Tattoos & Charm

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by RYAN BOLTON

Okey Doke Tattoo Shop is a good jog from Cabbagetown. When I get to the shop, located at College and Ossington, and gracefully dismount from my bike, I have a good layer of sweat covering my body. Doesn’t bother me, and doesn’t seem to phase Kyle Hollingdrake nor Alex Snelgrove, aka. Big Al, when I enter the shop.

That’s where the slightly puerile name, Okey Doke, comes from. They want to take the piss and pretension out of entering a tattoo shop. And good on them for that, albeit most of Toronto’s top custom tattoo joints are becoming welcoming as all hell these days.

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Interview with a Tattoo Artist

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by RYAN BOLTON, originally published on blogTO.

Tat-A-Rama, more than any of the other tattoo shops we’ve checked out, has a history. Opening its doors for the first time in ’87, many of Toronto’s top tattoo artists have worked at Tat-A-Rama at one point. There are only a handful of things that keep a tattoo shop around that long:

  • Good reputation.
  • Quality art.
  • Cleanliness and safety.
  • Luck.

The latter is the most crucial, argues Eugene, 46, Tat-A-Rama’s owner for the past 18 years. “You can always work hard but you’ve got to be lucky,” Eugene says. “I don’t know, just lucky. You need the luck.”

Located in the far west end (Kipling and Bloor), Tat-A-Rama is a simple, unassuming storefront in a mini-strip mall. Broken up into five petite rooms, each space has its own flare and style. It’s a comfortable shop. There are skateboards, flash tattoo art and paintings splashed on the walls.

Before we continue on, I want to come back to the luck element. It can’t just be blind luck that a small shop in Etobicoke holds some of the most enriched tattoo history in all of Toronto. And it’s not, of course. The original owner was Bill Baker, one of Toronto’s best known and respected tattooers, who now runs Pearl Harbour Gift Shop in Kensington. After a few years, Bill then passed it on to a guy named Os, who after three years passed on the store key to Eugene. He’s been at the helm since.

Read the rest of the article on blogTO. Photography by Dennis Marciniak.

Tattoo Shop Profiles

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I have been working on a set of Toronto’s top ink dens with blogTO. And it’s been both an enlightening and enjoyable experience. Here’s one of my latest pieces, looking at Sal’s Tattoo & Barber Shop.

by RYAN BOLTON, originally published on blogTO

Sal’s Tattoo & Barber Shop doesn’t cut hair. They used to, a while back, but not any longer. There’s just an antiquated barber’s chair that sits alone in the front of the shop, a memory of days gone past. Sal’s has cut everything else out — no gimmicks, T-shirts or piercings — just straight-up classic tattoos.

Perched technically in Chinatown, Sal’s sits unassuming at College and Spadina. It blends in with the Chinatown environ. And when you enter, you get a no-bullshit tattoo experience. A layered-down, “gritty,” come-as-you-are shop that houses only two artists, Greg Kidd and Jenny Boulger.

Like many of the city’s top tattoo joints, Sal’s is a mainstay. First opened in the fall of 1998 by Steven Brazda, now a New York-based artist, the shop originally offered a haircut with its inking. (Something that New Tribe does too). Sadly, it didn’t last long.

When Kidd took over the shop in 2004, he liked the theme of combining the old-fashioned barber and tattooing and decided to hold onto the aesthetic, but not the service. Boulger joined shortly after and the two have been running the shop since to a steady clientele, which does service local CAMH patients. “We’re here for them, the patients,” says Boulger. “They have more of the touching, LA Ink-like stories. It’s cute.”

Read the rest of the story on blogTO.

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