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Matt Stebly applies his art to the arm of a customer at Twisted Anchor Tattoo Gallery in Ocean Springs.

A Legacy’s Path: Stebly takes tattoo art to new heights

By CALLIE DANIELS BRYANT

As the grandson of Ocean Spring’s famed Walter Anderson, Matt Stebly found painting as “just something that was normal to me.”

But from his legacy he forged a new path in tattooing, an artistic passion that was taboo at the time.

“I mainly got into tattooing because I was fascinated by it, and also it was a way I could create my own path in an industry that wasn’t familiar with who my family was. I feel my family was reluctant to give their full support when I first started tattooing since it was still a taboo art form at the time – mainly I think they were worried I couldn’t make a living tattooing,” Stebly said.

Now owner of Twisted Anchor Tattoo Gallery in downtown Ocean Springs on Government Street – a location he told The Sun Herald in 2017 was his dream spot that he worked hard to obtain – Stebly has made a name for himself in the tattooing world, especially in the South.

His art has been featured across the Gulf Coast including Biloxi Shuckers jerseys as well as the Biloxi Seafood Festival. He hosts Due South Tattoo Expo, the first of its kind which brings over 90 tattoo artists to the Mississippi coast and was a competitor on nationwide television show “Ink Master” which premiered this August on Paramount Network (formerly Spike TV). 

He came a long way from cleaning up at a local tattoo shop in hopes of pursuing a career in tattooing.

To become a tattoo artist, he needed a year-long apprenticeship under a licensed tattoo artist. Stebly accepted the challenge.

“I just showed up day after day, helping with cleaning and drawing until I was offered an apprenticeship at a small local shop in Ocean Springs,” Stebly said.

He got his first tattoo on his 18th birthday, and was 21 or 22 years old when he did his first tattoo.

“The experiences were very, very different,” he said. “Getting a tattoo was not nearly as nerve-wracking when I sat down to do my first one.”

He prefers to draw and tattoo wildlife, animals, birds and fish as well as nautical themes. When asked about his own tattoos Stebly said he has “too many to count, and if I had some deep meaning behind all of them then I would be a very pretentious person.”

“Most of my tattoos just mark a time in my life, kind of like a permanent postcard,” Stebly said.

He loves owning a local studio, Twisted Anchor Tattoo Shop, in Ocean Springs.

“It’s everything I wanted in a studio,” he said. “Yes, we did have a few hiccups when we started the process opening the shop but I was persistent in doing whatever I needed to do to get the shop opened.”

Those hiccups were renovating an old building while calling on the city to rezone so that his tattoo parlor would be on Government Street, a thriving hub in Ocean Springs. He met these challenges with the same relentless spirit he had in pursuing an apprenticeship which led to the shop’s success.

With the same spirit he spearheaded Due South Tattoo and Art Expo, an annual expedition that showcases tattoo artists from all over the United States.

“The inspiration behind the show was from my personal travels to other tattoo events all over the world and wanting to bring a great tattoo event to a local area,” Stebly said. “The artists are selected by myself and Christina, my shop manager and personal life coach from the large number of applications we receive through the website.”

Now in its fifth year, Due South Tattoo and Art Expo will be held at the IP Casino Resort Spa in Biloxi on March  8 to 10.  Stebly said there will be a handful of regional bands playing during the show to spread the famous Southern hospitality.

The attendees will not only be able to potentially receive a tattoo from a famous artist but the artists themselves will attend seminars and learn from one another.

Stebly said that tattooing, like any art form, needs ongoing education to hone one’s craft which the expo will provide in the South.

When asked what advice he could give to the curious on tattoos, Stebly said: “Tattoos hurt. Not every tattoo has to have some deep spiritual meaning – some can be just because you like the art. You are never too old to get a tattoo. Make sure you do your research when you’re getting tattooed: tattooers are like any other artist out there; they have their specialties and things they dislike doing. There is a tattooer out there that fits your needs, you just have to look. Getting tattooed is an experience, so make sure you enjoy it from start to finish.”

Hailing from an artistic legacy Stebly has made a name for himself on Mississippi Coast, bringing a fresh perspective to his family’s talents.  Twisted Anchor Tattoo Gallery can be found at twistedanchortatoo.com and Due South Expo can be found at duesouthtattoo.com. 

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