Vancouver-based tattoo artists raise money to support Indigenous communities affected by the Australia bushfire crisis

You don’t have to feel guilty about getting a new tattoo

Screenshot via Instagram
Screenshot via Instagram

by Kim Regala, Staff Writer

Using their art to support an important cause, three local tattoo artists joined together to host a flash day fundraiser in support of relief efforts for the Australia bushfire crisis. Announcing the event on their Instagram pages, stick-and-poke artists River Miller (he/him), Alex Friesen (she/her), and Emily Braiuka (she/her) garnered a large response from their supporters, fully booking their six-hour session in just a matter of days. Together, they raised exactly $1,000 to support Indigenous communities affected by the catastrophes.

The three artists posted the event only a week before, revealing their flash designs for anyone to claim. Each piece was priced generously, ranging from $50 to $100. Eager clients could submit a full prepayment to claim a piece and guarantee a spot for the day, while walk-ins were also an option if there was any space available. Seeing the event within a few hours of being posted, I immediately claimed one of River’s pieces: a small and delicately shaded set of mountains.

In order to reduce the costs allotted to renting studio space, the event was hosted at the artists’ friend’s house, a quiet area in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. Walking into their home with my boyfriend (who was there for moral support and not at all as just my Uber driver), we were welcomed with friendly faces and a generally warm and cheerful vibe. The artists were also joined by other friends and owners of the house, whose presence made me feel more at ease as I anticipated my half-an-hour session of needle-stabbing. 

Despite my invitation as a client, the whole arrangement felt more like a social gathering than a business transaction. One of their friends kindly offered me frozen mangoes, while another went straight for my heart with Ferrero Rocher chocolates. Two couches and a foldable massage bed acted as the three tattoo stations, which made for a unique yet comfortable experience, far from your typical tattoo shop. All the while, they played a Spotify playlist comically titled “Sharin’ Aus-Born,” which featured songs from Australian bands — a fitting choice for the cause of the event.

In a matter of minutes, my beautiful mountains were stencilled onto the side of my rib and I was up on the bed ready to get tatted. River made me feel relaxed throughout the whole session, regularly checking in on how I was holding up and offering motivational support. Given that this was my first hand-poked tattoo —  and on a body part known for being extremely painful — I was pleasantly surprised by how tolerable the process was. While pain tolerance varies largely with every person, it was definitely the laid-back atmosphere and enjoyable conversations that made it an even easier experience. The 30 minutes went by quickly, and the time frame felt much shorter before my tattoo was finished.

River’s work is a beauty on its own, but knowing that this piece contributes to a much larger cause made it even more worthwhile. Even though the fundraiser is now over, these artists have a wide collection of flash pieces and are always open to book new clients. Be sure to check out more of their work through their Instagram handles: @slo.pok (River), @teenypokes (Alex), and @tomato.sauced (Emily).