Is it art or just scratching? Living Canvas aims to set a higher standard for the tattoo industry

FOUR CORNERS – Malcolm Arnott can remember the seemingly epic struggle he faced when he first wanted to open a tattoo shop more than a year ago. The search for a good location in one of Central Florida’s numerous shopping plazas wasn’t easy – and that wasn’t because there was no office space to rent.

Malcolm Arnott has been operating Living Canvas Art Company Custom Tattoos for the past 15 months.

The problem was, Arnott found a lot of doors closed to him when he told them what kind of shop he wanted to operate.

A tattoo shop, it seemed, was almost taboo to some landlords.

“We went to eight malls and every one refused us,” Arnott said.

Cut to 15 months later. Anott and his son James have been operating Living Canvas Art Company Custom Tattoos for that period of time, and found a receptive local business environment and a healthy stream of customers in their chosen location.

Malcolm Arnott says it took a while to find a location for his tattoo shop, but he likes being in Four Corners now.

“We came to the landlord here and said ‘This is what we want to do,’ “ Malcolm Arnott said, and this time around, they get approved.  Their shop is at 9310 U.S. 192, Suite 8, in Four Corners, the section of Central Florida just south of Walt Disney World and Celebration where the counties of Lake, Orange, Osceola and Polk meet at U.S. 192 and U.S. 27. Arnott said the decision to open up in Four Corners proved to be a smart one.

“We didn’t want to be touristy, but we obviously knew tourists would be a part of our business,” he said.

With so much traffic along U.S. 192 – and so many international visitors, U.S. tourists and snowbirds flocking to Four Corners — the Arnotts don’t even bother advertising anymore. They get plenty of walk-ins without it.

“We’re now getting people coming in to say ‘We were going to drive down to Miami, but decided to check you out,’ “ Malcolm Arnott said.  “We do absolutely no advertising at all, but tourists will come in and talk. Yesterday we got seven bookings.”

“It’s different every day,” James Arnott said.  “We get clients from every single continent.  We’ve done it to people from the Philippines to China.  We get a lot of what we’re calling ‘Popping their Cherries’ – their first tattoo.  We got one women in here for her first tattoo, and she was 84.”

Their success in finding both a home and a client base, Malcolm said, demonstrates the fact that the tattoo industry is evolving, and that having a tattoo is far more universally accepted today than it was not so long ago.

“There are just under 50 million people with tattoos,” Malcolm said.   “There are 13,000 McDonald’s in the United States, and 22,000 tattoo shops. Old tattoo shops are dying out, and new ones are coming in.”

Malcolm said he understands that the tattoo industry has had an image problem.  He said Living Canvas is unique for two reasons.  First, the people who do the tattoo are all, he insists, true artists.

“The artists are actually just that – artists,” he said.  “They’re not flash jockeys. That means you’re a scratcher.”

A scratcher, he said, simply takes a drawn image and retraces it on a client. Malcolm said his artists actually do original work.

Living Canvas Art Company Custom Tattoos is on U.S. 192 in Four Corners.

“Somebody might come to the scratchers with a piece of work and they will trace it.  The scratchers are not artists, they can’t draw,” he said.  “If you put alcohol on it, it will come right off. Eighty percent of our work is custom work.”

Living Canvas is unique for another reason: all three of the tattoo artists are women, in an industry more traditionally dominated by men.

“Most people who will approach a tattoo shop, you have a rougher element hanging around, and all the tattoo artists were men,” Malcolm said.  “It’s changing a little bit, especially if the shop looks inviting, and you don’t have heavily tattooed, pierced, mohawked types hanging around.”

Living Canvas tries to create a more inviting, even family oriented, environment. They have a television set and play area for young kids who are waiting while their parents get a tattoo. Anyone interested in a tattoo has to be at least 16 years old to get one.

Another thing that’s changed, he said, is that there’s no longer a particular type of person looking for a tattoo. Entire families have come into their shop looking for one.

“Fifty percent now go for, shall we say, a reason,” Malcolm said. “In other words, a mother, father, loved one who died and was important in their life.  We had a mother and son come in. He was 16 years old and he just said ‘I want a tough-looking tattoo.’  The mother wanted three tattoos of three butterflies all named after her sons. Fifty percent of the people are having it done for special reasons.”

“It’s the artist more than anything that dictates the shop,” James added.  “If you’ve got good artists, people will come.”

To learn more about Living Canvas, call 321-284-4113 or 407-452-9902 or log on to www.livingcanvasartco.com.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.

From colorful Poinsettias to plenty of mulch, Landscape Nursery Inc. does it all.

ORLANDO – Like a lot of people who love flowers, Gail Hess is always concerned when a major cold spell is coming on.

Even one night can do a lot of damage to her plants, she noted.

“It can happen in one evening,” Hess said.  “It has to be freezing.  A frost doesn’t normally kill them.  A hard freeze does.”

That’s why Hess takes extra care to be sure her plants stay warm on those rare nights when Florida temperatures drop below 32 degrees. But she has a more challenging task than a lot of others, since her garden covers 26 acres.

Gail Hess shows the few remaining poinsettias that haven't sold this holiday season at Landscape Nursery Inc., which she's operated since 1983.

“It takes a while for you to notice your plants are dead,” Hess said.  “I’d cut them back, but I’d wait until the cold is over.  I would just leave them alone for now.  There’s a lot of plant material that will come back, and people don’t realize that, that they just have to wait.”

Hess has had quite a while to learn about what plants need to grow and thrive. Since 1983, she’s operated Landscape Nursery Inc., located at 1955 S. Apopka-Vineland Road in Orlando. Right now, not surprisingly, her front office is covered with poinsettias – but with Christmas just days away, they’re selling fast.

“We’re almost out of poinsettias,” she said. “Our tables were filled with poinsettias. Now they’re mostly sold out.”

That may have been because of the huge sign under one of her tents – “Open to the Public – Poinsettias are Ready,” inviting customers to check out the row after row, table after table, of red, white and pink poinsettias.  A lot of the tables and rows, though, are bare now.

“We have sold a ton of the big ones,” Hess said.  “People like to put them on their front porch.”

Poinsettias also make a great plant for your own garden, as they turn from red to green after the holidays, Hess said.

“You can plant them in your yard and they will come back year after year,” she said.  “Just remember they need darkness at night, a spot where there is no light whatsoever in the evening.”

Her employees – 20 altogether – have stayed busy protecting their plants from the cold spell that arrived on Sunday, Dec. 12, and has brought overnight freezing temperatures to a region more used to 80 degrees in December.

“The cold creates problems for everybody,” she said.  “We have employees who come in and we have to make sure the plastic (covering the tents) is secured. And we have some heaters and fans that we use.”

Hess knows a thing or two about cold winters. She moved to Orlando in 1979 from Wisconsin, although it wasn’t the promise of tropical winters that brought her here. Instead, she was in search of a better business climate.

“The corporate taxes in Wisconsin were the highest in the union,” she said.

Hess has done well over the years operating a nursery in a state where growth has meant a lot of new residential and commercial construction work, and with it the need for landscaping projects to beautify the new properties. 

Customers are invited to come check out the rows of pink, white and red poinsettias at Landscape Nursery Inc.

“We sell all over the state, so we deliver all over the state,’ she said.  “We employ our own drivers and have a couple of mechanics, and we try to be a one stop shop for landscapers.  We grow our own plant material – a lot of others don’t. Most everything we sell is grown here. We buy in some trees and different items. We do the mulches and rocks and compost soil.”

It helps that landscaping is regulated in Orange County through so-called Arbor laws – designed to prevent a builder from abandoning a landscaping project once it’s been started.

“They have to have the landscaping done before you get your occupancy permit,” Hess said. “Years before, they could get their occupancy permit first, and some of the builders wouldn’t finish the landscaping work.  So now we have Arbor laws.”

Landscape Nursery did quite well when the residential housing construction boom was underway, but even with the collapse of the housing market, Hess said a lot of homeowners still hire landscaping firms and private landscaping contractors to create a beautiful yard for them – and those landscapers need the materials for the job.

“We don’t do the actual landscaping work, but we sell to the landscapers,” she said.

Landscape Nursery Inc. is open Mondays through Fridays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. To learn more, call 407-298-1703 or 1-800-330-1703.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

When it comes to massage therapy, silence is golden.

ORLANDO — Wayne Parker is quick to point out that he likes to be quiet where he works – very quiet.

That’s not intended to create a soothing or relaxing work environment for himself, but for his clients. Relaxation, in fact, is the key word at Lotus Blossom Massage.

“We definitely want to give customers something to make them feel good as far as their health goes,” said Parker, the owner of this new business in south Orlando. “There are a lot of people who realize massage therapy is medically necessary to help the body. If they do, their bodies will cleanse themselves.”

Lotus Blossom Massage opened a month ago on John Young Parkway in South Orlando.

About a month ago, Parker and his wife Marlene opened Lotus Blossom Massage in a commercial plaza at 10249 S. John Young Parkway in Orlando, very close to the Central Florida Parkway and International Drive.  Inside, they have five rooms where customers lie on a table and wait to be relaxed, and three full time massage therapists and several on call employees ready to help those customers relieve their stress.

So far, he said, for a brand new business, they’ve been getting a steady flow of customers.

“I am totally new to the business,” said Parker, who spent years working in the trucking industry. “But with the economy being what it is, I think we’re doing well. We are a new establishment, and we are trying to be separate from the others.”

Lotus Blossom has one room, for example, where a pot steams rocks until they’re plenty warm.

These rocks are used for a relaxing hot stone massage.

“This is a room where we do the hot stone massage,” Parker said. “The stones are heated up to a certain temperature, and then they’re placed on parts of the body to relieve muscle tensions. This technique has been around for many years. It’s set at a certain temperature where it relaxes the muscles. It’s a good, relaxing feeling that people enjoy.”

Across the hall is the “couples” room – two separate tables where couples can come in and get massage therapy at the same time.

“We give the customer good services,” Parker said. “I think that’s the key to this business.”

And the reason why he urges visitors and staff alike to be relatively quiet as they walk down the halls? Customers inside these rooms don’t want to be disturbed by loud talking in the hall.

“We have a good, clean, quiet atmosphere here,” Parker said. “If you were to have a real noisy atmosphere, then you can’t relax, and it’s important for people who come in to do just that – relax.

There are a lot of health benefits to getting a massage, Parker said. It can relieve stress in the body, which in turn can help release toxins as well.

“You have to be able to treat the problems people have,” said Lin, who has been working as a massage therapist for the past five years and now treats customers at Lotus Blossom.

“If people come in with a problem in their neck, you have to know what muscle to treat so they can leave here relaxed,” she added.

Massage therapy requires a lot more skill than people realize, Lin said.

Lin has been working as a massage therapist for five years.

“We know a bit about the pressure points of the body, and we do different techniques,” she said.

“All the therapists here are licensed with the state and county,” Parker added.  “We’re very professional here.”

That’s particularly true, he said, since this industry is often misunderstood.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand the massage business,” Parker said.  “They’re not aware of the benefits of a massage. I think a lot of people think it’s frivolous, but it’s not. It keeps the body healthy.”

And that request to be quiet in the hallways really is important, Lin said. Lin noted that she used to work as a hair stylist, which was a very different environment, one where the women who came to her office always wanted to talk while getting their hair done. But at a massage office, silence is more of the rule.

“At a hair salon, most of the clients are women,” she said. “With massage therapy, it’s more male clients, and they like to be quiet. Some customers like to talk, but mostly they like to relax.”

To learn more about Lotus Blossom Massage, call 407-674-7986, email info@lotusblossommassage.com, or log on to www.lotusblossommassage.com.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.

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