Yeah, you had this one pegged.
But just in case you weren’t sure, this week’s Access Point photo game was outside Junkman’s Daughter in Little Five Points. Tim was the first commenter to identify what it, just 15 minutes after it was posted. Nice! Check back at 4 p.m. Wednesday next week for another round.
First, a little retail lore: Junkman’s Daughter has been in Atlanta’s Little Five Points neighborhood since 1982, when Pam Majors, the daughter of a junkman, opened up a little space for bell bottoms, knick-knacks and such. Its following grew, and so did its space. In 1994, it upgraded into an old grocery store, some 10,000-some square foot space on Moreland Avenue. (It has a sibling, too: Junkman’s Daughter’s Brother, in Athens.) The exterior was decorated in a kind galactic-sky-spaceship theme.
Enter Watson Atkinson, a tattoo artist who came from Athens to Atlanta to feed his ever-growing clientele in the city. Early in the 2000s, he opened up a one-man studio in “a very teeny, tiny, tiny space,” long-time Junkman’s Daughter manager Barbara Hays remembers. So tiny that the store now uses it now uses it as a storage closet.
“Crazy, wild,” is Atkinson remembers it. “The place is totally punk rock and fun and loud and everyone is cool and interesting. Every weird type of cool person, the whole spectrum of the human condition rolls through that place.”
Atkinson had studied painting and sculpture in art school before getting swept into tattooing. Busy as he was in the Junkman’s Daughter space, money was never easy. So Atkinson paid his rent by redesigning and painting the store’s exterior.
After whitewashing the entire facade — a required step that seemed to make everyone a little nervous — he got to painting.
Over three weeks in August(!), with a week break in the middle “to make some money” on tattoos, he wielded 190 cans of spray paint on a rented scissor lift. He poured sweat, got a fantastic tan, wore a cowboy hat the entire time. The design stretched over spaces that now include Junkman’s Daughter, Stratosphere Skateboards and Aurora Coffee. There’s still a large UFO left from the first facade.
When he painted the store, it resembled all the tattoos he did — thick lines, bright colors, a lot of metaphor and imagery. (He hid his daughters’ ages and names, Cree and Cody, in the design.) Nothing like it will ever exist from his hand again, he says.
“My style has radically changed; that would be considered a period piece, a bygone era,” he said. “I don’t really do color anymore. I really don’t do representational stuff anymore. I completely abandoned all that. I really work more in ornamental, decorative and traditional folk patterns from around the world. Purely decorative, just pretty.”
Indeed, after a 17 year career that has taken him from Athens to Atlanta to Portland, Maine, where he now owns a studio, he’s trying to move more into illustration and black-and-white drawing. After so many years of tattooing, he’d like a quieter life and more personal time.
And yet, he says that mural outside Junkman’s Daughter remains an important step in his career and his creative process. After the mural went up, he said, he was booked solid for tattoos for months.
“My whole Atlanta identity really revolved around that mural, ” he said. “People always introduced me as the guy that painted the mural. I never regretted doing it, one of the craziest project ever attempted.”
After bouncing to other studios, Atkinson moved to Maine two years ago. He says it reminds him a lot of Athens, with a great art and music scene, but he’s within walking distance of the ocean and can cling to the “romantic notion that you’re on the edge of culture.”
Still, he clearly likes the idea of having left behind a landmark — the big, busy sign that lets you know you’ve arrived a neighborhood so unique as Little Five Points.
“It’s public art. People see it, interact with it, have a relationship with it. That’s just as powerful as tattooing,” he said. “It’s just a cool store, a cool area, right in the guts of a cool city.”
Want to know more?
Junkman’s Daughter was recently named of the best independent stores by BusinessWeek.
Atkinson was profiled in the tattoo magazine “Prick” several years ago.
An extensive portfolio of Atkinson’s art and tattoo work will soon go online at his Web site, www.blndsght.com.
Want to see it? Junkman’s Daughter, 464 Moreland Ave., Atlanta. It’s open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and noon-7 p.m. Sunday. 404-577-3188, Junkman’s Daughter on MySpace.