As we all know, the Canadian tattoo industry is filled with some amazing folks. Not only are they talented artists who love what they do, but they’re also great all-around individuals who do their best to keep clients happy and give back to their communities in any way they can. Just take a look at how some local tattooers have been involved with various foundations and worthy causes and you’ll see what a truly amazing tattoo community we have in this country.
For Regina, Saskatchewan’s Inner-War Tattoos, this past spring was all about supporting children with autism. During an event called Ink4Autism, the shop’s artists tattooed flash featuring puzzle pieces -- the primary symbol for autism since 1963 -- and donated half of all proceeds from the $60 price to a local charity, the Casey Foundation for Autism Support.
Matthew Shirley, one of Ink4Autism’s clients whose eight-year-old son has autism, spoke to Global News about the importance of his puzzle piece tattoo. “If I see a parent in a grocery store who is having problems with their child and they see my tattoo and they see the slogans for autism, they can look at it and go, oh there’s somebody that gets it,” he explained. Proof that the empowering effect a tattoo can have, no matter how small or simple the design may be, is huge.
Similar to Ink4Austim, the Project Semicolon event hosted by Calgary’s Dusk Till Dawn Ink saw artists tattooing a simple yet extremely powerful symbol on clients in an effort to raise money for a worthy cause. This time, rather than puzzle pieces, artists set their sights on the humble semicolon In support of the Canadian Mental Health Association and Project Semicolon, a “non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and love for those who are struggling with mental illness, suicide, addiction and self-injury.”
“Your tattoo artist is like your therapist and you’re sitting hours with someone who is stabbing you repeatedly and as soon as the initial puncture happens, everything changes,” Joy Nash, a tattooer who has struggled with depression for years, told Global News, driving home the therapeutic effect tattoos can have.
Animal Charity Day
Every April marks Animal Charity Day and this year, Adept Tattoos and Body Piercing Studio contributed to the cause by asking walk-ins at both their Halifax and Bedford locations to choose an animal-related charity to support with the proceeds earned from their tattoo.
“Donating your time to do something like this – you’re already doing something that you love — so why not do it for something else that you love, like animals,” artist Rebecca O’Quinn told Metro News when asked about the inspiration behind the charitable gesture.
While artists contributed their time and expertise to helping animals, clients got to decide which initiative they wanted to support, picking between the Greyhound Pets of Atlantic Canada, 10,000 Carrots Rabbit Rescue and I Make a Difference Rhino Protection and Conservation. But perhaps most impressive is the fact that the majority of clients paid more than the suggested minimum $100 donation. Not only are Canadian artists giving, but tattoo collectors from coast to coast have hearts of gold, too.
Sometimes, the most powerful, life-changing tattoos aren’t meant to look like tattoos at all. Let us explain. While some artists and studios have been hosting amazing one-off or week-long events to support causes that are close to their hearts, others have taken a different approach, opening non-traditional shops completely dedicated to helping others heal from tragic events.
Take Kyla Gutsche, for example. At just 26, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Treatment left her without eyebrows and she opted for cosmetic tattooing, but suffered an allergic reaction that left her with serious scarring. Despite being an art history teacher at the time, she sought out an apprenticeship with Dr. Jean-Paul Tiziano, a British expert in medical tattooing, so she could help ensure others didn’t have the same negative experience she did.
Eventually, Kyla opened Cosmetic Transformations in Peterborough and now, at 37, she’s tattooing permanent makeup, facial hair and areolas on both male and female cancer survivors. She’s even won a medical innovation award for Titian Wash, “a skin and scar camouflage technique inspired by the glazing techniques of Renaissance artist Titian,” reports The Star.
When she’s not tattooing, she’s busy lobbying Health Canada for better tattoo pigment safety regulations. Although inks used by artists are approved for cosmetic use, they’re not approved for implantation (other than Biotic Phocea), which can result in allergic reactions, as well as interference with MRIs and various radiation treatments.
Toronto’s Basma Hameed is on a similar mission to turn her past hardships into something positive and help others heal through the power of ink. When she was only two years old, Basma suffered third-degree burns to her face caused by a pan with hot oil falling off the stove. At 16, plastic surgeons told her there was no way to fully repair her scars, but she refused to listen.
Learning about cosmetic tattooing, Basma began a tattoo apprenticeship before using her own face as a canvas to experiment with different methods. Although tattooing scar tissue is anything but easy (in fact, many artists will refuse to do it altogether) and results vary greatly, Hameed went full steam ahead. After three years, she arrived at the perfect skin tone and was finally happy with her appearance.
Today, Basma calls herself a permanent scar camouflage tattooist offering paramedical tattoos and runs her very own clinic in Toronto, as well as in Chicago, helping burn and cancer survivors and people with skin colour conditions. What’s more, because health insurance doesn’t cover the procedures, she has founded the Basma Hameed Survivors Foundation, which raises money to offer free tattoos to those who aren’t able to afford them.