Tattoos no longer just for bad boys

THINK INK: Bloor West Tattoo artist Joe Butler puts needle to skin to create another personal work of art for one of her many clients.

There’s no need to be on pins and needles this June.

Even if you’re worried about getting your first tattoo.

Matt Ellis, a 10-year veteran artist from Waycool Tattoos Uptown does his best to ease the fears of first-timers.

“Just imagine if you took a bartender, a hairdresser and a doctor and put them all into one person, that’d be a tattoo artist,” Ellis said taking a break from inking human canvases.

Ellis wants you to know that you have a shoulder to cry on, a gifted artiste and someone to staunch the bleeding, if you should happen to make like a stuck pig.

However, you won’t be stuck looking for world renowned tattoo artists during the three-day Northern Ink Xposure convention where aficionados from as far away as Fiji, New Zealand and China share tips and learn new styles.

The event runs from June 13-15 at Toronto Hilton on Richmond St. West and will feature displays of art, both on skin and the wall, as well as a chance to get inked.

Ellis will be there, along with first time attendee Joe Butler, an artist at Tat-a-rama on Bloor St. West. Butler is eager to see what awaits her at the convention.

“I like everything about it,” she said about her chosen profession. “The clients, the freedom and creativity we have.

“I love the fact that I am doing something I really enjoy — a lot of people can’t say that they love their own career.”

And North American culture is definitely warming up to the burgeoning art form, she said.

Damian McGrath, CEO of Northern Ink Xposure and, agrees. He credits the trend with helping to change the stigmas attached to inking, especially in Asia.

Seven years ago there was no electric tattooing in China, he said, now there is an estimated 7,000 artists in the country.

“It’s exploded,” said McGrath. “You’re not going to stop it, it’s a freight train.

“Youth and culture and everything North America is now new in China and they embrace it whole-heartedly.”

Aside from the Asian trend, McGrath believes the female sexual revolution turned the industry into a more customized, artistic one.

“Ever since Janis Joplin got tattooed, that’s what really twisted it,” he said referring to the late singer. “Women brought the art aspect into it.”

Butler is enthusiastic about the trend.

“When I started I was one of two girls in the shop. It was always guys,” she said. “Now we’re seeing more and more girls, which is awesome.

“Though I do miss having the guys around,” she added with a giggle.

The custom tattoos, whether desired by men or women, also have a personal attachment to them, as Ellis, a former bartender, pointed out.

“When you listen to people’s stories all the time, you realize that everybody has a messed up story,” he said. “So when people come in and get something so close to their heart, they’re wearing their heart on their sleeve, literally.

“A lot of those stories can come out and a lot of those stories are represented by tattoos.”

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