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Truro tattoo artists see changes in art and attitude

Not so long ago, the tattoos on Alicia Simms’s arms would bring sideways glances and people might have done their best to avoid her.

Times change.

Today, a respected artist and businesswoman, Simms owns Rolling Sea Tattoery, and she’s noticed a lot of changes in the tattoo world.

“It’s more about art than rebellion when people get tattoos now,” she said. “For some, it’s a way to memorialize something or someone.

“Tattoos are much more accepted in society now. You see people in all areas with them.”

Simms has been tattooing for 11 years. She studied graphic design at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design), did an apprenticeship in Newfoundland, and opened a studio in Truro four years ago. Last August she expanded her business.

“I’ve always been artistic, and I like to take someone’s ideas and make them into a design,” she said. “Some have a very specific idea of what they want, and some don’t.

“Interest in tattoos grew a lot with the popularity of tattoo shows, and once people have one, and it’s healed, they often go for others.”

She’s noticed infinity symbols, feathers and black silhouettes of birds are currently popular.

Simms doesn’t like to tattoo faces; she won’t do hands or necks unless the person already has at least one tattoo.

“Using a homemade machine, I tattooed an anchor on a friend,” he recalled. “It turned out about as well as you could expect from a 13-year-old.”Isaac Deas, who owns Schooner Tattoo, recommends no one do what he did at a young age.

He now knows the dangers of infection if everything isn’t done properly.

“With all the information that’s out there, and the availability of tattoo shops, it’s surprising that people still get tattoos done at home,” he said. “They think there’s no danger because a clean needle was used, but other things can be contaminated. It’s cross contamination that’s most worrisome, and there are many things people can catch.”

A completely different clientele

Deas worked elsewhere, including HAF Skate & Tattoo, before opening his own business.

“It’s a completely different clientele than 20 years ago,” he said. “It’s more mainstream now and I have a lot of professionals.

“People are often getting much bigger tattoos and they’re more thought out. Most want custom work and they seek out tattoo artists who specialize in what they want.”

Deas does a little of everything, but if customers are looking for more realistic work he refers them to Simms.

If people are already heavily tattooed, he has no problem working on faces. However, he won’t do a tattoo he doesn’t feel is suitable for the client.

Deas is heavily tattooed himself.

“I didn’t get visible tattoos until I was 35,” he said. “There was nothing on my hands, neck or forearms. Now, it’s easier to count the spaces that are empty than the number of tattoos.

“If you had full sleeves 20 years ago it would be hard to get a job other than as a labourer,” said Deas. “It’s different today.”

He does regular cover-up work for people who went with a tattoo popular at one time – then came the regret.

“The internet made a big change when it came to tattoos,” she said. “People see things online and decide they like them. Julie Taylor has offered tattooing at Skin Decision since 2006. She does piercing, but has tattoo artists come in to do work.

“When I first opened, people would bring a book in to show us a picture of what they wanted. Now they often bring a picture on their phone.”

She’s noticed more clients in workplace settings where tattoos wouldn’t have been accepted not so many years ago.

She finds children and pets are popular subjects for artwork.

In a business community that frowned on hiring people who sport tattoos not that long ago, there have been changes as well.

 “We have a policy of inclusivity and want to hire the best person for the job, whatever their gender or race, or whether or not they have tattoos,” said Darrell Kuhn, president and CEO of Community Credit Union of Cumberland Colchester. “We have people with tattoos and it hasn’t been a problem. It’s impossible to please everybody, but we need to respect individual choices.”

The Nova Scotia Health Authority has no problem with most tattoos, but has a proposed piece of dress code policy, stating employees should cover up tattoos that may be viewed as offensive.

Individuality remains a big factor with tattoos.

“The images and messages they’re getting mean a lot to people,” said Simms. “They’re often wearing art that has a personal story.”

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