Merrill tattoo artist creates worldwide craze

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MERRILL, Wis. (WSAW)-- On the corner of E. Main and S. Stuyvesant sits a red building.

"I tried to do a few apprenticeships. I pretty much decided to embark out on my own."

Since January, Deamon Boettcher has owned and operated Inked Horizons, a tattoo parlor in Merrill.

"Yeah, I couldn't imagine going back," he said about being his own boss.

Business was rolling along like normal until mid-July. When Boettcher created a first-of-its-kind "Recovery Ribbon" for those who are recovering addicts. It's been shared more than 18,000 times worldwide at Inked Horizons' Facebook page.

"I consider it more like a trophy ribbon than an awareness ribbon," Boettcher said. "It's much more like an achievement. Everyone who has it is empowering themselves."

Nathan McHugh's ribbon tattoo is not just for himself.

"This in itself is a voice," said McHugh, as Boettcher etched the tattoo onto his left calf. "It says 'I beat it, I broke the chains.' It gives somebody ability to say, 'hey, I did it."

"Black and white, yin and yang, future and past, good and bad," Boettcher when describing his creation. "The 'S' is naturally for strength. The chain is, naturally, for breaking that mental hold that you have on yourself."

Boettcher is a recovering addict. A brush with the law led to a 3-year prison sentence.

"It's horrible to say, but I'm glad it happened. I made the mental decision that I don't want to do this anymore. I'm done with drugs, I'm done with anything petty, I'm done committing crime. It's very simple when you actually put your mind to it."

He was released early in January of 2015 for showing improvement and the ability to change.

"I wrote the judge and I just wanted to say 'thank you. I'm trying to show you that you made the right decision," said Boettcher.

Clean for nearly 8 years now, with a wife, three kids and a fourth on the way. And business is good with the "Recovery Ribbon" front and center.

"I feel like I have a friend in everybody who gets this ribbon. Who shares this ribbon. It's like, an instant connection."

Building a group, without being in a group.

The cost for the "Recovery Ribbon" tattoo is $50, up to 6-inches. Boettcher says he wasn't going to copyright it, because he wasn't looking for monetary gains.

But some other tattoo artists said if he wouldn't, then they would. So he has applied for a copyright just to protect the integrity of its intention.