No Pain, No Fame

For the New York spinoff of TLC reality series LA Ink and Miami Ink, star Ami James and producer Charlie Corwin wanted a set that would be more than just, well, a set. They wanted an open-to-the-public tattoo shop, art gallery, and event space that just happened to be under round-the-clock film-crew surveillance. So they hired a team of architects and production designers to transform a former Christian Science church in Soho into the 4,600-square-foot Wooster Street Social Club (43 Wooster St., nr. Grand St.;, now taking tattoo customers by appointment, with plans to accept drop-ins by the time NY Ink debuts on June 2. Though much of the décor is legitimately appealing—vintage fifties barber chairs, interior windows sourced from the Flatiron Building—the space is not without such reality-show contrivances as a confessional room and a padded boxing ring for cast members to duke out disagreements. Basically, it’s The Real World masquerading as a tattoo studio masquerading as art. Or, as Corwin puts it: “I think of the show as a ­performance-art piece in the gallery.”

The Fishbowl Co-owners Charlie Corwin and Ami James tapped architects Maria Berman and Brad Horn to create a space where customers could co-exist with”and observe”the taping of NY Ink. Berman and Horn designed a glass garage-door-like partition that can be unfurled midway into the main space to block unwanted noise from the cameras while production is under way. Producer Charlie Corwin has dubbed the production space, pictured here, “The Fishbowl.” Photo: Danny Kim

Magic Keys A close-up of the reincarnated typewriter keyboard. Photo: Danny Kim

Central Stations “It’s the first time I’ve ever had to build a permanent set,” Harivel says. Outfitted with mid-century barbers’ chairs, this section of the space will welcome walk-ins, even while production is under way nearby. “It’s easy to find forties and fifties barber chairs,” continues Harivel. “But what’s nice is to find a mismatch of colors like we have here.” Here, Corwin (far left) with some of NY Ink’s cast and crew. Photo: Danny Kim

Radical Transparency Curious passersby peer into the Fish Bowl during filming. The motorcycle is James’s own custom-made ride, which Harivel urged him to bring into the space as a decorative piece. Photo: Danny Kim

Boxing Room The padded room where cast members duke out disagreements. Photo: Danny Kim

Personalities of a Wall Corwin and James hired a curator to oversee a rotating slate of exhibits in the gallery. Photo: Danny Kim

Floor Art The designers and owners share a favorite detail: The patterned floor tiles from the thirties, sourced from Belgium. “We had the tiles before we actually had the space,” says Harivel. “In my opinion, if you have a really strong floor, everything else will look good.” Photo: Danny Kim

Taking Five Cast and crew members on a break between shooting sessions. Photo: Danny Kim

Giant Ambition A work by Shepard Fairey presides over tattooists as they perfect their designs atop an illuninated light box. Photo: Danny Kim

No Pain, No Fame