseph Maye and Brandy Patterson along with artists Sierra Palmer and Hank King. This expansion comes from the friendships the artists built through the years offering custom-made artwork not only in the Tri-Cities, but throughout the nation.

Both Maye and Patterson said they liken the close relationship between artist and client to that of a therapist, hair stylist or bartender.

“We want our clients to feel so comfortable with us that they can share with us like their best friend,” said Patterson, who’s been tattooing for 11 years. “Really, it’s like sitting down and having coffee with a friend except we’re inflicting a lot of pain.”

“You learn a lot about people when you’re tattooing them because you’re sitting there with them for hours,” said Maye. “People get really emotional about certain tattoos. Then there’s people who are just really excited just to have their art. It’s basically friendships that you’re building.”

Gone are the days of a guy walking into a street tattoo shop, getting a mom heart tattoo, and walk out feeling tough. Or, even in more recent days of picking a standard design off the wall. Custom artwork connects people with their own stories and reasonings for getting the tattoo.

“Today, it’s more so a gathering of minds and people are putting a lot of effort and thought into what they want on their body permanently,” Patterson said. “It’s about a piece that has meaning. It might be about the struggle they’ve had in their lives the past few years. Getting a tattoo is more in-depth now than what it has ever been.”

“We’ve been tattooing for so long that people know our styles, so when they find us and look at our portfolios, they trust us to do our work,” said 17-year-veteran Maye.

When the artistic duo isn’t working with their four artists blanketing the Tri-Cities with ink, they’re traveling across the nation attending conventions in big cities.

“We work 12 hour days in a big open space that’s split up into different booths with just a bunch of tattoo artists, plus everything from clothing, jewelry, supplies and equipment, art prints,” said Maye.

Patterson said they have clients from everywhere reaching out to them asking when they’re coming back and telling them how much they love their tattoo.

“It’s cool to make acquaintances outside of our little bubble we live in here,” said Patterson. “Plus, it’s cool to work in the midst of a group of your peers and artists you look up to and can learn from at the conventions. It’s a neat experience.”

Want a tattoo from one of the artists at Now or Never? Check out artist portfolios and contact the artist directly through the website atwww.nowornevergallery.com or call 423-392-0161 to schedule an appointment. The shop is located at 201 Broad Street in Kingsport.

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