Beginner tattooists on the rise during the pandemic

New artists using social media to build their clientele bases remotely, experienced artists following suit


By Lesia Pogorelo

Eve Xing always liked drawing and Chinese culture.

The pandemic gave the novice tattoo artist a chance to turn her hobby into a job. She began by practising on pieces of silicon before tattooing her friends’ skin. Only after she had tattooed more than 20 friends and volunteers did she slowly start to get real clients.

Now, Xing works at Cloud Serpent Studios on Victoria Drive. She actively promotes her work on social media in order to attract new customers. She said it is ideal that potential clients can see her work and get an online consultation right away before making an appointment.

“My peculiarity is combining Chinese traditional culture and modern art tattoos,” she said. “I want to share my culture to the masses.”

Xing hopes that after the end of pandemic, she will have more clients and opportunities to create different styles and sizes of tattoos.

Hundreds of parlours nearby

There are around 400 tattoo parlours in the Lower Mainland, according to Ed Holmer, a tattoo artist with 40 years of experience in the profession. Holmer said that over the last few years, many young people have turned to the tattoo industry as a career.

The job lets people be flexible and create their own schedules, and allows them to work other jobs on the side.

“I chose this profession because I loved tattoo art,” said Holmer. “But now, many people think our job is the glamorous life and don’t fully understand that. This is constant work on yourself.”

Holmer works at Liquid Silver Tattoo salon in Surrey and has noticed a lot of changes since the beginning of his career. None of the modern-day machines or disposable tips were available to tattoo artists at the time. Instead, Holmer had to use an electric machine with a coil on it.

But he said the main change is in people’s tattoo preferences. “People want realistic tattoos,” Holmer said.

Business model sees changes

COVID-19 has altered the way many tattoo parlours do business. Most salons ask their clients to book an online appointment. Artists must follow additional protocols, such as avoiding handshakes, providing tattoo consultations by email, and transferring all paperwork online. Artists are also asking clients to maintain social distance and arrive no more than 10 minutes before theirs scheduled appointment time.

Some artists have also reported fewer clients, and many have turned to working remotely.

Justin Barent, who has worked as a tattoo artist for eight years at Forever Inked Tattoo salon in Surrey, uses his newfound extra time for self-improvement. He takes online classes and training sessions to learn new tattooing techniques. He has also increased his social media advertising during the pandemic and uses Instagram to promote his work.

He said that no matter why a person may have entered the profession, the most important factor is that they love their job and always remain on the wave of new trends.

“I make a living off my art and have to learn new ways to be modern and get new clients,” Barent said.

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