2819 E. Saginaw St., Lansing
Noon to 11 p.m. Monday to Thursday
Noon to 12 a.m. Friday to Saturday
WEDNESDAY, DEC. 12 — Ink Therapy isn’t an average tattoo shop. Beyond the artistry and tattoo guns, it helps fund a network of 10 post-treatment centers for recovering addicts in Lansing.
Voted “Michigan’s Coolest Tattoo Shop” by MLive readers in 2016, Ink Therapy enables recovered addicts to practice the art of tattooing and piercing in a sober and clean environment.
Recovered addict Corey Warren and his mom Jacque Liebner run the umbrella nonprofit to Ink Therapy, WAI-IAM — pronounced “way I am.” It works with over 30 Michigan drug courts overseeing the 10 post-treatment centers with 77 clients.
Warren said the idea for a tattoo shop came from picking up a recovering addict at the airport carrying a big metal suitcase. “I told him I have to ask about the suitcase before you get in my car. He said he was a tattoo artist in Florida,” he said.
At the time, WAI-IAM was expanding and its former building at 324 N. Pine St. was vacant.
Warren already knew a tattoo artist looking for a new position and experienced piercer going through the program. “I got with the state of Michigan and developed a business plan. We launched Ink Therapy in 2015,” he said.
But Warren took the concept further than a place of work for his rehabilitated clients, championing social causes and giving back to the community in exchange for deals on tattoos.
“We started putting out these specials and we would do some fun-sized tattoos: puzzle pieces for autism and paw prints for an animal shelter,” Warren said. “We would donate 20 to 30 percent of the proceeds into local events and charities.”
Warren said events like this help people move past stigmatizing people with tattoos and the industry itself.
“I sure as hell didn't get into a substance abuse field to get rich,” Warren said. “But if I can have a hand in saving somebody’s life, or have a hand in donating some money to a suicide prevention group to help with a movement, I will.”
Ink Therapy tattoo artist AJ Hoover is a recovering addict who graduated from WAI-IAM’s flagship Rise Recovery program.
“It was a great way to get back into the real world step by step without diving head first into society,” Hoover said. “Everyone cares for each other so much over there. It is a great program and it got me where I am now. I couldn't be happier.”
Hoover’s life goal was to become a tattoo artist and when he met Warren at the Rise program, it felt like the universe aligned, he said.
“It makes our jobs a lot easier at times knowing we are helping somebody get over something monumental in their life,” Hoover said.
The latest charitable event at the shop was “Toys for Tats” where patrons donated a toy for 50 percent off a tattoo.
“When we run an event like this, it is not about making money with the tattoos,” Hoover said. “Seeing people with the willingness to give to families in need for that type of situation makes this particular event very special to me.”
Corey’s mom Jacque Liebner handles the business side of things at WAI-IAM with a background working 17 years in the Michigan Manufacturers Association.
“The greatest challenge for humans is judgement. I would take it beyond people in addiction,” Liebner said. “Society will see someone standing there with a bunch of tattoos looking a little rough and they will think they are an addict or something.”
It is one of the greatest challenges facing society today, she added.
“If we can withhold judgement, and realize everybody needs to be loved, it is one of the greatest lessons we could ever learn.”
For more information, visit www.rrclansing.org