Sunday, 25 May 2014

"I Never Figured You For the Tattoo Type"

This image will give you an idea what my friend &
 I were debating.  

I did not blog last week as I was busy attending the 2014 Maritime Tattoo Festival in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  But I admit my tattoo adventure started in the St. John's airport not far from home.  I was just taking a seat in the departure lounge when I found myself studying a blue rendtion of the Japanese god of war on the back of someone's skull.  I really like the effect of having "eyes on the back of your skull" particularly when the man has a shaved head and wears a pair of gold loop earrings.

This particular man was on my wish list of interview subjects, so I went over to introduce myself and confirm that I had the right individual.  Are you so-and-so I asked?  He said "no" with a rueful look in his eyes.  "I hear he went out to B.C.," he added.  I couldn't have been happier because this meant my subject was prepared to be more frank, especially as he was holding a boarding pass for the plane going to B.C.  We dug right in.  Data mining some would call it.  The conversation ranged from using a pressure cooker to sterilize equipment to comparing our recipes for a prison tattoo to who was really the best tattoo artist in the province.  My final question for him was "why did you give tattooing up?"  And his simple answer was, "not enough passion".  I couldn't ask for more honesty.  I didn't want things to end on a down note so I quipped, "what?  Not a woman?"  His laughing response was, "oh that was why I started."

The entire weekend was filled with memorable meetings as I proceeded to eat, breathe and sleep tattoos.  I was happier than the pig in the proverbial poo.  The hotel I stayed at was a small family run affair rather than your usual cookie cutter franchise establishment.  The desk clerk was of Asian descent and after learning why I was in town, he began to quiz me on Japanese themed tattoos.  I laughed when less than five minutes later we were embroiled in a debate about what was the proper length of a yakuza sleeve.  Recognizing neither of us was likely to admit defeat I asked him, "What are you basing your argument on?"  His answer: "my grandfather".  Apparently, his grandfather was a member of the Japanese mafia, complete with scars.  I was trumped.

Later on the desk clerk asked if I wanted to see his ink.  I always say yes when anybody offers because I never know what I will discover.  In this case, the chap's legs were flecked with question marks, infinity loops and well placed on the swell of his calf was a large egg with a tell tale moustache.  "You're a Salvador Dali fan?" I asked with surprise.  "Absolutely, and his infinite questions" was his response. 
Another tattoo fair but same format, complete with customers
 getting inked and blue curtained booths.

The festival itself reminded me of a craft fair.  Booths lined with blue curtains and eye-catching posters; tables with product and portfolios showing sketches, designs and previous commissions.  The only difference was that the craft was tattooing and the product was on people's skin.  One lady smiled up at me as I watched the tattooist work on her thigh drawing an elaborate bouquet of flowers.  

Proprio/artiste Marc Levesque has been a tattooist since
My favourite tattoo that day was a rendering of a stone sculpture on a shoulder.  The young man had brought an art history book as reference and I watched in admiration as Marc Levesque from La Mark in Quebec delicately put in the dimensional shading.  I liked how his eyes darted back and forth from the book to the client's shoulder, capturing the details.

Throughout the weekend I was repeatedly told, "I never would have figured you as the tattoo type."  To me, this begs the question "what is the tattoo type?"  I looked around me at the festival crowd, which ranged from students to grandmothers, from bikers to bankers.  The crowd was punctuated with young couples pushing baby strollers.  I mean really, "is there such a thing as a tattoo type?"


  1. Still trying to come up with a tattoo for myself. It is going to have be small, tellingly significant. Which is true for a lot of people but right now "small" is the operative word. Good write up.

    1. I'd have a realistic likeness of my father's police badge tattooed on me. To my surprise, a number of folks have offered to have my name tattooed on them. Now, that's silly.

  2. i found myself considering for the first time ever, maybe, just maybe, but probably not, getting a tattoo - it was the first time it occured to me that i might want a little something permanently inked on me... maybe i little phi symbol to commemorate my friend friend, that was his signature