Thanks to local residents Dave and Nicole Knapp, as of Wednesday tattooing and body piercing returns to the community in the form of Iron Raven Tattoo & Piercing located at 1106 W. Main St.
Born and raised in Merrill, Dave brings nearly 20 years of body art experience to the couple’s new location. Prior to the opening of the new shop, the Knapps previously owned and operated Lucky Raven Tattoo & Piercing on Knox Street in Wausau.
As Dave explains, what began as a long standing passion for art soon led to an apprenticeship and eventually a family-owned and operated small business adventure.
“I’ve always had an interest for art. As I got older, that interest led me to tattooing and body art, the more I learned about tattooing the more interested I became,” he adds.
In 1999, Knapp began his first apprenticeship in Wausau, working and learning alongside various artists. Then in August of 2009, Dave and Nicole opened Lucky Raven.
“I enjoy the challenge as every customer is different,” he adds. “Every person that comes into our shop is a different canvas, so to speak. Each has their own idea of what they want and that’s what I have always enjoyed about this sort of work, and still enjoy. It’s a challenge as I never really know what my next piece or request is going to be.”
Although the couple agree on their venture being successful in Wausau – as evidenced by an average four-month waiting period for new appointments – the idea of relocating their business to a smaller area had been at the back of their minds for quite some time.
Then this past January, the couple saw an opportunity to take advantage of open space in Merrill and decided to make the move.
“Even when working in Wausau, Merrill has always been our home; living and raising our three children (Michael-12, Reanna-11 and Xander-18 mos.) just outside of town,” Dave adds. “We couldn’t be happier to be closer to home. We look forward to seeing familiar faces along with many new ones.”
While Dave will be the sole in-house artist at Iron Raven, specializing in cover-ups and custom black and grey body art; Nicole will be tending to customer piercing needs. Piercing apprentice Kelli Surendonk will be accompanying Nicole while she learns the trade.
Although every request poses a challenge in some form, Dave cites a Scandinavian sleeve and a portrayal of a freight train on a customer’s rib area, as his most challenging works yet.
“The train was also a cover-up which made it even more challenging,” he adds with a laugh. “The sleeve was a challenge being so intricate and covering the entire arm. Both took about 50 hours or so to complete. Typically with long-term projects such as those, customers will come in for a few hours at a time and depending how often, they can be done in a matter of a few weeks, few months or a few years. It’s really up to the customer.”
In addition to tattoos and piercings, the couple recently took on yet another venture in the form of showcasing and selling custom fabricated steel fire-pit orbs.
Currently the shop has seven different models available for display, however custom orders are available by stopping in during regular business hours of noon-7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays or noon-9 p.m. Friday and Saturdays.
“I would like to thank our family and our customers for their support over the years,” Dave adds with a grin. “None of this would be possible without them.”
Dave, Nicole and Kelli can also be reached via phone at 715-539-8844.