Interview with a Tattoo Artist

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.