Pawesome!: Jack’s Snacks provides treats to make tails wag

Dogs are family members. They light up the house and provide much-needed, non-judgmental love from wake-up to shut-eye. Dogs deserve to be spoiled, and Jack’s Snacks, a dog-centered bakery, is a fun way of showing appreciation, especially on their special day (whether it be a birthday or “gotcha” day) with their selection of custom cakes, spa products and other treats.

“I got into this because of my love of dogs,” says owner Marni MacLean Karro, who named the shop after Jack, her initial taste tester and beloved black lab/pit bull mix who passed away in 2006, two years after she started Jack’s Snacks.

“Everything we put into him, he returned 10-fold,” MacLean Karro says of Jack’s impact on her work. “He had a lot of issues from being abused, but he was the sweetest dog I’ve ever known. With the business named Jack’s Snacks, I literally get to talk about him every day. He definitely lives on in the business.” 

MacLean Karro started Jack’s Snacks on a whim. She and her husband moved from California, which left her at a career crossroads. Her husband suggested she start making dog biscuits. She jumped at the opportunity, despite having little culinary experience apart from working in restaurants. She started with a shoestring budget and learned as she went along, selling her snacks at local farmer’s markets and doing mail orders. She grew out of her home kitchen and into a shared space in 2009 before opening Jack’s Snacks as a storefront in 2014. 

“In 2014, I needed to open a building so I would have a bigger place to cook,” MacLean Karro says. “I found the location in Warwick and opened up.”

MacLean Karro proudly boasts that Jack’s Snacks is a full-service bakery just for dogs (with some cat treats and products). Dogs are welcome in the bakery, where her “dream team” staff of six can be found in the back making the freshly baked items using human-grade and locally sourced ingredients (never sugar or salt). Their custom work is the “only game in town” in RI and a rarity in all of New England. The collars, leashes and spa products are mostly made locally, with a few exceptions for extremely popular products. 

Jack’s Snacks will sell a special Carob FroYo Pie this holiday season. The sugar and salt-less pie is made with carob and yogurt and topped with a peanut butter-flavored gingerbread man. Pies must be ordered in advance, with a pick-up date to be determined..

MacLean Karro reflects that she started Jack’s Snacks because of her love of dogs, but she grew to love her human customers just as much. She got to know customers and their pets as regulars throughout the years. She has many customers from MA and CT because Jack’s Snacks does something unique. She hopes to expand into other locations to accommodate those customers in the future better.

“The friendships I’ve made along the way with my customers and dogs have been awesome,” MacLean Karro says with a smile while on her way home from a Wednesday night Farmers Market, which she continues to do because she loves them. “I have customers that have been part of the Jack’s Snacks family since 2004 at the Goddard Park farmers market.”

Jack’s Snacks gives MacLean Karro the opportunity to be creative and the flexibility to balance home and work, all while doing something she loves and paying tribute to the memory of Jack.

Jack’s Snacks is located at 158 Greenwich Ave in Warwick. Call (401) 633-5522 or visit jackssnacks.com for more information.

Trying It On: Skye reaches deep

Jonny Skye, creator of the featured piece, “kweteelili/Try it On,” is an artist who has her hands in multiple projects. After closing the doors to Skye Gallery, she turned to small business consulting, helping local businesses launch and/or continue to thrive. Skye, a member of the Peoria Tribe of Oklahoma, has vast experience in the fields of both arts and education/human services (focusing on urban education reform). She uses her talents to help guide artists and businesses while advocating for education reform.

Skye Gallery was successful in its four years of existence. She curated 40 exhibitions in the joyful yet intimate space on Broadway before the pandemic hit. She adjusted and went virtual, but closed the doors in early 2021. 

“I am rooted in my commitment to the sensory experience of art and each other, so I opted not to continue the work virtually,” Skye says. “I am still available to buyers, artists and curate.”

Skye provides artist management services (offering a wealth of options to local artists looking to build and shape their careers) in addition to business consulting. She consulted with Coffee Exchange during the worst of the pandemic, which led to the opening of Rise ‘n Shine Coffee Bar in Smith Hill. She also worked with Central Contemporary Arts in opening their first exhibition. Currently, she is engaged in the launch of Ahh, Moments (a lifestyle brand centered on the benefits of plant medicine) and serves on the board of the Providence Biennial for Contemporary Art. She hopes for a new physical incarnation of Skye Gallery in the future. 

Having renewed control of her time, Skye could now focus her creative process in a deeper and more meaningful way. She is currently working on a body of paintings titled “oowiši, Peewaaliaki” (the native language of her Peoria ancestors, which translates to “In this Direction”) that focuses on ceremony and seeking connection to spirit.

“This work acknowledges a future in the return. It sits in the vision of global re-indigenizing/re-membering/re-balancing/re-discovering as a way forward from the quandaries of here and now,” Skye says.

Skye, also the descendant of Irish colonial settlers, has indigenous ancestors who came from the upper Mississippi and were pushed down to Northeastern Oklahoma from a series of reservations to a final allotment scheme scenario in Ottawa County, OK. As children, her grandfather and great-aunts were all forced by the US government to attend Haskell, an Indian boarding school.  

Her culture and upbringing are important aspects of her work, both on the canvas and in the community.

“I paint to find coherence in the incoherent, to bridge – prioritizing sensibility, erotic power, fertility and futility, and values of abundance and freedom. I am compelled by humbling the colonial norming of power, authority, ownership, and territory. Connecting earth with body. I seek to challenge hegemonic ideas of civilization and refinement while re-centering all that is natural and rooted. I work to address many dissonances – by connecting and remapping micro and macro, subject and object, human will and universal design.”

For more information, go to skye-gallery.com

Trunks and Treats are Better than Tricks: Creeps Car Club & 401 Jeep Wave host spooky, tasty event

October is one of the most popular months on the calendar. The weather is cooling but not quite yet cold, the morphing leaves make outside vibrant, and an excess of activities keep the nights and weekends entertaining. One favorite activity is a trunk or treat event, where individuals dress up their cars to give candy out to kids in costumes and run them in an automotive costume contest. 401 Jeep Wave and Creeps Car Club have added to that concept for their second annual Creeps and Jeeps event taking place Friday, Oct 28 at Mulligan’s Island.

“It’s an amazing event,” says 401 Jeep Wave President Gerald St. Angelo Jr. “Attendees can expect a full variety of Halloween decked-out vehicles, from cute themes to very scary, this year including jeeps as well as Creeps Car Club.”

Creeps and Jeeps features more than just trunking and treating. The event also includes over 20 food trucks (part of Mulligan Island’s Food Truck Fridays), a beer garden, music by the Molly Maguires and other non-disclosed activities (cue the jump scare music!).

“It’s a well-run event with fun for the whole family,” St. Angelo adds.

Both clubs raise money through their various events. In the past, they have supported organizations such as Mission 22, Go Baby Go RI, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Tunnel to Towers Foundation, Operation Stand down, and the John Martins Foundation, just to name a few. They have also teamed up with sponsors Harbor One Bank and Whalers Brewing. 

“We focus mainly on giving back to our local community, as well as supporting all first responders and active/veteran armed forces,” St. Angelo says.

St. Angelo states that organizing an event of this magnitude is fairly simple, because of the great help they get from club members, family and friends in the community. Everyone has an important role and they all do their part to make the event a success.

“Our goal of this event is to make sure the children in our community have a safe and fun Halloween,” St. Angelo says when talking about the mission of Creeps and Jeeps.  It will be like neighborhood trick or treating, where the whole neighborhood is committed to it – and can drive away when it’s over!

Creeps and Jeeps will take place Friday, Oct 28 at Mulligan’s Island in Cranston from 4:30 – 8:30 pm.

Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular

The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular returns to Roger Williams Park Zoo from September 29 – October 31. This year will celebrate 75 years of television, featuring carvings from iconic shows and magical moments in broadcast history. There will also be pumpkins commemorating the 150th anniversary of the zoo. The annual event will bring approximately 6,000 pumpkins and an estimated 140,000 spectators (170,000 attended in 2021). Proceeds support the Zoo’s ongoing animal care, education programs and conservation initiatives. 

“I try to brainstorm and figure out the theme in the winter,” says Passion for Pumpkins founder John Reckner. “It’s always a challenge to come up with something different every year. There’s a lot of nostalgia with the television theme. There will be a little something for everybody.”

The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular offers four family nights and two sensory-friendly nights. The family nights will have meet and greets with costumed characters for those waiting in line for the pumpkin trail. Tuesdays October 11 and 18 will be Fairy Tale Nights and Wednesdays October 12 and 19 will be Super Hero Nights. And yes, coming in costume is welcomed for all ages. Sensory-Friendly Nights, which won’t have music or special effects, will take place Tuesday, October 25 and Wednesday, October 26 from 5 – 6 pm.

“We get the pumpkins September 12 and the 20 carvers will have a mad drawing session,” Reckner says when discussing the process. The pumpkins, grown by Ron Wallace of Wallace Organic Wonder in Coventry, weigh as much as 2,000 pounds.

A unique way to view the Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular is to take the Soaring Eagle Zip Ride, which soars 115 feet above the ground, providing an eagle’s eye view of the pumpkins. There are no advance sales and only 40 tickets are sold each hour, so interested parties should plan their time accordingly. Patrons can purchase tickets in addition to admission to the Spectacular.

“Between the illuminated artwork, background lighting and 14 musical skits, we strive to have an impact on your senses,” Reckner says. “People come from all over the country to attend this event. We’re a celebration of autumn.”

The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular runs from September 29 – October 31 at Roger Williams Park Zoo. Please visit rwpzoo.org/jols for more information.

Pawtuxet Village is Doomed!: Doomed Records opens in Cranston

Eric Browning is a hardcore/metal fan who has dabbled in selling music online for the past two decades. He spent the past eight years developing this hobby, with vinyl becoming his main medium. He built an inventory of records before the “acquired disdain of corporate life and two years of lockdowns” convinced him to take the steps to open Doomed Records this past April.

“Honestly, I had used the term ‘doomed’ to describe my feelings on my future in corporate sales,” shared Browning. “So it kind of morphed since it fit really well with the large segment of my inventory.”

The small record store shares an entrance with Lucy Juicy, a vegan eatery and smoothie shop. Browning sells all genres of music in vinyl, CD and tape formats, an assortment of band merchandise and record care products. His goals are: to build new and used inventory that turns Doomed Records into a ‘great browsing experience’ to become a musical ambassador, introducing new music to intrigued folks; and to be an important asset to the local music community. 

“There’s an element of discovery to shopping for records, and having stuff outside the mainstream helps drive that,” Browning says. “Most of my favorite discoveries are done by ‘if I like x band, who else should I check out’ type searches. I want to help eliminate the randomness of such searches and put those titles in front of folks that want to see them.”

Browning wants his inventory selection to be what sets Doomed Records apart from all the other local record shops. His focus is extreme metal but he has a growing selection of other genres. He has a small portion posted online to give people an idea of what to expect while not completely ruining any surprises. He works with a lot of record labels to stock records that can only be found online, including imports. 

“We all serve a purpose,” says when discussing his peer record store owners. “I think we all complement each other. What we have in common is the small overlapping area on a Venn diagram; what we each do that is unique is the larger more important area and remains on the outside.”

Browning grew up on the other side of Warwick and didn’t visit Pawtuxet Village until he was an adult, where he would meet up with his father at what is now Beans and Buns. He felt at home in the family-friendly area, which features a variety of retail stores, bars, restaurants and parks, and felt it would be a great location to open his shop. 

“People seem really thrilled to have a record store in the village,” Browning says when discussing the positive response he’s received thus far. “I get everything from high school students after school to folks visiting for the summer. I’m extremely excited for what the summer holds.”

Doomed Records is hoping to promote as many local bands as possible. There is a wall full of New England bands and Browning is hoping to expand that selection.

“That’s what I’d call a focus area,” Browning says. “I’ve had a few local labels, artists and bands get their stuff in my store. I’ll continue to try to find ways to be a benefit to the music community. I spent a lot of years running around shows in PVD, so the possibility of becoming part of that for others feels extremely fulfilling.”

Doomed Records is located at 2180 Broad St in Cranston. Go to doomedrecordsri.com/blog for more information.

Hope to See You There: Can we overcome COVID-19 fears and rebuild community? 

A quick flip through the Motif Summer Guide pages will give you a full calendar for the next few months. However, the tumultuous past few years have given some individuals pause about partaking in community events. Even with daily entertainment throughout this beautiful state, it can be difficult to find the motivation to get ready and leave the house. 

Chris Donovan is an events organizer with a background in theater. He moved to PVD eight years ago, adopting it as his home and spending time giving back to the city that helped him thrive. The pandemic caused him to feel disengaged and disconnected from the community; This year, he went to coffee with his friend Ray Nuñez, CEO of digital marketing agency Nuñez, and the two discussed how they both felt disconnected from the world and that many others felt the same. They discussed ideas and came up with the concept: “Hope to See You There.”

“In my journey to re-establish my love for PVD,” Nuñez explained, “I connected with my good friend Chris Donovan to make sure I wasn’t the only one feeling lost. He empathized with me and we agreed that in order to regain that PVD magic, we had to dust off our milk crates and publicly evangelize the need for community building. We wanted to bring together those new PVD transplants, those long-timers who lost their pack and all those who long for connection.”

The goal of Hope to See You There is to give a sense of community to everybody and remind people that they still belong, even after a long absence. Donovan sees this initiative as an invitation for people to engage and feel comfortable with each other, meet someone new and explore the state.

“Rhode Island has a lot of great things, but it’s the people and the community that make this a special place to live,” Donovan says. “Everything we have wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have a community to support it and lift it up. Everybody that has been looking for community feels a stronger sense of investment and pride in Rhode Island and really makes it an even better place to live.”

Hope to See You There is a visible symbol that people can connect to quickly. Participants will be wearing a pin with the logo, which lets others know that they are safe people to start a conversation with. This initiative belongs to the community, and aims to give everyone a feeling of security and the motivation to leave the house and socialize with other community members.

“This felt like the perfect opportunity for me to roll up my sleeves and get involved,” said Julia Brough, a volunteer who hand illustrated the lettering. “I see myself as someone out in the community wearing the Hope To See You There pin, open to connecting with my fellow PVDers. Giving visibility to that line of communication could really be a huge influence on whether a transplant wants to stay here or possibly move elsewhere. This initiative bubbles those opportunities to the surface and I dig that.” 

Hope to See You There plans to be a decentralized way for all communities to get back together. They will rely on community leaders to become ambassadors and spread the message to their individual groups. 

“Our hope is to get enough of these people and have a ripple effect,” Donovan says. “It’s the best possible outcome of a pyramid scheme that we could expect.”

The reception has been positive, and the volunteer list has grown to a dozen. This grassroots effort relies on word of mouth from enthusiastic individuals who believe in this initiative. Nuñez and Donovan have obtained enough support to do the initial launch but are looking for more donations to keep Hope to See You There going.

“Sustainability will be a community response,” Donovan explains. “If people believe in this and want to keep it going, they will. If the community at large believes in this idea, it’s going to find a way. The transformation has already begun. It’s a matter of how big it can get.”

The official launch of Hope to See You There will take place June 5 at the Van Leesten Memorial Bridge (unofficially called Providence Pedestrian Bridge) in the Guild PVD Beer Garden. A team of volunteers will be spreading the word, discussing the initiative and doing personal invitations to people to get kits and a poster that explains the concept.

“We want this event to be an anchor point for people to show up, find out more about the purpose of Hope to See You There, and collect their kits to bring back and become ambassadors to their community,” Donovan says. “We hope people stay and connect with community members that believe in this mission and are doing this work. It’s an anchor point for the members of the community that are going to become ambassadors to come together and embrace the idea.”

Stop at the Sign of the Lemon!: RI frozen treats to cool you off this summer

Whether you call it a slush or frozen lemonade, it’s impossible to call it anything other than delicious. 

It’s impossible to think of a RI summer without sipping a Del’s. Del’s has been a state staple since 1948, becoming a must-have for locals and tourists alike, making the green and yellow cup with the lemon logo as recognizable as the Big Blue Bug. With storefronts located throughout the state and trucks filling the gaps in between, you can’t go far without running into this iconic company.

As popular as it is, Del’s isn’t the only place in town to enjoy a frozen beverage. There are many local places to feed that frozen beverage urge; we encourage you to try all the ones below, just not all at once for risk of a brain freeze!

Helger’s Ice Cream Shoppe in Tiverton has been family-owned and operated since 1989. They have everything you would expect from an ice cream shop, but it’s their inclusion of “Snowballs” on the menu that really makes them stand out. 

A little thicker than other frozen beverages, the Snowball is meant to be eaten with a spoon and feels similar to biting into freshly fallen winter snow, but with delicious syrupy flavors, watermelon being owner Maryellen Helger’s personal favorite. “It cools you off fast,” she shares.

Helger’s Ice Cream Shoppe is located at 2475 Main Rd in Tiverton. Call 401-624-4560 or check out their Facebook page for more information.

Lemon King is a “Royal Treat” on Plainfield St in PVD. Their menu offers hard ice cream, milkshakes and other quick frozen treats in addition to an assortment of frozen beverage flavors. The frozen beverage features a thicker ice, which adds a fun crunch. 

Lemon King is under new management and is coming up with creative treats and listening to customers’ feedback. This led to the addition of tables and chairs for people to sit and enjoy their snack.

Lemon King is located at 616 Plainfield St, PVD. Call 401-654-5214 or visit their Facebook page for more information.

Mr. Lemon has been refreshing customers since 1974. Located on a side street off of Admiral St, it is a hidden but popular gem in PVD. Run by “Mama Lemon” and her family, they use a family recipe for their flavor syrups. There are staple flavors (lemon, watermelon, vanilla) as well as featured flavors, which they announce on their Facebook page and sell until gone. The flavors can be combined into a variety of custom flavors, which are always a treat.

The texture of a Mr. Lemon frozen beverage is much finer than its peers: Think sand at the beach fine, which makes the drink go down with extreme smoothness. This gives a better taste of the flavors, with no chunks of ice getting in the way.

As tasty as Mr. Lemon is, the service is even better. Customers are always greeted with a smile and friendly welcome. Staff always take a few seconds to talk to the customer and make sure they’re aware of how appreciated they are.

Mr. Lemon is located at 32 Hawkins St in PVD. Follow their Facebook page for updated flavors and other information.

New England Frozen Lemonade has become a local institution of refreshment since first opening in 1960. Their philosophy of providing the highest quality product with professional and courteous service continues to this day, now with the third generation operating this family-owned business. 

New England Frozen Lemonade prides itself on using only real lemons when making their frozen beverage. “Our product is truly the only 100% natural product in the local market,” Owner Bob Lombardi says.

In addition to lemon, watermelon and cherry flavors are also popular. Cherry is a personal favorite of mine because it tastes like a blended cherry popsicle. New England Frozen Lemonade has two brick-and-mortar stores to go along with a large fleet of trucks and over 50 mobile units. They plan to be all over RI this summer.

“We have always worked close in the community supporting all causes: sporting programs, non-profits, school functions and all kinds of local community events,” Lombardi says of giving back to those that have supported New England Frozen Lemonade for so long.

New England Lemonade is located at 280 Douglas Ave in Providence. Please call 401-274-3255 or check their Facebook page for more information.

Motif 2022 Tattoo Awards: Winners, details and shout-outs

A woman on stilts, letting her nipple tassles swing through the air, walking to the powerful beat of a full band of over 20 percussionists. A fire dancer, spinning, twirling and throwing orange flames like she could control the element itself. A contest to win free tattoos on the spot — with over 75 eager entrants. Cupcakes with tramp stamps on them.

What is this strange place? Ringling Bros? Cirque du Soleil? Nope, it’s the 2022 RI Tattoo Awards, hosted by Motif at Narragansett Brewing in PVD on Apr 12. 

“Ink Master” regulars Steven Tefft (of 12 Tattoos in Groton, Conn) and Dani Ryan (of 1001 Troubles in Warren) emceed the energetic evening. The art of tattooing was on full display both visually and physically, as tattoo models moved through the space earning votes on their ink and contest entrants were projected on the screens and walls.  

Over 600 of you voted online, and another 100 or so in person. It was an honor to present some of these local artists with awards for their work in recent years. So, a special shout-out to the big winners of the evening- thanks to everyone who made the evening an awesome success!

Tara D’Agostino (Iron Lion Tattoo)

Winner: Animal, 2020 Best Character, past winner in Black & Gray

Tara D’Agostino founded Iron Lion Tattoo in Cranston in September 2010. She pushes herself to improve her craft with each new tattoo she gives. Her drive has earned her a strong reputation and dedicated clientele, who motivate her to keep going. 

“Winning an award means everything,” she says. “I put everything into what I do and this is proof. I appreciate being here.”

Her niche is in producing black and gray tattoos. She likes the challenge and excels at what she does. 

“It’s all I do. I don’t do any color at all. I book out a long time in advance for black and gray, so I don’t have to do color anymore,” she says happily.

Alyssa Cavallo (Red Elk Tattoo)

Winner: American Traditional

Alyssa Cavallo is just starting her career as a tattoo artist as an apprentice at Red Elk Tattoo in Abington, MA. She has been tattooing for six months, after starting her career in graphic design and social media, and she enjoys the different ways she can connect with her clients. 

“I can connect with people on a different level. Not only through art, but on a spiritual level. I’m literally touching their skin,” Cavallo says. “I’ve done a lot of memorial pieces. Giving someone a piece of their loved one that they can look at every day is one of the most rewarding things.”

She enjoys the lessons that she is learning from the experienced staff at Red Elk Tattoo, especially mentors Frede Cugno and Jeff Hardiman. 

“It’s the hugest honor to me,” Cavallo says of winning a Motif Award. “I’m just starting out in my career and having support from the people in this community is a huge deal. I’m literally just getting my bearings and to have people recognize that my work is comparable is cool.”

Rob Gwozdz (Cloud 9 Tattoo Company)

Winner: Overall Black and Gray

Rob Gwozdz has been a tattoo artist for approximately 12 years and is a co-owner at Cloud 9 Tattoo Company in Harrisville. Being a tattoo artist has taught him to stay humble.

“I’m surrounded by great artists,” Gwozdz says of his peers. He uses his vast experience in the needle arts to offer general advice to the rest of the community whenever an artist gets blocked.
“It’s nice to be the best at something,” Gwozdz says when describing the excitement of winning a Motif Award.

Jay Blackburn (Powerline Tattoo)

Winner: Overall Color, Fastest Character

Jay Blackburn has been a visual designer since he was a child when he used crayons and macaroni to create his artwork. He experimented with various other artistic mediums before discovering that tattooing was the best way to express his artistic visions. 

“I’m super humbled by what I do. I love what I do,” Blackburn says of his profession. “It’s great to have clients tell me their ideas and trust me with the work I do. That’s what it’s all about. I do it and it puts a smile on their face.”

Joey Moreira (Cloud 9 Tattoo Company)

Winner: Linework, Character, Overall Winner

Joey Moreira is a co-owner at Cloud 9 Tattoo Company and a big winner of the night at this year’s awards. Cloud 9 is an appointment-only shop that does custom tattoos exclusively. Moreira takes the time to discuss custom pieces with clients, reviewing all ideas before prepping the needle, to ensure that all parties are happy and comfortable with the design and process.
“Linework makes the tattoo. You’ve got to have good linework to have a good tattoo,” Moreira says when discussing the importance of the first award he received.

“My clients are the best,” Moreira said proudly. “They trust me. 90% of my clients will come to me and let me do whatever I need to do for them. I appreciate all of them; their honesty, their trust.”

Bert Russo (Cloud 9 Tattoo Company)

Winner: Judges’ Pick Favorite Anime Mashup

Bert Russo has been a tattoo artist for four years and has learned about the amount of hard work that goes into each tattoo to ensure that the artist is proud of their work and the client walks away with something they love. 

Russo’s artistic accomplishments are on full display within the ink on all of his clients. He appreciates the opportunity to express his creativity in their pieces. Russo looks fondly upon his coworkers at Cloud 9 Tattoo Company. He says that they guided him and have set him up for success.
“This award is just the beginning to a fulfilling tattoo career,” Russo excitedly says when asked about his award.

Rodney St.Onge (Altered Images)

Winner: Judges’ Pick Favorite Demonic Goat

Rodney St.Onge has been tattooing for 23 years, working at several tattoo shops during that time. The art has helped keep him focused and out of trouble.
“Being an artist has helped keep me out of jail for the last two decades,” St.Onge says. 

He has had the privilege of working with many talented artists throughout the years. His peers have guided him along the way, helped build up his drawing ability and influenced the way he tattoos.

Corey Creamer (Acme Ink Tattoo)

Winner: Judges’ Pick Favorite Compass

Corey Creamer has owned Acme Ink Tattoo in Coventry for 14 years, which he gladly advertises as skater owned and operated. He specializes in giving any style of tattoo the client wants, from black and gray to traditional. Being a tattoo artist has taught him to stay in his lane.

“Build your own style and everything else will follow,” Creamer advises.

Michael Johnston (Empyreal Ink)

Winner: Portrait, Blackwork, Judges’ Pick Photorealism, Judges’ Pick Favorite Eyeball

Michael Johnston has been a tattoo artist for the past 16 years, currently working at Empyreal Ink in Pawtucket. He was a body piercer for approximately five years before transitioning to tattoo. His craft has taught him patience and his peers have brought out the best in him.

“The local art community has some amazing artists inside and outside the tattoo area,” Johnston says when describing the influence local tattoo artists have had on him. “That keeps me wanting to bring the ‘A’ game!”
Johnston says the awards are a cool achievement and he appreciates receiving local recognition.
“Always walk towards your dreams, even if there is no clear destination,” Johnston advises. “You’ll be surprised at what will unfold.”

Luke Taylor (Anchor Steam Tattoo Company)

Winner: Judges’ Pick Geometric

Luke Taylor will be celebrating his 20th year as a tattoo artist this summer. A former owner of Hope St Tattoo, he now works at Anchor Steam Tattoo Company in Newport. Being a tattoo artist has been his career and only grown-up job to this point. The craft has taught him how to be an adult.

“It has taught me how to pay bills, how to live as a grown-up and have a career,” Taylor says.

Taylor learned a lot from his peers as well.

“The tattoo community was the first place where I felt like I could thrive and exist. I was able to find a place for myself in that community.”

Taylor takes a friendly and neighborly approach to tattooing, open to all different styles and genres.

Panda (Ruthless Ink)

Winner: Judges’ Pick Favorite Slay

Panda is a self-taught tattoo artist that has been professionally tattooing for about three years, though he has been dabbling in the craft since 2014.

Panda’s high school art teacher, Mike Ledoux of Powerline Tattoo, taught him to pursue his goal. Panda saw Ledoux switch careers while still working in the art field that he loves.

“He showed me that there can be a career in art,” Panda boasts of Ledoux, one of the many tattoo artists that influenced him.

Panda is thrilled to win his first Motif Award.

“I’ve never won anything in my life, so this is a big thing,” Panda states with excitement. “This has been a year of firsts: I’ve done my first convention and won my first award. This Motif Award is gonna keep me going harder.”

Thanks to all the sponsors who made this event possible: R1 Indoor Karting, Narragansett Brewery, Tattoo Medics, Jerry’s Artarama and Cakes by Eboni, Amanda Salemi and the ever effervescent PVD Drum Troupe.

A GLASS BLOWN FAMILY AFFAIR: Owning a store is a dream come true for Levitation’s father-daughter team

Levitation Gallery & Smoke Shop opened their doors in a Seekonk strip mall five years ago this month. This half-decade anniversary serves as a testament to Jonathan and Taylor Foster’s dedication to working together as a father-daughter team to provide a comfortable environment and showcase their love of both glass and family.

“It’s a family business,” Taylor says of the store. “We want the colors and vibes of the store to reflect on our love. We are trying to put out love.”

Opening the store was a dream come true for both Fosters. They’ve bonded during Taylor’s adult years and wanted to work together while being an independent family business where they could sell glass and other ‘cool gadgets.’ They tend to butt heads at times, but always even each other out and keep each other grounded. 

“The family part was a big deal to me,” Jonathan says. “It’s a joy to own a business with my daughter.”

“When I was growing up, my dad worked in a corporate job,” Taylor says of her father. “He was making good money, but he was never totally happy doing it. He always had a dream of owning a retail store and selling all the cool accessories that he enjoys. It’s both of our dreams becoming a reality together and being able to support ourselves over our creation.”

Levitation Gallery & Smoke Shop prides themselves on having a plethora of accessories to choose from, in addition to tye-dye, T-Shirts, ashtrays and rolling trays. They also sell glass-blown pipes and pendants, including pieces made by Taylor and her boyfriend and mentor, Dan Ottone

Taylor started blowing glass shortly after graduating high school. With Ottone’s guidance and classes, she became an experienced pipe and pendant maker. Though Levitation Gallery & Smoke Shop carries work by a variety of American glass artists, a lot of the hand pipes and pendants for sale are made by Taylor and Ottone. Ottone also distributes Taylor’s pieces through his wholesale glass business, Ottone Glassworks.

“Dan was my inspiration,” Taylor says happily. “I saw him blowing glass and thought it was really cool. Then we became a family! I love selling pipes that either Dan or I made. I get to see the person that gets to use the pipe.” 

“Glassblowing is a skill that takes time and practice to learn,“ Taylor adds. ”It can take many tries to perfect an item. The perfect pipe has proper airflow. The holes have to be the smallest in the bowl, then the carb, and finally the mouthpiece has to have the largest hole. We get the glass up to temperature then shape it, blow an even bubble at the end,  then pop a few holes.”

Having strong relationships with customers and local dispensaries is crucial to maintaining and growing Levitation Gallery & Smoke Shop. They want everyone entering the store to feel comfortable and accepted. 

“Our business continues to evolve and we have some exciting projects in the works. Announcements will be made in the near future,” Jonathan says when discussing the popularity, growth and evolution of Levitation Gallery & Smoke Shop.

“The goal of opening our business was to create an atmosphere that’s welcoming for any type of person that comes in,” Taylor says. “I have customers from 21-80. I want them all to feel comfortable asking questions. I don’t want people to feel afraid to come in and look around. We wanted to make a place where people could find the new coolest devices.”

Levitation Gallery & Smoke Shop is located at 1200 Fall River Rd in Seekonk, MA. 

All for Games and Games for All: Local esports league proves popular

Gamers compete for their rank. Photo Bobby Forand

Gaming for All (G4A!) is an electronic sporting (esports) event service and league that has been holding events at local RI bars since June 2021. Dedicated competitors play each other in a pro-style environment that allows for warm-ups and free-play before competitive play starts. Prizes are given to the top-ranking players. All tournaments and leagues are free to enter, which gives gamers of all skill levels incentive to participate. 

“G4A! events are the place to be for players that want to learn, improve, and/or exhibit their competitive skills in a positive, encouraging environment,” start-up owner Marc DiMartino excitedly says about his venture. “Spectators can enjoy watching exciting matches, usually on a big display visible from the comfort of their own table.”

DiMartino is a gamer who grew frustrated with the lack of appealing options for competitive play. Most events were paid entry, unorganized or held at dreary locations. He set out to create an authentic competitive esports experience that encourages healthy competition and a fun night out. As the vocalist for long-running local punk band The Paraplegics, he has plenty of experience organizing and executing events. 

DiMartino started with low-production but quality tournaments at Proclamation in Warwick and Pizza J in Providence as a hobby/side-gig. Gamers caught wind of the free, high-quality experiences and started checking out the events. Word spread, friends were made and participation continued to grow, leading DiMartino to reach out to other bar and brewery owners. 

The G4A! community has rapidly grown to over 50 players each month. There are drop-ins and dedicated players that participate in the weekly events at Revival Foodworks and Brewery (Sundays) and Moniker Brewery (Tuesdays). The G4A!’s active social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram give participants updates, events and pictures from previous events. Their community Discord lets members chat, play each other online, pre-register for events and keep track of their standings. 

Super Smash Bros Ultimate (SSBU) on Nintendo Switch is the game commonly used for tournaments and league play. DiMartino says that games are ultimately decided by the community and SSBU is the popular choice: It’s simple to learn but presents opportunities to become skillful quickly because the controls are the same for each character.

“Our most valuable asset is by far our awesome community: a dedicated group of players and fans who turn out week after week to climb the ladder and increase their rank, as well as the many dedicated fans who enjoy exploring RI’s diverse dining and brewery experiences with us and seeing who will end up on top of the rankings,” DiMartino says when boasting about the GFA! community. “People who attend our events will enjoy the atmosphere and offerings of our dedicated venues and …  will get to know our established and welcoming community; no one leaves without making at least one new friend, if not way more.”

To celebrate its one-year anniversary in June, G4A! is having an invitational tournament that will have a sizable cash prize. There will be qualifier tournaments during the months of April and May to determine which 16 players will earn spots.

“I have to admit that running esports tournaments is a lot of fun and is very gratifying,” DiMartino says. “Building an outstanding and positive community is an experience unlike any other, and while I might not pocket as much money as I have working other jobs, nothing can match the satisfaction of seeing our community grow in number, and our members grow as individuals.”  

Learn more about Gaming for All on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/G4AEvents