by Becca Lemire

Tattoo Photos by

After much well-worth-it waiting and much money saving, I got another tattoo yesterday from my favourite artist. There are tons of tattoo studios in Toronto for all your on-the-wall needs, but if you have more specific ideas about what you want, have that vision and are a creative type, go custom. With an amazing reputation around the Toronto tattoo scene, David Glantz (previously at Bobby Five with Rob Coutts) now runs his solo studio Archive Tattoo with wife Elyse and apprentice Angela. They just moved a bit further west along Dundas to a new location just a few doors from the Hen House. This is a family affair, but don’t think Royal Tenenbaums. Things at Archive run super-smooth: Elyse brought in her skills as an office manager to keep everything organized, and her experience as a vet tech to make sure the cleanliness and sterilization is immaculate. Angela, a long time friend of the couple, is learning the biz from David, who always tries to ‘pay it forward’ when he can, and she’s just starting to tattoo her own client’s full time. David studied photography, illustration and painting at Uni, and designed tattoos for friends before apprenticing at some shops early on. It was a rough start dealing with his fair share of douche bags in the beginning, but now that his d-bag and hard partying days are done, he can sit back and relish in being an established custom artist, tattooing on his own terms. 

He does, among other things, mind-numbingly (brain-hurting as he calls it) detailed and colourful body art pieces, and says he loves tattooing lace among other things, and anything unique that he has an interest in. One of the only times he turned down a tattoo was from a guy who wanted his entire back done with this bad-bad not good-bad scene: The client and his brother riding their custom Harley’s, dressed in Medieval gear and waving swords, chasing evil spirits while driving out of the Appalachian Mountains with his dream log cabin on the side of the road, and his wife and kids in the clouds and down the backs of his arms. Uh, no thanks. Good tattoos come to those who wait: he’s booked pretty solid in advance, but it’ll give you the chance to save up, and for his esthetic quality, it’s beyond worth it. I could’ve walked into any shop downtown and gotten it that day or the next, but it would probably have ended up looking like paisley on acid, and not in a good way. This is permanent we’re talking about, so I’ll wait forever for the perfect tattoo. I’ve done the whole walk in thing and need touch ups big time for those tats.

So what is it I got you may be thinking? I’ve had this vintage shirt with 60’s paisley-floral pattern on it that I’ve never worn but had forever because I always wanted to turn it into a tattoo. And now after the session, the results are in: intricate, perfectly colour matched, un-warped, D.G. is the man! It’s so crazy to me that I explained what I wanted with the shirt in my hand, a few photocopies and a drawing later, and literally the image I had in my mind is now on my arm. He’s like a tattoo Jedi with special mind-reading tricks. Ok, just kidding. I guess that is his job after all, but I’ve been tattooed at several different studios by many artists and some are clueless. I was getting a very simple little one by a fake-pro once and he mumbled over the buzzing of the needle “I’ve done so much drugs I can’t even see straight anymore”. I’ve been to 5 studios and have around 20 separate little and big tats, to be exact, so I’ve had good and bad experiences to weigh against each other. (Lucky 13 = bad, 4 hour wait past my apt. time. Jon Artist in Puerto Rico = good, his shopboy kept the ice cold Heinekens and blunts coming. PR is another world.) So yes, there are people out there tattooing who don’t have the artist’s eye and are perma-half-baked and you’d be surprised how legitimate they seem. Finding an artist that you have confidence in and who has the goods to back it up is really important, so you can be happy. This ain’t magic marker, after all.

No Pain, No Gain:

  1. Make sure you feel comfortable with the artist, (s)he understands exactly what you want, you have good communication with each other, and your intuition is in a happy place. Nothing hurts like questioning the artist or the tattoo while they are tattooing you.
  2. Bring stuff to distract you. Personal music device and a good set of headphones can make the sound of the buzzing needle completely disappear, which can make it easier to pretend you’re somewhere else, like on the beach (my fave place to go to when I’m getting tattooed). Soon David’s going to have a TV and DVD player set up so you can watch your fave flick. Reading and talking on the phone have been good distractions I’ve found as well, but depending on the spot you’re getting done, that’s not always possible.
  3. If your artist is capable of carrying a convo while doing the work (I’ve found most are) chat them up! They’ll have tons of interesting stories to share, you can talk about yourself and it can be really distracting and will make the time fly.
  4. Be like a Zen Buddhist Monk and meditate. Close your eyes and focus all your energy and thoughts on NOT thinking about the pain. Instead focus on breathing slowly and deeply, over and over. Keeping your breathing slow will make your body more relaxed, so you may feel less pain. When you’re all stressed out, fidgety and anxious the pain can be amplified by your thoughts. One exercise I’ve found really helpful is to think about and imagine what you’re going to be doing 5 hours after the tattoo. Where will you be, what will you be doing, how will you be feeling? Keep your eyes on the prize, not on the pain, and before you know it, it’ll be done like dinner.
  5. For all the ladies out there, if you know your menstrual cycle, strategically book your tattoos around that. I wouldn’t recommend getting one the week before or the week of your period. You’re body may be more sensitive, and you may be more irritable. Getting pricked over and over by a tiny needle + PMS equals not a good combo. Also the day of, make sure to get a good night’s sleep the night before, eat well and try and have a relaxed day. Or if you’re like a total bad-ass punk degenerate, stumble in hungover and starving, for all I care.

Photo of David Glantz by Clare Somerville