By Jill Nagy
After 10 years as an itinerant tattoo artist, Michael Ransom Backus and his co-owner and fiancee, Sharon McCarty, have opened a tattoo studio and art gallery in Ballston Spa.
Ransom Tattoo Gallery is in the former Lincoln Hotel, now a combination apartment and commercial space at 104 Milton Ave.
A Saratoga Springs native, Backus said he has “a decent following” and business has been good.
In addition to tattooing, he creates the artwork that can be found on the walls. Along those lines, he is about to begin a large commission, “the largest watercolor painting I have ever done.” The painting is for the wall of a client’s new home.
He also does India ink drawings on paper, fabric and wood.
Backus said as a tattoo artist, he does mostly larger tattoos, many in a Japanese style. Tattoo art, he explained, began in Asia and was brought to the United States by sailors and seamen who visited Asia. Many of the original designs they brought remain popular.
He also offers geometric designs and traditional American-style designs. He said more than 50 percent of his tattoo clients are women, who, he thinks, see it as another form of body modification like getting their hair or nails done.
Backus said he wants the studio to be “a very inclusive space where you would want to come.”
Costs vary, he said, beginning at $100 and ranging upward with size and complexity. The wall artwork is also for sale.
Visitors are offered a lagniappe, a New Orleans tradition that means an extra something that is free of charge, usually a pin or sticker, or a “plantiappe,” a plant cutting to take home and grow.
Backus and McCarty also plan to do a lot of charity work and community outreach, raising money for a different charity every quarter. This quarter’s beneficiary is Wellspring, a counseling service in Saratoga Springs.
They plan to run a regular fundraiser they are calling “Shoot What You Get,” a play on “Get What You Get.” Participants shoot a nerf gun at a poster of tattoo designs. Wherever the suction cup dart lands is the design for the participant’s new tattoo. Proceeds go to the charity.
“You’d be shocked at how popular that is,” he said.
While Backus does the tattooing and artwork, McCarty runs the studio, he said. She takes care of bookings, social media, and generally looks after things.
Previously, Backus and McCarty had a mobile studio. They spent six months in Louisiana working out of an RV before the pandemic. Moving from state to state became difficult because of quarantine requirements. Then the RV was destroyed in a hurricane. The signs seemed to be telling them it was time to settle down for a while.
The studio is open 1-7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Walk-Ins are welcome, if Backus has the time, but he prefers to have people make an appointment. The studio can be reached at 518-309-4444. Its website is ransomtattoogallery.com.