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Longtime tattoo artist opens tattoo parlor-art gallery hybrid in renovated Lake Drive space



It took nearly 20 years of being in the business for BJ Johnson to realize what it was he wanted for his career, and his dreams are now coming true with the opening of his new tattoo parlor, studio, and retail space called Green Lion Studios at 1444 Lake Drive. SE in Grand Rapids’ Eastown. 

At 3,000 total square feet, the contemporary space’s prime focal point is the 1,600-square-foot dedicated tattoo studio and art gallery, with the remaining 1,400 square feet featuring a garage workspace where Johnson hand makes his own brand of tattoo guns, Soba One, that are also available for purchase at the shop. 

“He’s been in the business since 1997, and when he started, he wanted to know more about how the tattoos were created, so he actually started to design the tattooing machines themselves,” says Michelle Hoexum, Green Lion’s public relations representative and business consultant. “The mechanics of making these machines also led him to create small sculptures and wanting to create a gallery space for both local and national artists to come display their work.” 

Hoexum says the art on display at Green Lion isn’t limited to just tattoo art, but also will include everything from illustrations to jewelry to pottery. 

“The space itself is pretty amazing, and I think that’s a draw in and of itself,” Hoexum says. “The way he designed the space is really interesting juxtaposition in that it’s kind of sterile and clean, which you would want in a tattoo parlor, but there’s also a really warm welcoming aspect to it because it’s also an art gallery.” 

Though the tattoo parlor and retail space has been officially open for business since the beginning of September, this Saturday Johnson is hosting a “grand opening ceremony,” as both an official public grand opening and in celebration of Green Lion’s first exhibition. 

The illustration oriented collection, titled “D-Bags & Dimwits II,” will launch with the grand opening party on Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. at Green Lion Studio on Lake Drive. 

"I feel like I’m home in this new location, especially since I grew up nearby,” Johnson says. “After seeing the building, I knew I wanted to create something in this space. It was a labor of love, a dream for over two years. After a seven month complete interior renovation, the studio and gallery is in personal alignment, as well as in sync with the culture of growth and revitalization of the Eastown neighborhood.” 

 For more information, visit www.greenlionstudios.com

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of GreenLion Studios 
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