BIDWELL — “Rich T” Thomas, 54, owner of Bicknee Supply Co., honors his trade as a tattooist and trade historian with a unique area attraction, the Ohio Tattoo Museum.
The museum can be found at 1928 Jackson Pike and its 1700 square foot space connects with the rest of Bicknee Supply Co., a tattooist supplying center.
“The supply business actually started at 250 2nd Avenue in Gallipolis back when I had my shop there,” Thomas said.
He said that Temple Tattoo and Piercing was originally opened in 1999. Thomas stated he is a Gallia native that grew up near Cheshire just down the road from the Kyger Creek High School. He moved to Columbus out of high school and then moved to New York City from 1981 to late 1988. He has lived in Cleveland, Milwaukee and Los Angeles before moving back to the Gallia area in 1996. He felt Gallia County was a good location for starting his own tattoo shop because his “dollar could go further” in the area. He has “twenty plus” years of business experience.
“I was the kid that handpicked tattoos on his buddies when I first started out of high school,” Thomas said.
Thomas started collecting tattoo relics in the mid-eighties, a piece at a time. Much of what hangs in his museum is called “flash,” drawings and design sheets displaying examples of body art for prospective buyers to select from. He has a variety of vintage tattooing machines under glass, some examples being a portable Percy Waters travel tattoo set and equipment from the 1920s.
Thomas displays one of his oldest pieces of flash in the form of art done by a man named Joseph Hartley. The piece in question displays a knight peering around the trunk of a tree over the shoulder of a naked woman. The flash is listed in the museum as having been done between the 1920s and 1930s.
“In ‘99, I got lucky and bought this guy’s Al Cooke collection,” Thomas said. “That’s when I went ‘Wow. I’ve got enough for a museum.’”
Thomas noted the museum opened at the current location with a gallery show on July 5. Tattoos were done by Ed Smith and money donated to the museum. A free concert was put on by Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane.
The museum displays a variety of tattooists’ work ranging from legend Leonard “Stoney” St. Clair to Al Cooke. A tribute to Al Schiefley is anticipated to come later in the year. Thomas states with little doubt that the museum’s collections are priceless.
Thomas said all visitors to the Ohio Tattoo Museum may view the exhibits free of charge. He stated he did this to share the history and love of his craft with the world.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.
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