Just a few years ago, having a tattoo meant limiting your career options. But today, it seems that everywhere there’s a bare leg or arm there’s some ink. In Toronto, tattoo shops are almost as easy to find.
The list that follows is not a conclusive listing of tattoo shops, nor is it a best-of post. These are shops that specialize in a certain style of tattoo. It’s not always the only style they do, but if you have something particular in mind, here’s where you’ll find experts in everything from pointillism to vegan inks.
Do you have a favourite shop that specializes in a particular style? Let us know in the comments at the bottom.
Pearl Harbour Gift Shop
Pearl Harbor Gift Shop is a custom tattoo parlour, known for designs inspired by Japanese and American WWII-era art. Think Sailor Jerry, as a starting point. Colour is big and sailor girls are in full effect. This is classic mid-century tattoo art at its best.
Cory Ferguson is well known among tattoo enthusiasts. In his Oakville shop, he specializes mostly in blackwork, a style that blends polynesian tribal, geometrics, repetitive patterns, henna, and Asian influenced art. Many of the intricate tattoos he does are hand-poked, meaning he applies ink by freehand, using a single needle, no gun.
Forever Young Ink
Like many shops, FY Ink doesn’t claim to specialize in any particular style, but it’s clear from their roster of artists that portraits are a forte. Scoot Mason, Q, and Seunghyun Jo/Potter portrait tattoos have so much detail that the realism they capture could rival photography. Some favourites include a crack smoking Rob Ford, rockabilly Marilyn Monroe and pork pie-hat donning Walter White/Heisenberg, obvi.
Japanese art is a major inspiration for many tattoo artists. Tattoo culture goes far back in Japanese history, by some accounts as far back as 10,000 B.C. Over the centuries, tattoo artistry has maintained a presence in Japanese society, especially in the organized crime scene. The yakuza are known to tattoo much of their body, even their genitals in some cases. In a much more moderate way, Japanese-style tattoos have spread around the world. Koi fish, Hokusai’s wave, geishas, dragons and cherry blossoms decorate backs, legs and arms all over the world. In Toronto, Chronic is the go-to shop for modern Japanese tattoos, whether it’s the whole body experience you want, or just an ankle decoration.
Red Dragon Tattoo Parlour
This is currently the only female-owned and operated tattoo shop in Toronto. While they don’t specialize in any particular style, they only use organic and vegan ink. Organic ink contains no metallic. Typical ink used for tattoos may have metal as an ingredient and for some people, inserted under the skin these metals can cause an allergic reaction. For vegans looking to get tatt’d up, some inks contain animal products or by-products so if being animal-free is a priority, vegan ink is a better choice.
An artist first, and a self-taught tattooist, Fabrizio’s designs are hyper real creations. His work is influenced by modern art and traditional flower and wildlife illustration, which he tattoos in vibrant hues. His shop in Parkdale is where he calls home, but he’s often travelling and doing guest residencies at other shops around the world. There is a bit of wait list to see Fabrizio, since he is the only artist at his shop, but because his work is so distinctive, it’s worth the wait. No imitators here!
(Main Image: Pearl Habour Gift Shop)