‘Changes the feel of Mission’ — Tattoo shop owner hopes wooly mammoth mural brings people to Johnson Dr.

A wooly mammoth skull is underway on the side of the Headless Hands Custom Tattoos parlor, 6909 Johnson Drive. Photo courtesy of Sean Gilbert.

When Sean Gilbert bought what is now Headless Hands Custom Tattoo parlor three years ago, there was some discussion about a potential mural on the east side of the building. Now, he and muralist Daniel Lucid are bringing a wooly mammoth to Mission.

The skull is the mural’s main feature, with mountains, floating rocks and vegetation in the background. Image courtesy of Sean Gilbert.

Although the goal of the mural is to showcase Headless Hands as the art studio it is, Gilbert said he foresees the mural “almost as a destination.” Once it’s completed, Gilbert said the artwork will draw people into Mission and encourage them to grab a bite to eat downtown or explore the local shops.

He also said the striking image of a giant mammoth skull on the side of his shop will provide an artful contrast to some of the other building exteriors nearby.

“I feel like it changes the feel of Mission, where tan and taupe was what they wanted — now we’re going in a different direction,” Gilbert said. “People see it as maybe more of a unique, hipper area, more artsy. They might want to check out and spend more time down here.”

The timeline for the completion of the mural is uncertain, although Gilbert and Lucid began working on the idea around the same time the coronavirus pandemic hit the Kansas City area earlier this year. Gilbert said it’s now partly dependent on the winter weather, but the mural could be completed either by the end of the year or maybe by next spring.

Gilbert envisioned a mural that matched the tattoo parlor’s interior aesthetic, which he said is similar to a small museum, with an extensive collection of fossils, minerals, stones and rocks for customers to look at. Gilbert and Lucid landed on a large wooly mammoth skull with mountains in the background, as well as floating rocks with additional vegetation.

The final concept design, Gilbert said, fits the dreamlike, prehistoric atmosphere he hoped for.

“It has this kind of prehistoric yet magical feel to it,” Gilbert said. “It’s not crazy, it almost looks like this might be what life was like back then. I’m super excited about what we both came up with and how it’s turning out.”