Tattoos on a budget

Once exclusive to select subcultures, nowadays tattoos are increasingly used as an outlet to express creativity and personal style, yet they often come at a steep price.

“It’s hard to budget for a tattoo, even when money is good,” said James Golden, owner of Black Owl Tattoo.

“Tattoos are a luxury.”

Black Owl tattoo artists pose at the shop on Friday, March 4, 2016. Black Owl has hosted two $100 tattoo days since it opened three months ago. (Photo by Deborah Mebude/SAIT Polytechnic)

Black Owl tattoo artists pose at the shop on Friday, March 4, 2016. Black Owl has hosted two $100 tattoo days since it opened three months ago. (Photo by Deborah Mebude/SAIT Polytechnic)

Golden, who has been in the tattoo business for several years, recently reopened his studio after it was flooded in 2013.

With a new lease in hand, Golden set out to rebuild, and opened Black Owl Tattoo with the help of his apprentice, Ryan Carroll, just three months ago.

“The road to success is bumpy,” said Golden. “We got hit by the flood, took a break, [and] now we’re back at it like we never stopped.”

Equipped with a team of talented but down-to-earth artists, Black Owl Tattoo is quickly distinguishing itself from other shops in the city.

“When you walk in it’s comfortable. It’s a really good environment,” said Golden, who makes a point of waving at every person that passes by the shop.

“We’re like a family. That’s what sets us apart.”

This strong sense of family is why Black Owl Tattoo will be hosting a $100 tattoo day for the second time this year, where clients can come in and get any medium-sized tattoo for a flat rate.

“One hundred dollar tattoo day is about allowing people to get that tattoo they’ve been wanting,” said Golden.

Customers can begin lining up at any time, though the shop doors will be opening at 10 a.m. on March 26.

Those that don’t have the opportunity to get their tattoos on the day of the event are welcome to redeem their voucher over the course of the next year.

“It’s not about the money for us. It’s about building relationships,” said Golden.

Golden believes that good art should be attainable for all people, and knows first-hand how harsh tattoos can be on student budgets.

“I budgeted hard when I was in school,” said Golden. “We’re giving people the opportunity to get a tattoo they want at a good price.”

While hourly rates vary from shop to shop, Calgarians can generally expect to fork out a few hundred dollars for some high quality ink.

Black Owl thinks anyone who wants a tattoo should be able to get one, rejecting what they view to be elitist tendencies within tattoo culture.

“Most tattoo artists are snobs,” said Golden.

“We’re about making people happy.”

Golden credits this approach to the wide variety of clients that regularly come through his shop.

“We tattoo a lot of people who might not otherwise be comfortable walking into a parlour,” said Golden.

The Black Owl’s all-star roster is made up of fresh, easy-going and highly skilled artists.

“I have a very young team,” said Golden. “Every week I get to watch them grow and evolve.”

Jessica Mertens is one of four studio artists, and boasts a Victorian new-school style, specializing in dot-work, mandalas, vintage and floral designs.

“I’ve always been into drawing,” said Mertens, who found her home at the shop after spending some time in both Vancouver and Australia.

Third-year ACAD drawing student, Garth Philpott, is another member of the team, and brings his fine-art background into his work as a tattoo artist.

“I’ve been in tattoo culture since I was 15,” said Philpott.

“It’s an interesting contrast from the art I’m doing now. It’s two entirely different cultures, [but] for me it helps to be immersed in both.”

At the end of the day, the artists view tattooing as an art form first, and are excited to extend their vision and love for the craft to the Calgary community.

“We create here. It’s not just a tattoo studio; it’s an art studio,” said Golden.

The artists will be opening the studio to students and tattoo enthusiasts alike on $100 tattoo day.

“If you want an awesome tattoo on a student budget, this is the day to come do it,” said Golden.

Black Owl Tattoo is located at 1016 Macleod Trail S.E. $100 tattoo day will be taking place on Saturday, March 26, beginning at 10 a.m.

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