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win a

photoshoot see page 9 Canada’s Premiere Tattoo, Body Modification and Alt Lifestyle Magazine

Oceans of Ink Meet the women stirring up Atlantic Canada

Machine Man step inside Mike Young’s workshop

Twinkle Twinkle microdermals

Ready for a partner swap?

Vol. 1 No. 1

swinging 101

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Pin-up contest sponsored by:

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Win a photoshoot + a SourPuss Clothing prize pack + be featured as a model in an upcoming issue of Xalt!


Got yours yet? Subscriptions: $13.95 ~ 1 year $25.00 ~ 2 years & Xalt T-shirt

Model : Vanessa Marcoux Image: Shelle Macpherson Tattoos: Christina Fleming, xalt XS Tattoo (QC)


TABLE OF Vol.1 No. 1

products | her & him 12 Indulge Ladies, get your wallets ready. 13 Feed Gentlemen, take out those credit cards.

conventions | exposed 14 Tour Guide Ready? Here’s everything you need to know.


fresh flesh | apprentice

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16 Steve Dunford This fine gent has gone from silk-screening shirts to tattooing. We’re impressed.



Model: Taylor Marie Hair and makeup: Taylor Marie Image: Tattoos: Jay Wells, The Red Koi (ON) Accessories: cuff, Bare Restraints ; katana, Location: Casbah Bar, Collingwood, ON

human canvas | artist

20 Mike Young Meet the man crafting tattoo machines we just want to display as fine art. 26 Kelly Mcrea It’s time to erase all lines between art and life. Up for the challenge?


30 Jay Wells His tattooing has induced orgasm. Need we say more?

36 Jesse-Lynn Charlebois Now this is how you stir up a sleepy community in Atlantic Canada. 46 Piew Choquette We can’t decide what we like more: This Montrealer’s art on skin or canvas.

body | modification

42 Scarification Cutting? Branding? Elwood breaks it all down.

52 Microdermals We’re really getting under your skin with this one.


alt lifestyle | swinging 56 Swinging 101 We’ve done the research and here are the facts to get you in the mood.

heart and soul | your story 62 Reader Diaries Getting personal about ink.

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pub | note

Chances be…

words: April Cross image: JASON BOOTH

It started with a road trip back from a night out on the city with a few of my girlfriends. During a long drive filled with miscellanous rambling, I shared that I had always wanted to create a magazine of my own. Not that I am a stranger to publishing. My last desk job was as creative director for Mike Holmes’ Holmes Magazine and Canadian Architure and Design Magazine. As this magazine’s name suggests, its hope is to exalt tattooing and body mod, showcasing them as true forms of art, as they should be. It has truly been an adventure to get my lifelong goal to come to fruition. There were many long hours

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spent at my computer, drinking scads of coffee. I have to thank everyone for all their help and efforts to get us to print. It only gets better from here. We are going to be launching the magazine at the Toronto Spring Motorcycle Show, Ink Alley in Saskatoon and a few more Canadian tattoo convenstions. The summer issue will feature two more fresh flesh apprentices, alt lifestyle features on roller derby and BDSM and artists like Kirt Silver (Elmsdale, NS), Frank Lewis (Montreal, QC) and Russ Fox (Vancovuer, BC) to name just a few.

magazine Volume 1 Number 1 Editor-in-Chief April Cross Assistant Editor Barbara Pavone

Jason Booth

Editorial Interns Amanda Ayers-Clements, Jaii Bhamra Contributing Writers Trent Aitken-Smith, Matt Currie, Tina Gibbens-Tenneriello, Victoria Handysides, Kristian Kaye, Brian Lockhart, Barbara Pavone

Shelle Macpherson

Contributing Photographers Rodney Braun, Dana Brushette, Robert Johnson, Steve Loche, Brian Lockhart, Shelle Macpherson, Barbara Pavone Contributing Illustator Brian Tordiff Circulation Darryl Tordiff, Danieca Ferguson For subscriptions call 705-441-6528 or email Letters to the editor:

Brian Tordiff

Canadian Publications Agreement No. 9061125 Xalt Magazine is published four times per year. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Proudly printed in Canada. Postmaster send address changes/undeliverables to: Xalt Magazine PO Box 1432 Stayner, Ontario L0M 1S0 Unless specifically requested to do so by Xalt Magazine in writing, manuscriptions, photographs and other materials submitted must be accompanied by a self-addressed envelope. Postage must be prepaid. Reproduction without express written permission prohibited.

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editor | note

Here we go... words & image: BABARA PAVONE

Oh, hello there. So it seems it’s the start of yet another new year, but rather than stressing out like I normally would about already failed resolutions and all the shopping I’ve done (everything I needed was on sale, it’s not my fault, so there), I’m focusing on the exciting fact that someone (i.e. you!) is currently reading this brand new magazine. The start of anything new is a great reason to celebrate, but the launch of the first Canadian magazine of its kind is a reason to be overjoyed. Yes sir, it’s time to get out the party hats. Look on any newsstand and you’ll surely find a myriad of tattoo magazines and publications that strive to be edgy and alternative, but try to find one dedicated to the endless talent bred right here in Canada and I guarantee you’ll come up short. Which is exactly why with this first issue of Xalt, and all the ones to follow, we hope to make it all about the ridiculously gifted Canadian artists – both established and up and coming - who put ink under our skin and holes in our bodies. We’ve even sprinkled in some alternative lifestyle pages, just to spice things up. I truly hope you’ll enjoy Xalt’s premiere issue - from the words of our talented crew of misfits (oops, I meant writers) to all the fab photography – enough to come back for more. You may not be able to see it, but I’m raising an ice cold beer (a Canadian brew, of course) to toast all the fine folks who helped make this issue a reality and to salute you, the reader. Here’s hoping you’ll join us again for our summer edition. Cheers!

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A photoshoot How: Show up in your best pin-up gear at the 2012 Ink Alley Saskatoon Tattoo and Art Show Where: Prairieland Park, Saskatoon, SK When: April 15, 2012 What you can win: A Sourpuss Clothing prize pack and a photoshoot that will be featured in an upcoming issue of Xalt Magazine.


will be sponsoring the pin-up contest!

Model : Virginia DeVine, Starlight Burlesque Image:

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contributors | words

Elwood is a professionally trained and certified body piercer and brander, scarification and suspension artist and photographer. He was trained in San Francisco, California by Fakir Musafar, the father of the Modern Primitives Movement and the man credited with bringing body piercing to the western world. As an educator and body modification practitioner, his commitment to advanced safety within the body mod industry has also led him to become an educator. He lends his knowledge to the Simon Fraser Health Authority, Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, Canadian Institute of Professional Health Inspectors and British Columbia Institute of Technology. Elowood has also appeared on the Discovery Channel’s Skin Deep, TLC’s Human Canvas: Sacred Skin, MTV Canada’s Select and Shaw’s Urban Rush.

Kristin Kaye has been writing, in one form or another, since the tender age of four. Since receiving her journalism diploma, she has soaked up every opportunity to observe and report. She has always been fascinated by the tattoo community and its culture and keeps adding to her collection, much to her mother’s chagrin.

Matthew Currie is a freelance writer specializing in technology and entertainment. He is a frequent contributor to Sharp Magazine, Anokhi Magazine, The Book For Men and various other print and online publications. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, he spent most of his formative years in the small town of Carlisle, Ontario. He currently splits his time between Toronto and Vancouver.

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Victoria Handysides is a Prairie-born journalist caught in a torrid love affair with the East Coast, where she works as an alt news, arts and music writer/photographer. Victoria has contributed to various Canadian and international publications and judged a national creative writing competition in 2010. This year, she participated as a judge for the Music New Brunswick Awards and is working on plans to raise secret urban chickens in 2012. She dreams of one day jumping in a camper van bound for the open road and leaving it all behind.

Trent Aitken-Smith is a freelance writer based in York, England. He writes for various tattoo and music magazines in the UK and America. In June 2011, he released a book of short stories, From the Lodge to the City, and is currently working on his first novel (or two) while trying to work out what the hell he wants to do with his life. His biggest influences are Hunter S. Thompson and Chuck Palahniuk, a twisted mix that plays havoc with his already unstable mind.

TINA GIBBENS-TENNERIELLO is a crazy little life-loving Montrealer who spends her days discovering new things on and offline. She studied fashion marketing and recently completed a graduate degree in journalism. She’s a total mediaholic  who works in marketing and publicity and loves to write about fashion, arts, entertainment, lifestyle and anything else that sparks her curiosity.  

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her | indulge

small fry

Justine Brooks takes inspiration from the elements of nature, from both the earth and sea, for her metalwork jewellery. Pinecones, leaves, seashells and fish are just some of the elemets you’ll find in Justine’s work, which has been featured on the popular TV series Stargate: Atlantis. Prices for these unique pieces range from $14 to $150.

walking corpse

photographer Michael Zahra, model Finelines

Tired of walking through life on boring heels? Not to worry, Zombiewood has just the solution for you. These fabulous zombie creations on a one-inch platform are not only comfortable and stylish, their heels are shaped like spines - what’s more wicked than that? $62 at


Gloomth’s Itoshii (‘beloved’ in Japanese) shirt may be handmade in Ontario, but it’s fully inspired by the uniforms of Japanese schoolgirls. White lace accents, flowershaped buttons and sweet puffed sleeves offer an eyecatching, high contrast look with just the right touch of Gloomth’s signature gothic edge. $70.99 at www.Gloomth. com

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wings of freedom

All of Jessie Turner’s pieces are cast in sterling silver and polished to a blinding shine. The details of these wings are darkened with black patina and the center of the heart is accented with goldleaf, making this necklace the perfect finishing touch. With a 9cm wingspan, these love wings are available over at for $270.

him | feed

What the Eff?!

Ravengirl Photography

photographer Jason Booth

The Monsters of Schlock are two modern-day daredevils going by the names of Barnaby Q. Orbax and Sweet Pepper Klopek. Orbax let us know how the two met and the type of audience their work attracts and did so in the third person, of course. “Orbax and Sweet Pepper are twin brothers who were reunited after 25 years. Adopt-

freddy’s fingers

These flogging gloves are sure to add a little extra excitement to your playtime. “A totally superior sensation delivery system; better, faster, more accurate, more versatile, naturally doublehanded flogging, spiritually one step closer to your partner in play.” Prices range from $100 to $200 for a variety of materials, from bike gloves to synthetic stretch. Available at www.

buckle up

This Robert Graham belt designed with black leather, red stitching and a silver dragon buckle is guaranteed to look both badass and chic anytime, anywhere. Sells for $198 at

ed by separate families, they met first online through and then in person at a BMEFest in Tweed, ON while Orbax was performing his sideshow act and Sweet Pepper was screaming for the band The Legendary Klopeks. After rediscovering their relationship, they soon started working together. Orbax would perform with Pepper’s band and Pepper joined the Great Orbax Sideshow as the painproof man. Eventually, the act trimmed down to the world’s most extreme two-man circus sideshow comedy magic extravaganza known as the Monsters of Schlock. We perform for crowds from ages 8 to 80. People often ask about the appropriateness of our content, but in reality, all we do is just adjust the language to the appropriate crowd. Clearly, the way we speak to a bar full of people is completely different than the way we speak to a festival audience full of children and parents. The content of the stunts, however, remains the same. We perform in fringe festivals, carnivals, fairs, colleges, universities, burlesque festivals and busker festivals across the world.” To find out more and stop asking ‘What the eff?!’ head over to xalt 13

conventions | exposed

Tour Guide The A-Z of tattoo conventions in two easy pages


As the 2012 tattoo show and convention season begins, artists from across the globe are once again coming together to showcase their art and talent before the public eye, as well as to reconnect with one another. With hundreds of conventions taking place every year, Xalt’s own Barbara Pavone notes the biggest difference is size. Depending on how established a show is, that will determine how many artists attend, how high profile they are and how far they will travel from. Pat Bastid organizes Ink Alley Tattoo & Art Show in Saskatoon, SK, a medium-sized show of around 60 artists - usually including James Tex, Craig Fenrick and Lucas Ford - catering to a wide array of attendees. “For those people who do not want to get tattooed we still have a lot for them to do,” says Bastid. “There is the Cyclemania custom motorcycle show attached to Ink Alley, both run at the same time, we have beer gardens,

“Most people are surprised at the artists themselves. A lot of times they have preconceived notions, so once they get to the show and they see that these guys have families, they have businesses, they’re talented artists, they’re nice people, everybody’s polite and everybody gets along, that’s the biggest shocker for a lot of people that are outside of the industry and outside of the culture.” Lajambe is also quick to explain the biggest difference he‘s noticed between a tattoo show, like the Westcoast Tattoo and Culture Show, and a convention. “The conventions are more seminar-based and focused directly on tattoo artists, whereas ours is more of like an open show for the public to come and look at different artists’ work, even from our own area, so you can go out and make an educated choice as to what artist you want to go to. We focus more on promoting the artist and letting people know that they’re there and where to find them, so we kind of work for each other, whereas a convention is more for [artists] to better themselves and be amongst their peers.” For the final word about tattoo conventions, Pavone puts it best: “For anyone who enjoys the world of tattooing, conventions are definitely a must. It’s the only way to come face to face with hundreds of talented artists from across the world, some of who you might have never had the chance to cross paths with otherwise. Conventions save you a lot of time, money and air miles by bringing tattooers from the Americas, Europe, Asia etc. to your hometown.”

CONVENTIONS ARE THE ONLY WAY TO COME FACE TO FACE WITH HUNDREDS OF TALENTED ARTISTS FROM ACROSS THE WORLD an art show, food, vendors, bands on both stages, a dunk tank and food court, on top of tattoo artists selling prints and original work - the whole thing really takes on a festival feel.” As Pavone, who has been attending conventions for three years, says, a good time is almost guaranteed. “I attended my first convention after being asked to review Art Tattoo Montreal for a magazine. Nowadays, I not only go because I’m on assignment, but also because I genuinely love the unbeatable atmosphere and energy you find at a convention. And spending several hours meeting great tattooers, watching people get inked and taking in amazing art makes for a pretty great day.” Westcoast Tattoo and Culture Show’s Tim Lajambe organizes one of the larger shows in the country with 200300 artists gathering in Vancouver, BC. Moving from the PNE Forum to the Boulevard Casino this year, Lajambe says there has been one major change in public feedback since the show began.

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RED-HOT CONVENTIONS 2012 6TH ANNUAL INK ALLEY TATTOO & ART SHOW (Prairieland Park, Saskatoon, SK) DATE: April 14 - 15, 2012 ADMISSION: $12/day, $20/weekend pass FEATURES: Event parties, live bands, pin-up contest (sponsored by Xalt, winner to appear in an upcoming issue of the magazine and receive a Sourpuss Clothing prize pack), tattoo contests. 4TH ANNUAL WESTCOAST TATTOO & CULTURE SHOW (Boulevard Casino/Red Robinson Show Theatre, Vancouver, BC) DATE: April 15-17, 2012 ADMISSION: $15/day, $40/weekend pass FEATURES: Seminars, vendors, live music, tattoo contests. Maritime Tattoo Festival (Halifax Forum Multipurpose Centre, Halifax, NS) DATE: May 19-21, 2012 ADMISSION: $15/day, $35/weekend pass 14TH ANNUAL NORTHERN INK XPOSURE (Hilton Hotel, Toronto, ON) DATE: June 15–17, 2012 ADMISSION: $23/day, $60/weekend pass 10th Art Tattoo Montreal (Windsor Station, Montreal, QC) DATE: September 7-9, 2012 ADMISSION: $15-$20, depending on day Alberta Bound Tattoo & Arts Festival (Calgary Stampede BMO Centre, Calgary, AB) DATE: Oct 12 - 14, 2012 ADMISSION: $20/day, $40/weekend pass

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fresh flesh | apprentice

From Graphic Art to Body Art “Every artist has a critic on his shoulder” words & images: Brian Lockhart “I’m just fortunate, not everyone gets to do what they want,” says tattoo artist Steve Dunford, sketching out a new design while at The Red Koi in Barrie, Ontario. “Every time you do a good piece, you feel good about it.” Feeling good about his work is the underlying drive that keeps Dunford inspired to create fresh designs and continue to experiment with the colour, shading and form that are the essential elements of body art. He has come a long way in a short time since turning up at The Red Koi about a year and a half ago with his portfolio in hand and the hope of launching a new career that would feed his creative side and pay the bills. Shop owner Jay Wells was You’ll know you’re so impressed with Dunford’s work that he immediately took a tattoo artist when him on as an apprentice. Learnyou believe it. ing the business from the bottom up was part of the deal as the new guy, but on the creative side of things, Dunford’s work gradually took on a now signature style. “After five or six months, Jay told me I was ready,” says Dunford, who now specializes in portraiture, tattooing soft-lined shapes then filling in the details using a technique where shading creates the features. Although he’s always been an artist, sketching, drawing and taking art classes all throughout high school, the transition to higher education proved to be a disappointment for Dunford when he found the fine arts program he was enrolled in seemed to cater to students with a less than highly developed plane of talent. “I thought it would be more of an advanced level,” he admits. Dunford transferred to the graphic design program, but with most graphic design now done almost exclusively on computers, Dunford was soon missing the hands-on approach of sketching out an image. “I found a lot of people I went to school with were good on the computer, but not at actual hand drawing,” says Dunford, who didn’t even own a computer until he was 19 years old. While working in a silk screening shop as the only employee,

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fresh flesh | apprentice

Dunford was creating slogan-printed T-shirts when he met a tattoo artist through his roommate at the time. “He asked me if I wanted to give it a try,” and Dunford did. He borrowed the equipment he needed and began to experiment with different techniques at a home-based studio i.e. his basement. A place where most aspiring artists usually get their start. “I started practicing on myself, then started doing different people, including friends, but I didn’t feel right about doing it in my basement,” he says. So getting out of there and into a legitimate tattoo shop would be the first step in starting a new career and showcasing his work to an audience always looking for something new in tattoo design. After 15 years of working as a tattoo artist, shop owner Jay Wells knows the business and he knows talent when he sees it. “Steve is what you call a shy artist,” he says of the low-key way Dunford promotes his work. “Every artist has a critic on his shoulder and that’s himself. He takes his work to heart, that is what drives him. He’s a sponge, he wants to learn as much as he can.” The Red Koi is a busy place located in Barrie’s east end and has a constant stream of customers coming through its doors, either by appointment or just walking in off the street. All of The Red Koi’s tattooers take their art seriously

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and it stays with them long after they leave the shop. “It’s not a job, it’s not a career, it’s a lifestyle,” says artist Kate McGowan, who is also one of Dunford’s living canvases. McGowan has several completed works by Dunford, including a portrait of Marlon Brando from The Wild One and a young Audrey Hepburn in a demure pose on the back of her thigh. “Maybe it will be Buddy Holly next.” Outside the shop, Dunford’s creative side also flourishes on stage as the singer of The Vegas Wake Up. Offering audiences a blend of pop and punk, the band has performed all over Ontario and Quebec since forming in 2010. When asked about any unlikely clients, Dunford says he recently inked 75-year-old twin ladies who came into the shop to get their first tattoos. Dunford listens to what his clients want, has a strong, presentable portfolio of work and is confident in his abilities, which is something this sometimes quiet artist believes is the ultimate key to tattooing. As he puts it, “You’ll know you’re a tattoo artist when you believe it.”

The Red Koi 477 Grove Street Unit 6 Barrie, ON L4M 6M3 705-252-5529 |

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human canvas | artist

Machine Man A unique trip into the tattoo world of Mike Young

words: TRENT AITKEN-SMITH images: MIKE YOUNG Mike Young is not your average tattoo artist. No way. This man is a machine. Not content with solely tattooing, Young has spent 14 years building an empire of everything ink related. Working out of his shop, Eternal Dragon Tattoo, in Charlottetown, PEI, Young does everything from tattooing to machine building to self-publishing. And if you think I’m kidding, I recently cornered Young for a chat about where it all started and where it’s all heading. Over to you, Mike... THE EARLY YEARS “I got into tattooing back in the ‘90s while I was living in Vancouver, working as a musician. Back then I was doing session work and playing in a couple of bands. One of my bandmates had a friend who was heavily tattooed and I started getting some work done by the same guy and once I got some tattoo work done, I was hooked! I got to know a few of the artists and saw the potential in something I knew I would be good at. I showed some of my work and was offered a job helping run the shop, basically the beginning of an apprenticeship. Cleaning toilets, floors, running for lunch and supplies - doing all the shit work and fucking happy to be doing it! 14 years ago, tattooing was just building steam and shops were still somewhat dark, mysterious places where most were apprehensive to enter. And you certainly didn’t have to deal with too many assholes who already thought they knew everything about the trade due to TV oversaturation. I worked mainly for the guy that gave me the job but I latched onto another artist, Vinnie Ruocco, and picked his brain constantly for every scrap I could! He used to tell me he was a shitty teacher, but I learned so much from him. Drawing finger waves, proper design layout, colour choices, shading technique and the list goes on and on. Vinnie is the reason I draw the way I do. I still catch myself thinking, ‘Vinnie would draw it this

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way’ when I’m laying stuff out or drawing for a tattoo. Vinnie started tattooing in the ‘70s in Vancouver with Paul Jefferies and later went to work with him in Calgary at Smiling Buddha, turning out some seriously groundbreaking work for back then. He later worked with John the Dutchman, who he bought his shop, Fat City Tattoo, from and where I apprenticed in Vancouver. The shop was filled with old sketches and stencils and drawings from all these killer artists, which I copied and studied constantly over a couple of years, always striving to improve my drawing and soak up all the magic in all those old sketches. I started tattooing at night after the shop was closed, developing a small clientele, getting my tattooing tight. My first clients were mainly jobs no one else wanted to touch, which were mostly fix-ups of poorly done tribal and cover-ups of some horrible home jobs. I didn’t care, I was stoked to be tattooing!”

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human canvas | artist

HITTING THE GROUND RUNNING – OPENING ETENAL DRAGON “A couple of years into my apprenticeship, Vinnie sold the shop and had a falling out with the new owner, so I was out of a place to work. I set up a killer ground level home studio with huge bay windows overlooking my koi pond and bonsai garden. I printed business cards and worked by referral only.” “After a couple years, I wanted to get back into a shop environment, so I moved home to the East Coast to open my own shop. In hindsight, this was the best move as tattooing was really getting popular and I have been swamped since I opened Eternal Dragon Tattoo in 2001. I have always tried to continue to improve my tattooing as well as my drawing and painting to stay competitive with what is happening in the industry. Being in a smaller centre, I see a lot of shitty work being executed by ‘tattooists’ that have no idea of the rich history of this trade and certainly have little or no respect for what they do. It’s the same everywhere with the proliferation of tattooing on TV and the Internet. Any clown can now buy gear, rent a space and voila - instant tattoo shop. So many are just in business these

days to make money and not to further the industry or to try to improve themselves. But, in my opinion, there is a faint glimmer of hope at the end of this tunnel.” IT’S ALL IN THE ART – INFLUENCES AND STYLE “My own personal style has been an ever-changing, constantly developing entity. I started out really trying to emulate the West Coast/neo Japanese style that I was exposed to. I really dug the flowing style with full coverage of blue water and smoky grey, swirling wind and clouds. I really tried to tap into that method of tattooing, to recreate what I was seeing done on a daily basis. From there I started getting into drawing old school stuff with a bit of a twist.

“My first clients were mainly jobs no one else wanted to touch. I didn’t care, I was stoked to be tattooing!” My artwork has definitely improved in leaps and bounds over the years, all the drawing, just trying to push forward and improve one little thing at a time. I looked back at the stuff I had produced and was able to really define the direction I wanted to go, taking all the little changes and turning it into my own thing. I have always been a book addict, but the problem I was seeing was that a lot of the books I was buying were filled with art that wasn’t that great. Some of it was downright bad. One day I was flipping through a new sketchbook I had bought and was getting more and more pissed off about the money I just wasted on all these shitty sketches. When the giant stand of drawers with all my drawings caught my eye, I thought, ‘I’m gonna put a book together! Have all my stuff nicely bound at my fingertips.’ I produced the Eternal Dragon Tattoo Sketchbook Vol. 1 and am currently working on Vol. 8!” MECHANICAL WONDER – MACHINE BUILDING “I started building seriously only five or six years ago, but I started playing around with set-ups and tunings right from day one. Vinnie Ruocco gave me that first old supreme and it’s been game on since then! I played around with tearing shit apart and transferring those geometries over to my own handmade stuff. Some of those early machines were rough, man! I cut all the parts out with an angle grinder, cleaned them up and welded up the three-piece frames. Ugli-

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est shit you ever saw, but they ran and I tattooed with them. It took a few builds to start zeroing in on lower weights and properly aligned holes in the spring deck, but once I started investing in better tools, the builds improved accordingly. I was always looking at others’ machines and trying new things. The electric machine is a fairly simple device; there’s not much you can do with a doorbell circuit to make it new! But it’s always been fun to play around with frame styles and materials, seeing what works and what doesn’t. There have been some dismal failures and some big successes too, but it’s all part of the learning curve towards a better machine ... with all the choices of frame and coil finishes, I can spend days on one machine! Whenever we do a run of coils, it’s usually a weeklong affair to produce 20-40 coils. The coils probably receive as much or more attention than the frames. Some of the coil sets have upwards of 20 or 30 coats of lacquer on them, which takes days and days to complete. Kudos to apprentice Cody for his mad lacquering skills! I don’t think a lot of people understand the amount of work that goes into their brand new high-end machine.”

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ONWARDS AND UPWARDS – THE FUTURE “Since I’ve gotten into this industry, there’s been a ton of changes, some good, most bad. I’m talking about all the non-artists owning shops, scratchers being able to buy gear at the push of a button on their computers or buy equipment from the back of a magazine. These kinds of things have been a huge negative on the face of the industry. [But] I think that even in the current environment, with the tattoo industry facing oversaturation, the truly talented, hardworking individuals will always survive and do well. As long as a core of true artists strives to move forward and keep tattooing’s rich history alive, the industry should sort itself out over the next few years. Back to your jobs at Burger King, rockstar scratchers!” Eternal Dragon Tattoo 55 St Peters Road Charlottetown, PE C1A 5N6 902-626-3861

human canvas | artist

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human canvas | artist

Art/Life Tattooist Kelly Mcrae eliminates all separation between art and life words: Barbara Parvone images: Rodney Braun In a time when tattoo shops seem to be popping up on every empty street corner and an increasing number of uneducated ‘artists’ is picking up tattooing and sending less than stellar art out into the world, it’s not always easy to know where to turn to get quality work. Shops that have been around for years and solidified themselves as tattoo institutions are always a safe bet, so next time you find yourself itching for new ink in Winnipeg, MB, may we suggest Skin Dimensions? “[Winnipeg’s tattoo scene] has doubled in the last nine years,” says tattoo artist and Skin Dimensions coowner Kelly Mcrae. “It has doubled in shops and the population doing tattoos has probably over doubled. The biggest trend I see is of the tourists in our industry. You know, the tattoo shows have been great for our business and our industry but, at the same time, it has been kind of a downfall ‘cause of all the kids coming in, doing tattoos, thinking they’ll make a whackload of money quick.” Since Mike Hanson opened the shop’s doors back in 1992, Skin Dimensions has managed to put out consistent, professional work, never turning clients away, for almost two decades. Kelly Mcrae joined the shop in 1996 as an apprentice, but his foray into the art world began with more traditional, less permanent mediums. “I started out as a junior artist in a screen-printing shop, doing logos and lettering at 17,” says Mcrae. “I did freelance art for various companies, including product design.” But even before then, tattoos had always had a way of grabbing his attention. “I knew an old biker that had kind of a club tattoo that I saw when I was a younger kid and I thought it was kind of cool, that was even before I was doing art for a living,” he remembers. Things took a major turn for Mcrae following a chance meeting with the then owner of Skin Dimensions, Mark Hanson. “I was working in a beer vendor and I was introduced to the owner of the shop at that point by one of the bouncers,” says Mcrae. “I brought in my portfolio and he

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human canvas | artist

looked at it and said, ‘Sure, yeah, come on in and we’ll work on it a little bit.’” Buying his first tattoo machine in 1994, Mcrae began his apprenticeship with Hanson in early 1996 and by 1998 was not only tattooing, but even making his very own custom machines. Asked about the transition from commercial art to tattooing, Mcrae is quick to point out that he never considered the shift a major change, saying, “I still view what we do as a production art.” Mastering a wide variety of styles – “I don’t try to specialize in one thing over another” – his tattoo journey has been “one little goal after another. The first goal was to become a tattoo artist and then it was to really make a living at it, one step at a time. ” In 2003, Mcrae and business partner Dennis Poncik bought Skin Dimensions and have since continued to build on the established tattoo and piercing studio. In addition to Mcrae, Skin Dimensions is now home to two other gifted artists, Claire Beland and Jay Primeau, “who have made my shop a great place to come and get your work done.” Beland apprenticed under Mcrae and has been one of the few female tattoo artists in Winnipeg for the past six years, in addition to being a body modification technician. Primeau, on the other hand, has been tattooing since 1993. After opening and later selling the first ever street shop in Winnipeg, which was called Primal Art, then travelling across Europe and Canada, Primeau decided to call Skin Dimensions home in 2004.

says “the best thing is just the fact that I still get to do art for a living every day.” Wanting to finish off this article on a poignant note, it’s over to Mr. Kelly Mcrae for the final word: “I have been tattooing for 17 years and hopefully will be for another 17. I am proud of what we do at our shop. My clients push my creativity and that’s why I am thankful. Art is my life and my life is art.” Skin Dimensions Tattoo and Body Piercing Studio 729 Corydon Avenue Winnipeg, MB R3M 0W4 1-888-347-2343

“THE BEST THING IS THE FACT THAT I STILL GET TO DO ART FOR A LIVING EVERY DAY.” With the shop’s twentieth birthday coming up in August 2012, a part of Skin Dimensions’ secret to success has undoubtedly been the fact that they continuously strive to please all of their clients, no matter what. “We do walk-ins one day a week on Saturdays,” says Mcrae, offering up just one example of how the shop tries to cater to all tattoo collectors. “We’ve done that for 13 years. Little Sally Housecoat doesn’t wanna wait seven months to get the word ‘Believe’ on her wrist, she wants it now, by Saturday, so that’s why we do them.” Speaking to Mcrae, it’s obvious that art has always been a deep-rooted passion and great source of happiness for him and after all these years in the business, he

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Feel-Good Ink For Jay Wells, it’s more than just a (kickass) job words: Robert Johnson images: Mathew Currie Jay Wells started off by breaking the cardinal rule. “My first tattoo was a nickname of a girl that I was dating. You know, in tattooing there’s a strict, strict policy that you do not put anyone’s name on you. It’s like a curse, you’ll end up breaking up with them. I’ve covered up pretty much every single name I’ve ever tattooed on somebody…It was sort of naïve and like ‘What the hell am I thinking?’ Ten years later, she’s my wife, we have three kids [and] she’s a huge part of who I am.” And who exactly is he? Wells is the owner “I WAS TATTOOING A YOUNG of a custom tattoo and WOMAN IN HER LOWER AREAS piercing shop in Barrie, ON called The Red Koi. AND SHE ACTUALLY HAD AN It’s a name that, for his ORGASM.” customers, conjures up the artist himself. So much so that he’s inked the classic tattoo design on his forearm as a representation of his admiration for the Japanese tradition. “If you actually look at my tattoos, I have my sons names tattooed on me, I have a koi fish, I have a Buddha, I just have certain things on me that represent who I am and they’re not intimidating whatsoever,” says Wells. “But if I go out to the grocery store late at night and a little old woman is walking in a parking lot, she definitely doesn’t say hi.” However, an in-depth exam of Wells’ ink isn’t strictly necessary to do away with preconceptions, as all you really need is a conversation with him. “I’m a Buddhist,” says Wells and, despite his liberal use of the word ‘fuck,’ I’m inclined to believe him. An equal mix of self-assurance and serenity, he’s a man with a devout respect for the ancient art he practices and, what’s more, has a dedication to truly serving his customers, as opposed to just drawing pretty pictures on them. But, like most of us, he started off as just another adrenaline-seeking kid.

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“I was probably about 15 or 16 and a friend of mine, he had gone to downtown Toronto and he got a tattoo,” recalls Wells. “[I was] fascinated with the fact that somebody put art on their skin. I was always just super intrigued by it.” So when another pal volunteered to be his first human canvas, Wells jumped at the chance. Equipped with a sewing needle and some Indian ink, his life’s work got off to a not so illustrious start as he laid down something vaguely resembling a pot leaf. “It looked hideous, it was just horrible and from there I was like, ‘You know what? I’m gonna see if I can actually go and learn how to tattoo properly’ because I never wanted to poke someone with a needle again like that.” But, whether he liked it or not, Wells had a lot more than simple technique to pick up. As he walked around shops in downtown Toronto, looking for a cheap machine and a few quick lessons, the response was always basically the same - fuck off. “It’s funny because just recently TLC had something like Tattoo School and this woman was teaching people; two weeks and they become a professional tattoo artist. I was like, ‘Really? My life’s work [and] she thinks she can teach these amateur people tattooing in two weeks?’ I remember being that naïve at one point.” Eventually, Wells got taken on at a Toronto parlour, where the rich history and intense dedication demanded by the trade started to seep in. Today, there’s a mixture of reverence and excitement in his voice as he talks about ancient tribal tattoos and people getting inked by their pharmacists in the 1920s. There’s even a stern exuberance as he tells me about the years of training it takes to properly handle a needle and keeping his own parlour a friendly and, above all, spotless environment. When it comes to design, Wells doesn’t like to pin himself down as a single style artist. Most of his work has a recognizable Japanese influence, but the aim is versatility. “Some artists are just stuck in a style, they only do old school tattoos, they won’t venture off and do anything else, and I think that’s a complete waste of artistic abilities,” he says. “I’ve experimented with all different styles; I would just like to be a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. If someone came in and said ‘I would like a Chinese dragon,’ I would say, ‘I can do that for you. It’ll look Japanese, my style, but you’ll definitely get what you pay for.’” He does, however, rely on a few of the artistic concepts he picked up while attending Sheridan College in Oakville, ON. “It doesn’t matter what I’m designing, I like to use the body, the actual muscles, how they actually flow on a human body,” he explains. “A huge inspiration

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for a lot of my work is vines and filigree and anything like that, anything that has a beautiful flow. I enjoy beautiful line work, it just accentuates a piece.” Wells is also kind of a comic book geek and in those early days he tried to channel that aesthetic in all of his work, but was never really satisfied with the result. Eventually, he came to a revelation: “There’s only one person that draws like I do and that’s me. Stop worrying about what other artists are doing. As a young kid, I referenced the shit out of everything, [but] now I can actually use my imagination and say, ‘This is what I think a phoenix looks like.’”

The thing that really sticks out when talking to Wells is his dedication to fostering a positive experience, reflected in the open concept of The Red Koi itself. “Most tattoo shops usually have an edge to them because they think they’re cool and I didn’t want that,” admits Wells. So when he opened his shop two years ago, Wells did away with your typical front counter and closed off booths in favour of a large open space where customers can chat each other up while getting their tattoos. The purpose? Keep nerves steady, enjoyment levels high and customer pass out/puking levels to a minimum. That attitude’s just as evident in his extensive client consults where he’ll mock up four or five sketches geared to the initial request and four or five of his own

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kickass imaginings. While there’s no guarantee the customer will be willing to let him flex his creative muscles, Wells insists “that’s also sort of a fun aspect of tattooing, convincing someone to step outside their boundaries so that you can do something interesting on them and change the way they feel about a design that they carried around in their wallet or purse for the last six or seven months.” And in case you had any doubts about his ability to work a tattoo machine, he has received at least one screaming endorsement. “I was tattooing a young woman in her lower areas and she actually had an orgasm,” laughs Wells. “I gave her like a ten-minute break and I said ‘Okay, I’ll finish your tattoo.’” Wells has every reason to be supremely cocky, but he vehemently rejects the rock star attitude frequently evinced by the younger generation. He’s not big on shows like Miami Ink that turn artists into characters and he’s not concerned about mainstream popularity in the least. When he does put ink to skin, that spark he feels doesn’t even truly come from creating intricate works of art, but from the belief that he’s playing some small part in helping those he works on enrich themselves. “When somebody comes to me and we sit down and talk about a design, it’s their piece. You know, they’re not getting something that someone else got and that transforms them. I’ve seen people that started off as shy and very intimidated, then, all of a sudden, I tattoo them and this confidence just comes out in people. I get more than I ever thought possible.” And every so often, he gets the chance to do something extraordinary. “[There] was a young woman, probably 25-ish, around there, she lost her baby. The baby was born and then within the same day, her baby passed away. She came in and she was already just...she was destroyed. She wanted something that was personal. I thought about it and I thought about it. I did a banner and it had her [daughter’s] name in it…the banner was hugging this little baby dove. I showed it to her and she just bawled. She cried and I cried. I remember when I was tattooing it on her, the shading was so soft and I just wanted it to feel as soft as a child. Just soft and light and it was there and it was hers. That will always be the most important tattoo I’ve ever done.”

The Red Koi 477 Grove Street Unit 6 Barrie, ON L4M 6M3 705-252-5529

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Oceans of Ink Meet the woman proud to be stirring up the norm in Atlantic Canada, big-time words & images: Victoria Handysides It’s a rainy Saturday afternoon and Oceans of Ink in Sussex, NB is filled with the rhythmic sounds of a tattoo machine, a jingling front door and a perpetual stream of customers looking for Jesse-Lynn Charlebois. Though her steady hands and artist’s eye are in higher demand than ever, the 26-year-old ravenhaired shop owner doesn’t make it in as much as she used to these days. Eight months pregnant, she’s starting to live life partially outside the four walls of the tattoo studio in southeastern New Brunswick. It isn’t the easiest task for her, though, as the shop and the people in it are her life. It likely won’t be long before she’s back in her artist’s chair with baby somewhere nearby, as Oceans of Ink is a family affair. “I’m lucky because I have so much help,” the Calgary-born artist says, starting the story of how she, her husband Cory and her mom Kathy Jenkins wound up running a body modification studio in the middle of rural New Brunswick, an area known by and large as the Bible Belt of Atlantic Canada. At the tender age of 13, Charlebois decided, almost by lucky accident, to pursue a life behind a tattoo machine. “I found my first tattoo magazine in a pile of recycling and there was an article in it about a 15-year-old girl whose dad owned a tattoo shop. She’d just done her first tattoo and even got paid for it because she’d done such a great job. I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever heard in my entire life.”

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At 16, the ambitious and extremely artistic teenager began searching for a shop that would accept her as an apprentice. “I know it sounds ridiculous because I wasn’t even old enough to get a tattoo, but I wanted to do it so bad,” she says, adding it took her four years and time studying at the Alberta College of Art and Design before she finally nailed an apprenticeship. “Once a year I’d get my portfolio together and go to as many shops in Calgary as I possibly could,” she recounts. “They would all tell me no, then I’d get art together for the following year. I kept upping the scale of my presentation.” Her first gig was at Calgary’s Joker’s Tattoo, a walk-in shop with flash art covering the walls. Over the next few years, Charlebois developed her craft and moved from shop to shop, learning from established artists at studios like Body Inc. and Sacred Balance. “The first tattoo I did, it was not at all what I thought it would be like,” she remembers, adding that, like many artists, she was her own first client. “It’s not like using a pen or pencil; you have to give up a lot of your comfort

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to work on a live canvas that’s round, squishy and moving.” Though she says starting with flash was a great way to learn, it wasn’t long before Charlebois realized her artistic inclination best lent itself to custom pieces. Today, she’s known for her deep and detailed black and grey work and organic tattoos inspired by nature. She draws the bulk of her inspiration from photos, but has always been conscious of developing her own style without mimicking that of other artists. “Sometimes I like straight-up impressionistic and sometimes really realistic. I still can’t pinpoint a style, I just love to do everything,” says Charlebois. In 2008, the up and coming artist and her family decided to pack up and move away from Alberta’s rat race with plans to start fresh in her father’s birth province. So, the family pointed wagons east and fell in love with the tiny community directly between Moncton and Saint John’s, filled with massive outdoor murals and token Maritime hospitality. “We saw this tiny little cubby hole right on Main

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Street, we pulled over, looked inside and thought, ‘Wouldn’t that make the perfect tattoo shop?’” recalls Charlebois. With financial support from her parents, she rented the 400-square-foot shop and Oceans of Ink was born; a business unlike any the sleepy community had ever seen before. “A couple people came in and you could tell these were their thoughts and feelings, but they were trying to pawn them off as other people’s thoughts and feelings. They’d say ‘Oh, how did they let you open up here? What did you do to be able to open here?’ I was like, ‘First and foremost, I don’t know what you mean how did they let you? Who is they and what do you mean let? I got a license and opened a business.’”

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But Charlebois is quick to add that public response wasn’t necessarily unwelcoming, just curious, and it didn’t take long to develop a smart response for those who offered polite criticism. “I’d say, ‘If this truly is the Bible Belt of the Maritimes, these should be the most accepting, compassionate and loving people in all the Maritimes, so they should have no problem with a young girl trying to better herself and her life by opening a business.’ That shut them up pretty fast,” laughs Charlebois. Since her arrival, the tattoo community of greater Atlantic Canada has welcomed Charlebois with open arms. In 2010, she took home the second place prize in the medium black and grey category and first place in the tribal category at the Maritime Tattoo Festival.

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I’d say, ‘If this truly is the Bible Belt of the Maritimes, these should be the most accepting, compassionate and loving people in all the Maritimes.’ That shut them up pretty fast.

Also that year, Charlebois was invited to create a tattoo in front of a unique Halifax church service to accompany a sermon entitled, Marked For Life. In 2011, Charlebois did it again at the Maritime Tattoo Festival, taking home second place for her small black and grey work, second place for best sleeve and first place for best cover-up. Today, Oceans of Ink is in a bigger location off Sussex’s main drag. With help from resident artist Nikki Lang and new apprentice Jeremy Lamos, the nauticalthemed, two-floor shop has become a destination for tattooed folks from all around the Atlantic region. Recently, Oceans of Ink also expanded its services into the realm of aesthetics. Drawing inspiration from the 1999 flick Stigmata, Charlebois’ vision is to run a

shop where clients can get an outrageous cut, colour or extensions, manicures, pedicures and massages before getting tattooed and pierced. The shop is filled with deep, rich colours and hosts art by local artists all over its walls. The goal, according to Charlebois, is to feature local artists, for free, in a place where their work will be seen by like-minded creative types. Oceans of Ink also stocks natural perfumes, glass pipes and cases of body jewelry. Though they may not have been completely understood at first, the folks of Oceans of Ink are now embraced by their community. “Really quickly we started to establish that we weren’t just a bunch of tattooed freaks. Right away we started getting involved in the community,” says Charlebois. One such example of involvement is the ribbon tattooing marathon the shop hosts every summer, donating all proceeds to cancer research and other charitable causes. “It’s tough because the Maritimes – even though we don’t like to admit it sometimes – we’re 10 to 15 years behind the rest of the country,” starts Charlebois. “Just 20 years ago, mom tells me stories about how women weren’t allowed in the bar here in Sussex. And that was just 20 years ago! It’s a huge change to be a woman and to be able to tattoo here in New Brunswick. I wouldn’t say it’s unheard of, but it’s definitely rare.” Oceans of Ink 14 Church Ave. Sussex, NB E4E 1Y7 506-433-5006

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From Cutting to Cold Branding and Everything In Between Scarification expert Elwood breaks it all down for Xalt

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words: Elwood images: RUSS FOXX Scarification: The art of creating designs in the flesh by breaking skin to the subcutaneous layer and allowing the body to create scars in desired shapes. Scarification is not a precise art. Variables like method, depth and aftercare will affect how the design looks after it has healed, making the end product truly unique. There are several methods of scarification and if done properly, they can leave incredible pieces of art on the body.

Cutting: One of the best-known methods of scarification, using blades to literally cut a design into the body. Cutting originated in several African and indigenous Australian cultures and often comSCARIFICATION CAN SERVE municated elements of their cultural systems and religious AS AN EMBLEM OF STRENGTH, beliefs. FORTITUDE AND COURAGE The Baule people of the Ivory Coast believed that scarification was the ultimate mark of civilization and without these marks, a person was not considered part of the community. The Tiv of Nigeria use facial scarification for aesthetic reasons, to enhance facial features, and as for the Maori of New Zealand, highborn males endure an elaborate and painful form of tattooing called Moko. Moko is cutting and chiseling away the skin and filling it with a pigment to create elaborate designs used to show status within the tribe and intimidate enemies in battle. In many other cultures, a woman’s eagerness to bear the pain of scarification is an indication of emotional maturity and willing-

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ness to bear children. It can serve as an emblem of the strength, fortitude and courage of both men and women and, as a result, scars can elicit society’s admiration. Historically, any sharp stone or piece of metal was used until actual blades were created. In volcanic regions, obsidian, a volcanic glass that can hold an incredibly sharp edge, was used. Modern-day cuttings are typically done with a scalpel or other surgical blades. Hobby blades should never be used for cutting, as they are not as sharp as a scalpel and are typically lightly oiled, which can contaminate the wound and lead to some pretty nasty infections. The psychology of cutting was largely ignored for many years. Dr. Favazza wrote a book in the mid 1980s called Bodies Under Siege, which was rejected by 15 different publishing houses as too extreme to print. It was finally published by Johns Hopkins University Press and has since gone into its second edition. In the book, Dr. Favazza discusses the mindset of people that cut themselves through depression and anger. In short, the book looks at external and internal pain.

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The theory is that if you feel pain on the inside and cut yourself, pouring all the negative energy of your internal pain into that cut, you can watch it heal and thus, help heal the internal pain at the same time.

Branding: Possibly the second best known method in the realm of scarification. Branding is done by briefly applying intense heat to the flesh, allowing a burn to go into the subcutaneous tissue. While cutting was typically used to show status within a tribe or culture, branding was used to show misdeeds or possession. Slavers would brand their ‘merchandise’ to display them as livestock and not as human beings, therefore dehumanizing them in the eyes of the buyers. In 16th-century Germany, people who refused to “recant their faith and join Catholicism” were branded with a cross on their forehead. In the 17th century, adulterers in North American Puritan settlements were branded with a letter A on their chests to show their misdeeds. The Canadian military used to brand letters on soldiers for misdeeds before they were shipped off to penal colonies. Brands like the letter D for ‘Deserter’ and the letters BC for ‘Bad Character’ were used. In France, branding was used until the early 1800s to mark criminals, often with a fleur-de-lys.

Modern-day branding is typically done in one of three different ways: Strike, cautery or moxabustion. Strike branding is usually done with small strips of stainless steel shaped in roughly one-inch segments, which are heated with a blowtorch until they are glowing cherry red (roughly 1650 degrees Celsius) and then briefly applied to the skin. Larger designs need many strikes to complete. Large single piece branding irons, like we would use on cattle, are really not appropriate for use on humans. First off, they can’t be heated evenly and secondly, they usually require a large flat area and we have too many curves, Also, the amount of heat reflected between the parts of the brand applies too much heat to one area and the scarring is not at all even. Electro-cautery branding is also known as laser branding. Usually, a device called a hyfercator is used. Cautery brands are done using medical cautery devices, the same devices that are used to cauterize open bleeding during surgery. The artist typically draws with

the device, allowing a burn to form very quickly. Moxabustion is done with incense that is applied to the skin, lit and left to burn down until it goes out in the flesh. The sensation of moxabustion gradually goes from nothing to more and more intense until it finally extinguishes. Historically, moxabustion was used for therapy and later became used with acupuncture.

Other forms of scarification include cold branding and etching. Cold branding uses the same idea behind strike branding, but rather than heat, extreme cold is used instead, usually by putting the metal in liquid nitrogen. Cold branding tends to be more obscure since liquid nitrogen is not the easiest substance to get a hold of. As for etching, it is simply tattooing without ink.

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Balancing Act Montreal’s Piew Choquette is the master of juggling skin and canvas words: Trent Aitken-Smith images: Shelle Macpherson It is very rare that I am stuck in the situation where I can’t decide which I prefer: a tattoo artist’s skill on skin or their skill on canvas. One such artist is Montreal-based tattooist Piew Choquette. Though his tattooing covers most styles, his old school, ‘Bold Will Hold’ work is mind-blowingly brilliant and when it comes to his paintings, well, I’ll let the pictures talk for themselves, as there is no way any words could do justice to his amazing vision or his mix of old school and modern, bright colours and shading. Recently, I caught up with Choquette to try and find out exactly what drives him to create such incredible art, on skin and on canvas. “I got my first tattoo at the early age of 15, though, looking back, I now believe that 18 or older is definitely better for getting your first tattoo. Over all, your research is more thought out, from knowing what you want, where you want your piece and your choice of artist,” begins Choquette. “I was driven uniquely by the true and personal meaning and aspect of the art of tattooing. Eventually, my passion for this art grew more and more while all the time being motivated by the work of different artists and friends.

A tattoo gives us a well-established design and graphic code for the eyes. All that is left now is an acclaimed study to be made of tattooing.

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Piew Choquette - “I fell completely in love with the neo-traditional style, which explores the very roots of our ancestors’ tattoo artists.”

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My interest grew and grew with time, through carefully studying tattooists and their work and, of course, helpful technical guidance of my friends and colleagues in the industry.” One thing you will notice with Piew’s work is that even when he isn’t doing neo-traditional work - i.e. portraits and lettering - he loves to use the bold lining and bright colours usually associated with this style. But was this a conscious decision on Choquette’s part? “I wouldn’t say it was a conscious decision, perhaps even the opposite, or maybe it was just my mind was subconsciously guided by the love of this style of tattooing!” he says. “Motivated by the conventions and the lifestyle, I was searching for my own artistic identity that wasn’t predetermined. It wasn’t long before I fell completely

in love with the neo-traditional style, which explores the very roots of our ancestors’ tattoo artists. Though this influenced me, I always convey my own unique and personal style through my work and although my heart belongs to this style, I still love to observe and even collect the work of several tattoo artists, regardless of their style.” Continuing to reveal his passion for varied tattoo styles, Choquette says, “I am also interested in Chicanostyle script tattoos, mainly because of the typographic quality and movement. I think this kind of script makes the tattoo seem more appropriate, much more than simply taking a sample of vector font and reproducing it as it is. Of course, this is my personal opinion.” Only four years young in the industry, I can’t help but ask how Choquette got to where he is today and

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what his day-to-day life now entails. “At the moment I am working at a tattoo shop called Tatouage Royal, which is located in Montreal,” he starts. “I have been working out of this shop for a little over a year, doing what I love in a work environment that is so inspirational it is truly amazing. I spend most of my time tattooing, painting and, of course, taking care of my family. All of this takes up a lot of time and I often feel that the day should consist of 48 hours instead of 24.” Part of the need for an increased workday undoubtedly stems from Choquette’s constant exploration of art off the skin.

“I have started to paint in a much more sustained way for some time now while refining my technique, thanks to the help of my friend Turf One, an extraordinary and accomplished artist,” says Choquette. “I am fond of hyperrealism, which I make use of in my paintings. I also like to pay great attention to detail. My mother introduced me to painting at a very early age as she was a painter herself. She enabled me to discover this art form without limits. For this I am most grateful as my

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learning and discovery were so unrestricted. I am also interested in the amazing talents of metal artistry; all those artists who make lifeless machinery come to life in such a unique way. I collect many such pieces and have to admit, I have become addicted to this type of art.” As for what the future holds for Choquette and his art, it is no surprise he hopes to continue evolving and learning from new experiences, so much so that he may soon be wishing for more than 48 hours in a day. “I hope I will be lucky enough to participate in many conventions and events around the globe that will inspire me and help me learn from different cultures, people and places. Tattoo conventions are for me a great source of inspiration, it is a place where I am surrounded by outstanding and impressive artists. It is also a place to make good acquaintances, to work and, of course, to party,” he laughs. “I will most likely stay in Canada as I’m already settled here and I own my own house. Owning a studio is an idea that every artist dreams about at one time or another but, for the moment, I would prefer to concentrate on my work. One day I might travel a bit with my family; I would really enjoy doing some guest spots in other shops here and there. As for what the future holds, we can never predict what is to come, but what I do know is that I do not want to put my life on hold! I want to evolve continuously and I want to grow as a tattoo artist and painter.” With the interview drawing to a close, all that’s left to ask Choquette is how he views today’s tattoo world and what he thinks is in store for the future of the industry. “I believe that a tattoo gives us a well-established design and graphic code for the eyes to see, besides its primarily technical basis,” says Choquette. “All that is left now is an acclaimed study to be made of tattooing, as well as an in-depth exploration of the history and everything should be complete. I believe that my profession has a lot to offer; many wonderful years filled with beautiful experiences. It doesn’t matter at what degree or pace it moves forward, as long as it does not regress. Let us never forget our past and from where we come from.” Tatouage Royal 1387 Mont-Royal East Montreal, QC H2J 1Y8


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body | modificiation

Under Your Skin Want the lowdown on microdermal piercings? Read on... words : JAII BHAMRA images : Dana Brushette

Fashion trends truly lean towards the outrageous nowadays and can be expressed through virtually any accessory one can think of. Microdermal piercings have really stolen the light in this respect. They’re a better alternative to surface piercings and are one of the newest and most popular forms of body modification out there. “It’s a newer fashion that’s come out recently and hurts less than a regular piercing, as well as [causing] less damage to the skin [since] it’s one hole,” says Kelly Pain, owner and piercer at Pleasure & Pain Ink in Mississauga, ON. “They’re more fashionable too.” The biggest difference between microdermal piercings and surface piercings is the jewelry and rejection rate. A surface piercpull quote ing will usually reject after a few months whereas a microdermal here please piercing will stay put as long as you want it to stay there. Microdermal piercings are semi-permanent and do not reject the way regular piercings do. “Surface piercings are on the surface with an exit and entrance while the bar sits under the skin. Dermal anchors are single points and there is no exit, just one hole and one piece of jewelry,” says Gordon Bouchard, owner and piercer at Golden Horseshoe in St. Catharines, ON. “I use the ones without holes because the ones with holes cause removal to be more difficult. They are not an implant, they are piercings, they should be able to be removed the same way.” The great thing about microdermal piercings is that they can be incorporated into a tattoo or used to highlight your features, as they really stand out, giving your style an edge.

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Microdermal piercings look like transdermal implants, creating a mystical effect and the illusion of jewelry being screwed into the skin. “We, of course, must start by cleaning the skin, then mark the placement of it and go from there,” says Pain, explaining the process of getting a microdermal piercing. “We do it was a bio punch; it’s like an apple corer. We pinch the skin 1.5 millimeters and it cores out the skin and the jewelry is inserted into the pocket. It then sits in there while the skin heals around it. It takes one to three months to heal.” It is important to note that aftercare is very important. Make sure the microdermal piercing is clean, dry, free of irritation and that lotion and sprays are kept far away from it, along with other precautions. “It is an open wound so as long as you take care of it there shouldn’t be any issues,” says Bouchard. “The only thing that’s a little different is that someone who gets this piercing will need to make sure to clean under the disk because a lot of junk gets in there.” Although there is a way to remove microdermal piercings, as they’re not all that permanent, you will need to cut some skin to do so, which can prove to be painful. “Nothing is really permanent, you can cut it out with a scalpel, it’s a matter of figuring it out with the microdermal,” says Pain. “You grab it and cut it more or less.” With the ability to be edgy, classy, sophisticated and sexy, microdermal piercings are likely to stick around and, with time, become as popular as regular piercings, if not more. Golden Horseshoe Tattoo 288 St. Paul Street St. Catharines, ON L2R 3M9 905-688-4888

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QUICKIE WITH KELLY PAIN The devil in disguise is the life of the party, no matter where he goes, but sometimes he wishes he was an invisible man. “What you cannot see is more powerful than what you can see in life. As an invisible man, I would be able to do anything I wanted in life,” says Kelly Pain. Kelly Smith, known to the world as Kelly Pain, is the owner of Pleasure & Pain, a prominent tattoo and piercing studio found in Mississauga, ON. “He’s the life of the party. He can turn your really boring party into your old aunts doing body shots,” says Raymond Goncena, piercer at Pleasure & Pain. “He’s the devil in disguise, but the devil’s nice and buys you lunch sometimes.” For 16 years, Pain worked in the porn industry, as a DJ (what’d ya think?!) for Larry Flynt Jr., publisher of Hustler Magazine, but his passion for tattoos started early on in life. “I knew a guy in a shop and saw how much he was making after hanging around [there] a lot,” says Pain. “Body modification became a thing I did on the side and I liked it more and more.” Nowadays, it’s no longer just a part-time gig and Pain is gearing up for Pleasure & Pain to become the basis of a new TV reality show. “We’re going to be one of those Canada’s Next L.A. Ink [type shows] with Temple Street Productions, like Canada’s Next Top Model.” Pleasure & Pain Ink 3058A Hurontario Street Mississauga, ON L5B 1N7 905-803-0738

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alt lifestyle | swing

Ready for a partner swap? Hold on to your seat, here’s a fast-paced intro to get you in the mood words: tina gibbens-tenneriello images: BRIAN TORDIFF ‘Swinging’ is a term we often hear and although it has been around forever in some way, shape or form, it’s an alternative sexual lifestyle that more couples are only now trying or are, at least, becoming open to trying. Swinging occurs when two consenting adults in a committed relationship agree, as a couple, to engage in sexual activities with other couples. And while this lifestyle is mainly for couples, it can also be right for singles wanting to explore their sexuality. However, single women are more welcome at swingers events than single men. In fact, in many cases, men are not allowed to attend unless a woman accompanies them. Although the lifestyle may sound exciting to some, this kind of experimenting can make or break a relationship, so there are some serious points to consider before taking the leap. We did our research and are here to try and provide you with everything you need to know to make an educated decision about trying out the swinging lifestyle.

sessive or jealous relationship, this lifestyle may not be for you. Toni Johnson, owner of the Oasis Aqualounge, an aqua-themed sex club in Toronto, says swinging is definitely not for everybody. “Some people have strong possessive drives and will never be comfortable sharing their partner with somebody else. Occasionally I see an argument break out between a couple, but for those who find it works, it’s just fabulous!” For Neil and June, a couple that has been swinging together for the past ten years and that recently opened Mimi’s Place, a sex club in Toronto, it works. Their secret? They say the key to make swinging work is to be comfortable. “We grew up together, so we always felt comfortable with each other and never had a jealous type of relationship. We had been together forever when we decided to join the lifestyle. We’re solid and both of us feel secure.”

WHAT MAKES AN IDEAL SWINGING COUPLE? Think of swinging as something that will enhance your already healthy relationship, not save it. According to Jeremy Tomlinson, a Toronto-based couple and sex therapist who works with couples in the swinging lifestyle, there must be lots of trust, respect, commitment and honesty for success. “Non-monogamy is likely to work with a couple that has a strong connection,” says Tomlinson. “People who care about each other and believe in each other and want to encourage the other person to have enjoyable experiences and join them in those experiences.” The ideal couple should be open to new experiences, curious and adventurous. Communication is paramount and you need to be able to talk about anything and everything with your significant other. If you are in a pos-

GETTING STARTED If you think you and your significant other are solid enough, here’s what you need to know to get started. Swinging couples come in all shapes and sizes. Ages can vary, although our research shows most couples are between 30 and 50. Swingers don’t discriminate against age, sex, race or body shape, although good hygiene is a must. Keep in mind that you can always say no. Being in a swinging environment does not mean you are expected to have sex with other people. In some cases, couples are there to experience the environment and won’t do any swapping at all. FINDING A COUPLE There are various ways to find a swinging environment or couple to experiment with. Sex clubs are pop-

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ping up more and more and Neil and June, our swinging couple that opened Mimi’s Place, say swingers clubs are just like regular clubs - or ‘vanilla clubs,’ as is referred to them in the lifestyle - except the people are more respectful. “Everyone is always friendly and open-minded and that really puts you at ease. The environment is relaxing,” say Neil and June. When you attend a swingers club, you don’t just grab a random partner, you meet people and develop a connection. Neil describes it this way: “Basically, at a swingers’ club, when a couple approaches you, it’s about the same thing as if a man or woman approached you in a regular club. The only difference is that, if you are interested, you can have sex right there and if you’re not, you say no, thanks and it means no, thanks.” “You have options and nothing is mandatory,” Toni Johnson says in describing the Oasis Aqualounge. “A third of my clientele are hardcore swingers, a third are nudists and the other third are new couples thinking about it. They come slowly and build up the ability to trust this lifestyle. You can come in, keep your clothes on, stay in a private room or do whatever you feel comfortable with…no one will judge you.”

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THE RULES Each club has its own rules, so make sure you call and ask the right questions before you attend or check the club’s website. In the mean time, here’s a general list to get you started, but remember, these are guidelines only! *No means no. If someone says no at any time, all activity must stop and no explanations are needed. If a couple politely says no, do not ask why. If you are the one saying no, always remember to be respectful. *Never assume anything. Always make sure communication and expectations are clear. *Most clubs are clothing optional. You choose what you want to wear (or not wear) to feel most comfortable and confident. The rule of thumb is dress to impress, but dress codes vary for each club, so do your research. *Some clubs are private and require you to become a member before you can attend, although it is quite common for these clubs to host newbie nights for nonmembers. *Protection is not mandatory, although for serious health reasons you should always use it. Most clubs provide condoms, but you should still come prepared. *Although most clubs have private and semi-private rooms, couples are usually allowed to have sex anywhere.

OTHER OPTIONS If the club scene is not really your thing, you can also sign up on a local swingers website. These sites are like online dating sites except they are meant for swingers. Instead of looking to meet a partner, you’re looking for a couple. Once you join a local swinging website or become a member at one of the local clubs, you will be surprised at the amount of swinging events you can attend. THE EMOTIONAL DETAILS We are humans and jealousy can pop up. Jeremy Tomlinson, our couple and sex therapist in Toronto, says, “If either or both members are feeling jealous, the couple will have to decide if this is right for them. If it feels uncomfortable, then the couple must determine whether non-monogamy is right for them. Is jealousy being caused by mistrust? Insecurity? Not following the guidelines? Or is non-monogamy just not right for them?” For most couples, setting their own guidelines can avoid jealousy. “We never have sex with the same couple more than five times, that’s our rule,” say Neil and June. “We want to make sure that there are no emotional bonds being created.” Jeremy Tomlinson’s recommendation is that either person has the power of veto to call things off at any point. And yet another good way to avoid jealousy is to be as fully prepared as possible. PREPARING FOR SWINGING Jeremy Tomlinson says “it’s important for couples to explore a range of issues and negotiate what each person is looking for from the experience, what feels acceptable and what feels unacceptable.”  Toni Johnson of Oasis Aqualounge says couples should go slow at first. “In your first visit stay close to each other, sit and watch what other people are doing and agree that if a couple approaches, you will say thanks but no thanks. Then go home and discuss it. What do you think? How do you feel? And then plan your second visit, flirt but no consummation and then discuss it again. Approach it slowly with each visit.” Neil and June also suggest taking things slow, saying, “The best way to start is with a soft swap, just kissing and fondling, trying and seeing how you feel.” THE BENEFITS Despite the risks, if you do choose to try swinging, benefits can come out of this lifestyle choice. In fact, Neil and June say they have been having more sex since they’ve been in the lifestyle. As they explain, “When you come together it is another explosion because you’re thinking about what you did before and it brings a different kind of excitement!”

Links you should know... Across Canada *Online community for Canadian swingers: Alberta *Club Rendezvous, a Calgary swingers club: *Intimate Times, an Edmonton swingers club: British Columbia *Online community for Vancouver swingers: *In-depth info for swinging in Vancouver: Manitoba *Winnipeg Couples Social Club: Nova Scotia * Club E.S.P., Atlantic Canada’s oldest swingers club: Ontario *Oasis Aqualounge, Toni Johnson’s Toronto club: *Mimi’s Place, Neil and June’s Toronto club: *Jeremy Tomlinson, couple and sex therapist in Toronto: Quebec *Quebec Swingers Association: *In-depth info for swinging in Montreal: *Chez Louis, a Montreal swingers club:

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studio | canadian locations

Shop Directory Alberta 4 Stroke Custom Culture 9925 82 Ave, Edmonton AB T6E1Z1 Phone: (780) 760-1950 Additional info: Custom tattoo work and a rockabilly boutique Asylum Tattoos 1910 Store St, Victoria BC V8T 4R4 Phone: (250) 382-8500 Crimson Empire Tattoo 11630 119 Street, Edmonton AB T5G 2X7 Phone: (780) 488-5070 Enso Tattoo 11-718, 17 Avenue SW, Calgary AB T2S 0B7 Phone: (403) 457-3676 Gypsy Rose Tattoos 6522 4 St NE, Calgary AB T2K 6H2 Phone: (403) 275-9844 British Columbia Cats Tats 711 Houston Street, Nelson BC V1L 5J3 Phone: (250) 352-5575 Additional info: Custom tattoo studio by appointment only

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Desire Tattoo 200-1925 Bowen Rd, Nanaimo BC V9S 1H1 Phone: (250) 585-7771 Additional info: All female custom tattoo studio Gastown Tattoo Parlour 105 West Cordova, Vancouver BC V6B 4K2 Phone: (604) 642-6556 Geronimo Tattoo and Piercing 4641 Kingsway, Burnaby BC v5h 2b3 Phone: (604) 818-4204 Additional info: Custom studio that has been in business since 2000. Open floor style of studio I-Kandy Tattoo & Piercing 20305 Fraser Highway, Langley BC V3A 4E8 Phone: (604) 532-1188 Incendiary Tattoos Suite E, 890 Esquimalt Rd, Victoria BC V9A 3M4 Phone: (250) 590-8511

Liquid Amber Tattoo 62 Powell St, Vancouver BC V6A 1E7 Phone: (604) 738-3667 Additional info: A female owned and operated studio. Health board approved and adheres to the highest level of cleanliness and professionalism. Rain City Tattoos 101-223 West Broadway, Vancouver bc v5y 1p5 Phone: (604) 569-1522 Additional info: Small custom tattoo shop covering all styles of tattooing PennyBlack Tattoo & Art 321 Cambie St, Vancouver BC V6B 2N4 Phone: (604) 568-1643 Spider Tattoo 716 Columbia St, New Westminster BC V3M 1A9 Phone: (604) 524-3666 To The Point Tattoo 11917 98 Ave Surrey BC V3V 8B3 Phone: (604) 588-3543

Unity Tattoo 1648 Nanaimo St, Vancouver BC v5l 4v1 Phone: (604) 369-3691 West Coast Tattoo 2108 E Hasting, Vancouver, BC V5L 1V1 Phone: (604) 681-2049 or Manitoba Blood & Iron Tattoo 4-1502 Rosser Ave, Brandon MB R7A 0M6 Phone: (204) 717-4766 New Brunswick Oceans of Ink 14 Church Ave, Sussex NB E4E 1Y7 Phone: (506) 433-5006 Newfoundland and Labrador White Scorpion Tattoos 193 Water Street, Carbonear NF A1Y 1A9 Phone: (709) 596-8286 Nova Scotia ErinInk Tattoos 205 Hwy 2, Enfeild, NS B2T 1C8 Phone: (902) 259-3746 Ontario Art Addictions Inc. 160 Main St South Unit 17, Brampton ON L6W 2E1 Phone: (905) 451-1063 Additional info: Specializes in custom tattooing and body piecing as well as laser tattoo removal or lightning for easier cover-ups!

Body Graphics Tattoo 120 Bridge Street, Carleton Place ON K7C 2V5 Phone: (613) 257-4312 Citrus City Tattoo 155 Broadway, Orangeville, ON L9W 1K2 Phone: (519) 943-0161 Color Me Wild Tatttoo Studio 369 Agnes Street Main Floor, Sudbury ON P3B 2J2 Phone: (705) 586-5080 Additional info: Specializes in black and grey, new school tattooing and exotic body piercing Cottage 13 224 King St West, Hamilton, ON L8P 1A9 Phone: (905) 577-0313 Additional info: Open since 1999 Dawgpound Tattoos 5444 Victoria Ave, Niagara Falls ON L2G 3L2 Phone: (289)296-5200 Fat Cat Tattoo 14810 Yonge St, Aurora ON L4G 1N3 Phone: (905) 841-2417 Inksmith Tattoos 123 Woolwich St, Guelph ON N1H 3V1 Phone: (519) 763-7999 Additional info: Owner/artist Heather does custom work and cover-up tattoos. Piercer/body mod artist Reverend J specializes in extreme body modifications, like branding,

sub-dermal silicone implants, scarification, ear pointing, tongue splitting. Neon Crab Tattoos & Piercing 1050 Kipps Lane, London ON N5Y 4S5 Phone: (519) 433-2722 New World Tattoo & Piercing 571 Yonge Street, Toronto ON M4Y 1Z2 Phone: (416) 962-9991 Skinworks Studio 110 Main St. W, Port Colborne ON L3K 3V2 Phone: (905) 834-1666 Wild Ink Studios 41 King St W, Cobourg ON K9A 2M1 Phone: (905) 377-1955 Quebec JAB Tattoo 1901 Boul. Des Laurentides, Laval QC H7M 2P8 Siyo Tattoo 1789, 1 Avenue QuĂŠbec QC G1L 3L8 Phone: (418) 523-1101 Additional info: Snce 1998. Winning artist in nearly 40 nomination in Canadian and American tattoo conventions.

* All information on this page was provided by the studios themselves. If your shop would like to be featured in an upcoming issue of Xalt, visit*

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heart and soul | your story

reader diaries

It feels like just yesterday but, in reality, two years have gone by. It was, to be exact, February 11, 2010 when the fashion world was hit with a shocking blow. Only nine days after the death of his mother, one of the greatest designers and visionaries of our time, Lee Alexander McQueen, took his own life. Never afraid to abandon convention, McQueen was the true embodiment of an icon and a constant inspiration to many. It may be strange to say about someone I never had the honour of meeting, but Lee Alexander McQueen was one of my idols; someone to turn to as a reminder that it’s more than okay to be who you are, do as you wish and embrace your personal viewpoints and beliefs. “I think there is beauty in everything,” he once said. “What ‘normal’ people would perceive as ugly, I can usually see something of beauty in it.” Following the tragic day, it all began innocently enough with a permanent marker and a denim vest. But what started out as a homage with ink on denim – I emblazoned the vest with the words ‘Long Live McQueen’ - soon turned into a tribute with ink on skin. Opting for the classic, instantly recognizable skull

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design that McQueen used in his collections, I chose to add a crown as a salute to the late designer’s status as a King of Fashion and to enhance the skull with color and vibrancy, elements McQueen showcased in his creations. Thanks to the utterly talented Dan Smith of High Voltage Tattoo, my envisioned design came to life, making my thigh home to a magnificent, indescribably meaningful work of art. As his legacy lives on, the sentiment of sorrow over Alexander McQueen’s passing will be present and powerful for years to come, just like my tattoo, which now serves as a constant reminder that the most important thing in life is to be unapologetic and to stay true to yourself. Lee Alexander McQueen is and will be deeply missed. — Barbara Pavone

We all love them. We all have a reason for getting them. Every tattoo that’s immortalized on skin has a back-story, a reason for existing. E-mail your inspirational, funny, unbelievable tattoo stories to for a chance to be featured in Reader Diaries and win some Xalt swag!

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from the to the


64 xalt NORTHBOUND.COM | 586 Yonge Street Toronto, Ontario | 416.972.1037

Vol 1 No 1  

Premiere Issue of Xalt Magazine

Vol 1 No 1  

Premiere Issue of Xalt Magazine