Local tattoo artists have it rough

“Some people pass out, puke, shit their pants. Some people will cry or scream, but generally most people can take it no problem.” Lisa Sinner, local tattoo artist, has lots of gritty stories about tattooing reactions. She and her colleague Justin MFS are two of the artists who work out of Capstone Tattoos, an independent tattoo parlor in Vancouver.

Capstone is situated on the second floor of a Robson street mall complex, nestled between a tailor, a jewelry store, a restaurant prep room and a headshop. The difference between this tattoo parlor and other, larger tattoo franchises in Vancouver is immediately apparent. While in most tattoo shops, clients are brought into a private room to get work done, at Capstone, the artists and customers are not isolated from one another.

The energy in the space is open and social. Conversation flows, movies are shown, or music is played as clients endure the painful process of getting permanent body art. 

How does one get into tattooing as a profession, though? Lisa explains that: "You usually have to hunt down somebody to apprentice you." The amount of time spent as an apprentice can vary greatly. Lisa took six months, some people take years, and others like Justin MFS teach themselves to tattoo. 

The owner of Capstone, Casey Altorf, recently took on a new apprentice right after his last apprentice moved on to full-fledged tattoo artist status. The shop is very open to fostering fresh talent.

Most of the artists at Capstone are new and working on their portfolios. Clients report that the artists are usually the most excited ones to show off new tattoos and hear reactions, which is reassuring and only adds to the excitement of getting tattooed. However, breaking into the tattoo industry in Vancouver isn't easy.

"Find something else to do," warns Justin, "There are too many of us in Vancouver trying to tattoo." Though the summer season brought many impulsive tribal tattoos and walk-in script pieces, the rest of the year isn't so busy. Making a living as a tattoo artist without having a side job isn't easy. 

On the topic of bad tattoos, they both agree on tribal tattoos, particularly "naughty spot tribal." They also do a lot of stars and flowers, and agree that they like tattooing skulls on people the most. "One time I tattooed 'exit only' across a dude’s ass," Justin admits, laughing. 
"People think being a tattoo artist is a really cool job. It’s definitely not. It’s a lot of work."

Visit Capstone Tattoos at 712 Robson Street, Unit 16

//Sarah Vitet
Arts Editor

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