Tattoo Culture in Vancouver

A city fueled by artwork and a community that thirsts for it

Jasmine Garcha (she/they) // Contributor

From graffiti murals to body modifications, Vancouver is a city with a diverse community of artists and expressionists. While the tattoo does not originate from Western culture, it has swifty been adopted as one of the most widely practiced and accepted forms of modern body modification. Tattoo parlours are located throughout Vancouver, with a full range in atmosphere, style, and pricing to cater to the diversity of markets within our city borders. The new generation of tattoo artists in the city is adding to these differences, aiming to provide customized experiences for the styles and preferences of each client.

Mouse, aged 22, is a tattoo apprentice from Saskatchewan who moved to Vancouver in 2018. Originally moving here for university, she soon met a friend in the tattoo community who saw her potential and encouraged her to take a tattoo apprenticeship, diverging her educational goals and heading her toward the aspiration of being a full-time tattoo artist. She’s been an apprentice since October 2022 and began tattooing on real skin in February 2023. 

Mouse works out of a private studio with her mentor in two locations, one in the West End of Vancouver and one in Surrey. Her inspiration comes from her uncle, who is also a tattoo artist back home in Saskatchewan.

When asked what Mouse expects from clients, she says that she doesn’t expect much other than sobriety, having something in your stomach, and some water for yourself. It’s also important to wear something comfortable and bring something to entertain yourself, as sessions usually take upwards of 30 minutes with an additional 30 minutes of preparation beforehand.

For newbie clients, Mouse’s advice is to be willing to put down a deposit for your appointment. This shows that you respect the artist’s time. On top of this, she finds that a lot of clients who use public transit end up coming to appointments early. This is fine, though she says not to expect the artist to be ready. She also says to ask to move the stencil as many times as you need if you don’t like the placement.

Sandra Mondragon, a 20-year-old student going into her third year at Capilano University, has been getting tattoos since she was 13, starting by doing her own stick-and-pokes at home. When asked what makes her a returning client in Vancouver, she said “I’ve found that tattoo artists here treat you like you’re a person and not just like a paycheque.” 

Another notable aspect of getting tattooed in Vancouver, according to Mondragon, is the pricing. She says a lot of her tattoos have been costly, citing her recent rib tattoo, which cost  her upwards of $950. She shared that if you want to get tattooed here, you have to expect a high cost at an hourly rate. Both Mouse and Mondragon stated that their preferred form of tips are little gifts, such as jewelry, paintings, candy, etc. Though, it should be noted this may not be the case with all artists.

Mondragon says that her best tattoo experience was with an artist named Olivia at Pacific Rose Tattoo in Gastown. Over the course of their two sessions, the artist did everything to make Mondragon feel comfortable, from giving breaks to bringing her juice boxes. She even gave Mondragon extra little tattoos at the end of the second session free of charge.

Both Mouse and Mondragon say that Instagram is a useful way to identify an artist you’d like to work with. Mouse added that she used to like going to tattoo conventions and collecting artist cards with which she would find the artists’ Instagram accounts to follow them.

Finding any local tattoo conventions can be a struggle, but Instagram account, @TattooerDB spotlights Vancouver artists. One can  look through the account, find an artist with a style that they like, and the account is tagged for easy discovery. Mouse herself can be found on Instagram as @behindtheguillotine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *