(Times Bulletin/Lindsay McCoy)
(Times Bulletin/Lindsay McCoy)

BY LINDSAY MCCOY

Times Bulletin News Writer

lmccoy@timesbulletin.com

VAN WERT - The city of Van Wert is one filled with art, from the historic buildings to the local artwork displayed throughout the community. In 2012 Van Wert welcomed two new artists and their work into the area. Bradde Hamman and Bethany Nolin chose Van Wert as the spot to open their own business, Open Minded, where they act as professional piercing artists.

"Piercing goes a lot deeper than the actual act of piercing," said Nolin. "It's all about proper placement dependent on anatomy, aesthetics, and putting the jewelry in a spot that looks good with the selected jewelry." Before opening the shop in Van Wert, 17 years ago Hamman was beginning his career making jewelry for tattoo shops in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After making jewelry for a year and a half, he was offered an apprenticeship. It was here that Hamman learned how to pierce and traveled to many parts of the country where he did piercing and owned different shops. Like Hamman, Nolin also began her career with an apprenticeship nearly six years ago in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

"It took a lot of dedication proving to the studio that I was truly determined to become a piercer," remarked Nolin. "They don't just hand out apprenticeships, it had to be earned." From there, Nolin worked in a few shops before moving to Van Wert to open the shop on Main Street.

Hamman graduated from Van High School in 1992 before moving away to begin his career.

As a Van Wert native, Hamman was always hopeful to raise his son here, and it was this motive that brought he and Nolin to Main Street. The two decided Main Street was the perfect place for their business, Open Minded, because it is part of the old Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental highway and with a lot of historical value.

Nolin is not from the area but moved from Grand Rapids to be with Bradde after he asked her to help open a shop. Nolin obtained a bachelor of science degree in photography from Grand Valley State University in Michigan in 2010. Grand Rapids did not feel to be the ideal location to begin this new business. It took a lot of work for the two artists to get a loan from the Van Wert Economic Development Department. A lot of learning and a lot of writing was also involved in opening the business.

"We had to write a business plan and present it to them," said Hamman. "After getting approval for our loan, we bought our building immediately. Construction was started a day later, and we were up and running in seven weeks. We had to get approval and permits from the Health Department as well."

Opposed to what you may believe, piercing is probably the least time consuming part of their day at Open Minded. The majority of the time used for a piercing goes into the cleaning process. This includes sterilizing jewelry and tools, educating customers about cleaning their piercing, cleaning their skin, and cleaning the shop to keep it as sanitary as possible.

Education is another time-consuming area in the life of a piercing artist. Hamman and Nolin spend a lot of time educating their customers pertaining to proper aftercare, proper jewelry material, and teaching about all the different types of jewelry available for the piercing.

"My favorite part of the job is making people happy," said Nolin. "They come to us to get pierced, entrusting us in helping to change their lives. Everybody loves to feel good about themselves, and I get to help them do this."

Nolin's other favorite part of the job is the jewelry itself. She loves pretty things such as the jewelry offered in their shop, and being a piercing artist allows her to order a large selection of jewelry and offer it to the customers who come for her guidance and expertise.

For Hamman, the joy comes from making people beautiful and the smile at the end when the customer looks in the mirror and sees they have overcome the fear of pain and make this artistic leap. Hamman finds nothing undesirable about the job he now has, and enjoys what he can offer and bring to the residents of Van Wert and the surrounding areas.

For these professionals, being a piercing artist and running Open Minded is not really a job, it is a lifestyle. There are times when the pair gets frustrated such as when they see piercings improperly done on those they see. Both have an extreme desire to help such people fix an error of a previous artist.

"We live it and we love it," said Hamman. "We are just here to help people."

Much of the knowledge Hamman and Nolin obtained was through learning. Proper apprenticeship and a lot of professional research went into studying anatomy, discovering proper knowledge of compatible metals, aftercare products, would healing, cross contamination, and the knowledge of diseases. Running Open Minded also involves knowing how to advertise and how to run a business. Other skills, though, that the two need in during their everyday business such as patience and dedication cannot necessarily be learned.

"Anyone can shove a needle through someone, but doing everything else correctly is really what matters," said Nolin. Hamman and Nolin are now dedicating their lives and careers to the Van Wert community to share their love of art and to make everyone they come across happy.