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German Street Tattoo: Tattoo artist’s journey leads him to downtown Shepherdstown

By Tabitha Johnston - Chronicle Staff | Oct 2, 2020

German Street Tattoo owner Josh Leigh shows off his shop's logo, which was created by artist Shane Harris. Courtesy photo

SHEPHERDSTOWN — “Show me a man with a tattoo and I’ll show you a man with an interesting past,” American author Jack London once said. Local residents who want to depict their own experiences in tattoo art, need no longer look further than downtown Shepherdstown.

Last week, German Street Tattoo was opened at 133 West German Street Suite 100 by tattoo artist of 20 years Josh Leigh. Leigh’s tattooing career began as a teenager in Texas.

“I started an apprenticeship when I was in Texas, when I was 15 years old,” Leigh said. “I started going [to the tattoo shop where I wanted to apprentice] when I was 13, scrubbing toilets and doing little odd jobs here and there and bugging them about it. By the time I was 17, I was tattooing full-time.”

Tattooing was the perfect fit for Leigh’s artistic abilities, which he inherited from his mother and grandmother. Aware of issues that can happen to young people in the tattooing world, Leigh’s family encouraged him to keep focused on developing his professional abilities.

“Instead of going in a wrong direction, my family encouraged me to go into the professional vein of it, to keep me safe,” Leigh said, mentioning his family was once again there for him when he decided to open his own shop this past month. “It all kind of happened within a two-week span. I wasn’t planning on opening a shop, and then all of a sudden I had an overwhelming feeling that I was going to open a shop, and it was going to be soon.

German Street Tattoo is currently set up with social distancing features in place. Courtesy photo

“I’d like to give a shout-out for my mother, Elizabeth Norton, for helping make German Street Tattoo look the way it does. She came in and helped gut the whole place, to make it look as beautiful as it does,” Leigh said, mentioning they renovated the space’s bathroom and updated its carpet and studio sink.

Along with his mother’s help, Leigh also received encouragement to open his own business from his mother-in-law, Jan Hafer, who co-owns Evolve at 106 West German Street, and his wife, Annelise.

“Annelise is the best — she’s the brains. Everything anybody sees, that’s all from her!” Leigh said, mentioning she is, among other things, the shop’s social media manager. “She is German Street Tattoo — I wouldn’t have been able to do this without her.”

Leigh said he will continue working at his former place of employment in Bethesda, Md., for a couple of days a week, as he has some client tattoos to finish there. Previously to the shop in Maryland, he spent a number of years tattooing in Hawaii and Alaska.

But in spite of his exciting past, Leigh said he is looking forward to achieving the dream he has had, since moving to Shepherdstown.

This pun-inspired “space bar” custom piece was completed by German Street Tattoo owner Josh Leigh. Courtesy photo

“I live in Shepherdstown and I love the community. I wanted to offer a safe, practical way close by to the community of Shepherdstown, to offer my services,” Leigh said. “It was something that I thought I was always going to do. And then as time went on and all of these other tattoo shops came up, I thought about keeping it simple and working for someone else instead. I thought this was always going to be a dream!”

Leigh enjoys the creative process of developing unique tattoo designs for his clients. As a self-described perfectionist, Leigh will often complete tattoos in more than one session, to ensure the quality of his work.

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Leigh is offering virtual tattoo consultations with potential clients. When clients enter his shop for the tattooing to be done, they will be required to wear masks, fill out paperwork and get their temperature taken with a forehead thermometer. To further prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Leigh is cleaning all of the studio’s potentially-contaminated surfaces, and is using single-use, disposable tubes.

“Some people reuse tubes and sterilize them in-between. I just use disposable everything– it’s just cleaner and more efficient,” Leigh said. “Cleanliness is number one.”

To book a free consultation over Zoom, call 304-249-8332, email germanstreettattoo@gmail.com or send us a Facebook or Instagram message to German Street Tattoo’s accounts.