Editor's note: Muncie Origins is a Ball State Daily News series profiling various businesses that originated in Muncie.
Behind one of many glass doors, the buzzing of what sounds like a thousand bees overshadows music coming from an iPad propped on a table.
The room is filled with the aroma of soap mixed with fresh ink, smelling like the pages of a newly printed book.
A client lays across an adjustable chair with his bare arm exposed to the needle of a tattoo gun with a printed picture of a drum taped above.
Wielding the tattoo gun in his gloved hand, the artist works to complete the piece while laughing with his customer, who doesn’t flinch as multiple needles pierce the skin.
Daniel Stewart, a tattoo artist of 25 years and owner of Lucky Rabbit Tattoos, said he has seen it all when it comes to running a tattoo business.
Stewart’s passion for art was fostered by his friend’s dad, who he began drawing for at age 16. Eventually, he offered to teach Stewart to tattoo.
“At 17 years old, I was holding a tattoo machine for the first time. It was pretty cool, scary and all those things at once,” Stewart said. “Then, I ended up going into the military shortly after. [There,] I was a medical laboratory technician. I didn’t quit [tattooing] completely. I still did guest spots and stuff like that to keep fresh.”
After Stewart left the military, he continued building a network of clientele from his tattoos, which led him to three different shops before creating his own in Muncie in 2002: Lucky Rabbit.
Stewart originally had plans to name the shop the Aztec Tattooing Company but decided Lucky Rabbit was more marketable.
In the shop, there is a stained glass window made by his mother, based on his drawing of the original logo featuring a rabbit’s foot. Even today, however, Stewart said he has to laugh at the concept.
“What’s so lucky about a rabbit that has it’s foot cut off, right?” Stewart said.
Although Stewart felt the shop “was a long time coming,” he said the first six months were scary.
“I just had faith that it was going to work out and kept going,” Stewart said. “It’s been a great opportunity for everybody. I love it here and just a lot of people keep coming back.”
One returning client, Tyler Seibert, has various tattoos from Lucky Rabbit. Together, Stewart and Seibert have been working piece by piece on a military-themed sleeve for seven years.
Seibert said the relationship between a tattoo artist and a client is similar to a hairstylist and a client — conversations revolve around similar topics, such as life and relationships.
“When somebody is sticking you for hours on end over a course of years and years, they see your changes, and you get to see their changes as well,” Seibert said. “You get to see what's going on in their life, so you build a real friendship with people. That’s what they do, and Dan’s really good at that. He’s a people person.”
Artist Atom Goodwin, who works alongside Stewart, said he finds himself building similar relationships with clients who come into Lucky Rabbit.
“I’ve always had the idea that every person I tattoo, if I ran into them on the street, we could be friends,” Goodwin said.
For Goodwin one of his clients is actually his wife, so their relationship expands beyond the level of friends on the street.
“I don’t think I have one single tattoo that I’ve ever done that I can say that’s my favorite. I have handfuls of them,” Goodwin said. “I know my wife has a bunch of them that I absolutely adore because she loves my style.”
After 16 years of business, Stewart said the Muncie community and his customers mean everything to his business.
“Muncie is a very important part of who we are, like [our] heartbeat,” Stewart said. “We take care of our customers; we consider them like family. We like to give back to Muncie because it's important to us in different ways. We make pretty cool, neat friendships sometimes, and we do like to see smiles when they leave.”
Contact Pauleina Brunnemer with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @pauleina15.