By: Molly Lorette, Peak Associate
Before social distancing was in full swing, I was in the process of planning my latest tattoo. I had been working with Outsider Tattoo Collective’s amazingly talented Armony (@hello_wasp on Instagram), who specializes in woodcut-esque blackwork designs, to curate a piece that had immense meaning. So with my appointment rapidly approaching I was definitely shocked when the world was entirely placed on pause.
Months after waiting for restrictions to lift, I finally had my appointment, as well as a touch-up and follow-up session. The piece itself is a painting of Hamlet’s Ophelia, one of my favourite characters in canonized English literature, done by pre-raphaelite artist John William Waterhouse, one of my all time favourite painters. Though it had taken some time for my indecisive self to settle on an artist, I couldn’t have been happier with the work that Armony did. Armony has many remarkable talents not limited to the needle, one of which happens to be making their clients feel at ease, and just generally being an amazing and sweet human being!
Similarly, Outsider Tattoo Collective Studio, located in Chinatown, cultivates an atmosphere of warmth that has been clear to me during previous visits. I have received several pieces from various artists there and can attest to the diverse amount of styles and techniques, as well as the enthusiasm and mutual support of the artists.
Immediately striking to me was how little the tattoo process has really changed. Before I had any experiences with the tattooing world, I always had this idea in my head of a dingy studio with big smelly guys and frightening tattoo guns, but the reality is far from that skewed view.
Tattoo studios are quite possibly some of the cleanest and thoroughly sanitized places I have ever been to. As breathtakingly beautiful as they are, tattoos are essentially open wounds and must be treated as such. Therefore, it only makes perfect sense why such intense procedures are in practice. Even before the crippling anxieties of COVID-19 were set in motion, I have never failed to be impressed with the measures that tattoo studios take to ensure the most sterile environment possible. Much like doctors, tattoo artists are no strangers to washing their hands as frequently as humanly possible and fully cleansing all possible workspaces that could potentially contain contamination.
This, in turn, has made the transition to extra precautions no far stretch.
While the process itself is much the same, there are certainly some key differences in the physical space. The spaces between artist workspaces has greatly increased to two metres apart, and the appointments rarely overlap with one another as to limit the amount of people in the space. During my last visit, there was only one other client in the studio, as well as a few additional artists at work. Upon entering the studio, clients must wash their hands thoroughly, and both clients and artists must wear a mask at all times. No additional guests are allowed inside to accompany you as you get tattooed, and at this time there are not any walk-ins appointments being taken.
However, if I can recall correctly Outsider Tattoo Collective only began taking walk-ins semi recently, and from my understanding a majority of their traffic comes from online booking. Again, this does very little to impact the overall experience of getting tattooed. You know how people complain about masks hurting their ears? It’s funny how minuscule that pain seems when you’re literally getting your skin stabbed by needles.
While I completely understand the hesitancy to get tattooed in this tense period, I had a marvellous experience with my latest piece. The project Armony worked on was something that I had wanted for a long time, and had spent a while browsing various artist’s Instagram profiles for someone who I was certain would bring the design to life.
Since I was already placing my trust in them for the appearance of such a special piece, it felt only natural to place my trust in them to keep the entire process as safe as possible. I truly appreciate that the studio as a whole seems to have comfort and safety as their top priorities. A sour tattoo experience can certainly have a negative effect on the piece, so I am grateful that Outsider Tattoo Collective makes both their tattoos and the experiences of the client permanently memorable.