Born This Way Body Arts

It has been really refreshing to get back at this blog. This next two posts will be all about the lovely people at Born This Way Body Arts in Knoxville Tennessee. I get Bryan to let us in on his studio and his life as a piercer and hand poke tattooer. 

When Born This Way opened it was a studio to not miss in person but they were also an immediate online force that didn't go unnoticed. They had an immediate following on every major social media outlet. It was impressive and, more importantly, refreshing to see a studio within our industry grab the online world so openly. They make posts that are pretty and noticable, just like their studio and it's offerings. 

If you haven't seen them online you're probably living under a rock so do yourself a favor and google them, after you read this of course. 


Chris Jennell:  Can you give all of the readers the important information we need to be able to find you and your wonderful studio? 

Bryan Thomas: Born This Way Body Arts
7419 Middlebrook Pike 
Suite 105
Knoxville, TN 37909
twitter: bornthiswaybody
instagram: @btwbodyarts

Chris Jennell: When did Born This Way open it's doors?

Bryan Thomas: Born This Way Body Arts opened it's doors to Knoxville, TN in May 2011. It's been a non-stop workhorse ever since!

CJ: What was your intention when planning your studio's design and location?

BT: I was living in Chicago and hated living in a concrete jungle. I was drawn to Knoxville for several reasons. The first being the scenery! We are less than an hour away from the Smoky Mountains and the winters are very mild! Knoxville continues to be voted one of the best places to live, for many reasons. After doing the research, it was clear that Knoxville was the place for me to be! 
Born This Way was planned with quality in mind. As I enter I my 13th year in this industry, I always want my clients to get the very best that they can! I was tired of the traditional "tattoo shop" vibe with dark imagery and loud screaming music, and wanted to offer something different. Our studio was modeled after some of the best piercing and tattoo studios in the country! A relaxing, spa-like environment, calm music and the state's largest collection of quality body jewelry!
CJ: You have both piercers and tattooers working in your studio, can you give us a brief bio of all the people that make Born This Way so great?

BT: Our studio is composed of an awesome team that all help our studio function like a well-oiled machine!

Our tattooing staff includes:
Jon Goad - Tattooing for over 10 years, born and raised in east TN. Jon specializes in realism and is the proud father of two little girls.
Rick Levenchuck - Rick has also been tattooing for over 10 years, working all over the US. Rick and I worked together in Chicago briefly and moved to TN shortly after BTW was opened. Rick loves doing clean linework and detailed things that would make most people pull their hair out!
Emily Walker - Emily is in her first year of tattooing, after completing an apprenticeship under Jon Goad. 

Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas - In addition to piercing, Bryan also offers "handpoked" tattooing. This is a style of tattooing that is performed without the use of a traditional tattoo machine, instead Bryan uses his hand to push the needles into the skin! Bryan is currently working on a couple collections of tattoos; Once completed they will be released in a photography art gallery.

Jared Silverman
On the piercing side:

Jared Silverman - Jared joined the BTW family almost 2 years ago, and has been working hard to build himself a strong clientele. Daith piercings are his favorite! Jared has recently started making a custom line of body jewelry, infusing stone with hand-made byzantine chain. It's like todays fashions collided with Game of Thrones! 

Tyler McClure - Tyler is the newest addition to our studio, and we are excited for him to be a part of our team! Tyler's passion for piercing is amazing, and his desire to constantly push himself to grow is admirable. An all around solid and versatile piercer, we are sure our clientele will love him!

We also have a couple interns and apprentices, all working hard to learn the trade...and keep the shop clean!

Behind the scenes is our management staff. Bryan handles the majority of the day to day operations. April Berardi is our marketing and display guru! She is also an accomplished photographer and produces all of our photos and marketing imagery. We are lucky to have her on board!

CJ: What is your main goal as a studio?
April Berardi

BT: Our main goal as a studio is to treat every client the way we would want to be treated, and have them leave with a smile on their face, feeling wonderful about their self-image. We are accepting of all people, from every walk of life, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexuality, etc. Body modification has existed since the beginning of time and we believe that decorating your body is just human nature...I guess you could say that we are all Born This Way. 

CJ: What are the goals for your studio over the course of the next 5 years?

Tyler Mclure
BT: Over the next five years, our goal as a studio is to continue to grow and serve our clientele to the best of our abilities. We will adapt and change as needed, and potentially spawn into a second studio if the need is present. We have some other plans as well, but those will have to stay a secret.... 

CJ: You have a pretty large internet presence, do you see social media as having a huge impact on your business?

BT: Social media has had such an impact on our business! We started creating an internet presence before we were even open! We invest a lot of time and energy into sharing the amazing work that leaves our studio. I am so proud that our studio pulses energy with such talented artists from all over the United States! How could I not want to share that and brag about them? 

CJ: What are the current trends in your area? The top 5 piercings?

BT: Right now, the biggest trend in our area is people collecting beautiful piercings with the best body jewelry from the industry's top designers! Our clients have grown to understand what quality is, and they demand the best! We perform a lot of piercings in the ear, like the helix, forward helix, tragus and lobes, as well as a lot of nostril piercings. Our clients want to look their best, and love filling their piercings with lots of gold jewelry! We carry a huge selection, so everyone can pick something unique to match their own personal style!

CJ: Where do you see our industry heading over the next 5 years?

BT: I see the quality of our industry stepping up over the next 5 years. It's so great to see more and more piercers seek out training through the Association of Professional Piercer's Conference. The most important aspect of our job is performing piercings in a safe manner, and keeping our clients free of preventable diseases and infections. In the past, the training wasn't as accessible as it is today. I'm happy to see the standards being raised, making piercing a safe, acceptable thing for people to do! 

CJ: I know states are all different but how often are you running spore tests? 

BT: Thankfully, the state of TN requires us to spore test our autoclaves on a weekly basis, through an third party company.

CJ: All studios do something different but how's your studios sterilization like? Are your artists disposable?

BT: Our sterilization processes differ from a lot of other studios. For piercing, we utilize a Statim 2000 G4 which allows us to sterilize jewelry and instruments directly before a procedure. This helps us waste less paper products, by not needing to individually bag up pieces of jewelry. We are working towards a completely disposable setup, for the safety of our clients.
Our tattooers love disposable equipment! They have been utilizing the Hawk cartridge system, which allows them to switch needles easily on the same machine.

CJ: There are a lot of studios with lots and lots of options for piercing jewelry. Do you guys prefer to work out of a statim or do you pre-sterilize initial jewelry and sundry options?

BT: We carry thousands of pieces of jewelry that you can get pierced with. It is all on display for our clients to drool over! Once they select a piece, we instantly sterilize it in the Statim 2000 G4, and in 6 minutes, it's ready to pierce with! I couldn't imagine our studio working without it.

CJ: Bryan these next few are for you specifically. How long have you been piercing professionally for?

BT: This is my thirteenth year of body piercing!

CJ: What do you see happening to our industry over the next 5 years?

BT: I'm really excited to see what is going to happen over the next 5 years. I think we will see a lot of advances in the jewelry market and new innovations. I believe that 3D printing is going to change the whole game in ways that we couldn't imagine.

CJ: I see you switching sides, so to speak, for tattooing. What was the drive to get into hand poke tattooing?

BT: I'm not switching sides, just expanding my offerings! Hand poke tattooing has been an amazing creative outlet for me. I love the hands-on approach that piercing gives me, and wanted to offer something similar with tattooing. I began studying hand poke tattooing, as skin has always been my favorite canvas. I've been using the medium to create a collection of art, as opposed to being a commissioned tattoo artist. This allows me to have an outlet for my art, without the burden of needing to make it into a career to pay my bills.  This allows me the freedom to create the art that I enjoy making, and that others enjoy wearing. I'm blessed that so many people let me decorate their bodies!

CJ: This is a two part question, what would you say to those aspiring to be a well rounded professional and to those wanting to get an apprenticeship?

BT: To be a well rounded professional, it is important to constantly learn and perfect your craft. Attend the Association of Professional Piercer's conference every year and take as many classes as you possibly can. Travel and get pierced by the piercers that you look up to. Shadow other piercers and pick their brains. No one in this industry is going to just hand you the information that you need to know…you have to work for it.

For those people wanting an apprenticeship, that's a tough one. There are so many people wanting apprenticeships today, and so few good studios offering them. Just remember that you are only going to be as good as the person teaching you. Do you want to be one of the bests and do it correctly, or do you just want to be a 'piercer' who pokes holes with no knowledge who installs mystery metal from China? Get pierced! It amazes me how many people ask me for an apprenticeship, when they've never been pierced by me! How do you know if you even get along with me? How do I know you like getting pierced if I've never worked on you? Find the person you want to learn from and get pierced by them....a lot!!


This was a great start to getting to know this wonderful studio and its staff. I look forward to getting my next part of this post together. I will be working up some new formats so stay tuned. As always if you have something to suggest, submit or dislike send me an email to and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

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