Asheville Scene: Tattoo artist Miya Bailey’s journey out of Asheville’s projects


Here’s a snippet from my story in Friday’s Asheville Scene about Miya Bailey, who used his art talent to get out the projects and on top of the tattoo world.

Miya Bailey’s winning formula for early success was sweet and simple: love letters and Diana Ross.

Any lovesick grade-schooler at Randolph Elementary School knew that, for a quarter, he could turn to Bailey for a gushing note scrawled on a piece of scrap paper. It would also be embellished with one of Bailey’s signature drawings — a swollen heart or a blooming rose. Or better yet, an expressive eye. His mother was a Ross fan and often drew her almond-shaped eyes.

“She would say eyes are the window to the soul, and that always stuck with me,” Bailey said.

So Bailey started incorporating a face or an eye into his illustrations and, later, his tattoos. Frequently sketched with the white flash of a reflection, viewers would interpret what they saw as passion, pain or the flame of enchantment. No matter what, they were riveted.

And they’ve been riveted by Bailey’s artwork ever since. Born in Asheville’s Klondyke public housing complex, Bailey, 38, has risen to the top of the skin art scene. After tattooing the likes of Usher and Eva, today he doesn’t see clients for less than $1,000. He opened his first tattoo shop on Haywood Road in the late 1990s. Now he co-owns the sought-after City of Ink studio and gallery in Atlanta’s Castleberry Hill historic district, which is buzzing with art galleries and loft apartments. He’s also doing his part to smash misperceptions about tattoos in the African-American community.

Bailey opened his first tattoo shop on Haywood Road in the late 1990s. Today, he’s a star. Story’s online today, and in print tomorrow.