Four years ago, Maddie Thornton got up the courage to try her hand as a tattoo artist. Finding a suitable sensei and allocating $1,000 towards a machine that would allow her to take her artistry to the next level, the then 22-year-old native of Cockeysville was on the cusp of blazing a new path.
However, when the time came to begin her apprenticeship, the master had disappeared.
“He took my money and fell off the face of the Earth,” Maddie recalled. “It was truly a gut-wrenching experience.”
A global pandemic followed, leaving the graduate of Franklin High School questioning her path in life. Previous stints in the service industry as a budtender and bartender paid the bills, but hadn’t provided the type of fulfillment she received from creating art.
“I was at such a lost point during the pandemic,” said Maddie. “I began taking a lot of time for myself, doing a lot of hiking outdoors and really trying to center myself so I could see where I wanted to be.”
A trip to Denver proved good for the soul. There, in the RiNo Arts District, Maddie found the inspiration she had desperately been seeking.
“It was some of the most captivating art I’ve ever seen in person,” shared the now 25 year old. “They had these giant murals. It was just so inspiring.”
Upon returning to Maryland, Maddie committed to putting her talents to canvas more often – selling art on the side and working in fine dining to stay above water. By 2022, she gathered the courage to restart her search for a master tattoo artist. The quest took nearly a year, but this past summer Maddie found a suitable match in Norman Wright Jr. of Eclipse Studios, located in Edgewood, Maryland.
“I emailed countless shops and went into a lot of places, but I kept getting the same answer: ‘We love your art, but we’re not looking for an apprentice,’” she said. “Norm was also hesitant, but after sitting down with him and seeing where I’m at, he was willing to change his mind and give me a chance.”
Maddie has spent the past three months learning the ins and outs of the business. She has worked tirelessly to learn how to translate her art from canvas to skin, using a replica called ‘a pound of flesh.’ In September, she crafted her first tattoo – an original homage to the Grateful Dead showcasing a skull and roses.
“It was incredible!” exclaimed Maddie. “I was shaking super hard. I was so nervous.”
Nerves, she explains, are part of the gig. Repetition, she insists, is the cure.
“Norm is old school in the sense that he likes everything to be drawn out multiple times,” she said. “So by the time you actually do the tattoo, it’s basically muscle memory.”
To help spark her creative juices, the medical Cannabis patient often turns to a limonene-heavy sativa to get her brain working.
“For the longest time I thought of myself as an indica girl because I had one too many bad experiences smoking sativas,” she said. “Now I tend to lean away from strains with high pinene levels. It’s opened my mind up to the way I view things and see art.”
Low-heat concentrates provide a quick lift and a low impact on her lungs. Indulging since 16, she recently found a creative resurgence in a strain called London Pound Cake.
“I was so productive on this strain, I couldn’t believe I was actually high,” Maddie laughed.
Her productivity will be sought after this fall, when she officially opens her books and begins taking clients at the end of October.
“I am over-the-moon excited about this,” said Maddie, adding that family and friends have given verbal commitments to tattooing her original art on their body.
Her art (on Instagram @Nomaddic_Ink) has long been inspired by her mother, a hobbyist, and encouraged by her late father, a former professional baseball player for the Milwaukee Brewers. Six years after his passing, Maddie is following her own big league dream.
“This is something I have been thinking about for years and years,” she said. “I finally took the steps to do it and it’s starting to pay itself back. My nerves are high, but by this time next year – I intend to be a full-fledged artist with a consistent and dedicated clientele.”