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Thread: Canadian Tattoo History

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    Autobot Contest Winner Graeme's Avatar
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    Canadian Tattoo History

    A while ago I came across this newspaper article about Nick Wasko, who tattoos at Port Side Tattoo in Vancouver (actually, just checked that and it looks like the shop just closed down and it's not clear if/where he's tattooing now), and his attempts to document the history of traditional tattooing in Vancouver.

    Tattoo Historian Follows Ink Trail of Art

    It's a cool article about a subject that it seems like not many people know that much about. The most famous old-school tattooer in Vancouver is probably Doc Forbes (the pin-up article at tattooarchive.com claims that Sailor Jerry considered Doc Forbes one of his big influences in his pin-up designs), and there are plenty of pictures of him and his tattoos around. There are some here on the Old Tattoo Photos thread, and I recall seeing a bunch in Hanky Panky's 1001 Tattoos book as well. Wasko has gone a lot deeper than that though and is trying to find as much as he can about tattooers that there is seemingly very scant information on. The article is brief, though it hints at a lot.

    As far as I can tell from my own research, the designs in "traditional Canadian" tattooing aren't remarkably different than those in traditional American tattooing. The Lucky Supply Tattoo Museum has a dozen sheets of Doc Forbes' flash up for viewing on their site and the designs closely follow the traditional canon of roses, daggers, ships and anchors, eagles, snakes, dragons, ladies, etc. As an aside, this was the root of my interest in the subject...eagle tattoos are awesome, but what did Canadians traditionally get? Moose? Beavers? No, they got eagles. Though in Carol Clerk's Vintage Tattoos book I'm pretty sure that I saw some WWII-era Canadian naval designs that had beavers on them.

    Thomas Lockhart's West Coast Tattoo in Vancouver also has a tattoo museum and there are a couple of examples of old Canadian flash, one by F.A. Baldwin (described there as one of Canada's first tattooists) dating back to 1910-1920:



    I've gathered other tiny bits of information about the history of tattoos in Canada--for example, Amund Dietzel ended up in North America after being shipwrecked off the coast of Quebec; Betty Broadbent apparently tattooed in Montreal (I would guess as a travelling carnie thing?)--but nothing systematic. I don't know, I'm a nerd about this kind of stuff.

    Does anybody have anything else? Most of the information we have seems to be about Vancouver, which isn't surprising since that's probably the Canadian city with the most important tattoo scene both because it's a port and because geographically it's on the West Coast and is connected with West Coast tattooing generally (eg D.E. Hardy tattooed in Vancouver for a while), but what about Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax? These cities must have tattoo histories as well, probably especially Halifax (probably worth looking into Sailor Jerry Swallow here). Is "Canadian traditional tattooing" distinct enough to merit discussion on its own instead of just being part of "American traditional tattooing"?

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    Re: Canadian Tattoo History

    Nick Wasko was at Sacred Heart in Vancouver a year or so ago I think, and still really into the history. At Sacred Heart on Nelson St they would probably know where he is now at these days.

    Paul Jeffries' Smilin Buddha book has a bit about the history of tattooing in Vancouver and Calgary (which didn't seem to have much going on there until he moved there from BC).

    Sailor Jerry Swallow was working for the Dutchman in Burnaby a couple of years ago but may be back east now - he'd definitely be someone to talk to as an example of living history - started tattooing in 1960 and has known a lot of people! Would have so many stories.

    Dave Shore in BC passed away recently so hope soneone like Nick (or yourself!) documents some of these characters and their tales while they are still around. From the little I know don't think traditional Canadian tattooing has been much different from American.

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    Autobot Contest Winner Graeme's Avatar
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    Re: Canadian Tattoo History

    Port Side used to be Sacred Heart's Davie Street location. I was in Vancouver at the end of August and I passed by it after it was closed and it looked from the outside like a pretty nice shop, but when I went to add a link to Nick Wasko from the shop's site it turns out that it just closed down at the end of September and on the Facebook page for the shop they said that they weren't sure what Nick was up to at the moment. He just posted some flash on Instagram today but I don't know if he's working at a shop now or what. He seems to do some pretty solid traditional, would love to chat with him one day and get tattooed by him.

    I should get that Smiling Buddha book. Any talk of tattoos in Canada should talk about Paul Jeffries for sure.

    I think that Sailor Jerry Swallow is in Victoria right now and as far as I know, he's still tattooing. A guy I work with went to Halifax to get tattooed by him...I should talk to him about that.

    For other old guys here, Tony D'Annessa (started tattooing in 1958 in New York) still tattoos at PSC Tattoo in Montreal. Got a little snake and rose from one of his old roll-up flash sheets around Easter time this past year after a consult with Dave Cummings there...definitely a neat experience and I got a solid, really bold tattoo. Going to be spending a lot of time at PSC next year, hopefully I'll get to hear some good stories from Tony. The PSC website has an interview with Tony from Tattoo Artist Magazine that's worth a read.

    Heard about Dave Shore's passing, don't know much about him but I know a bunch of people who got tattooed by him or at his shop. I should ask around...

    Thanks for the reply!

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    Re: Canadian Tattoo History

    Quote Originally Posted by Graeme View Post
    Port Side used to be Sacred Heart's Davie Street location. I was in Vancouver at the end of August and I passed by it after it was closed and it looked from the outside like a pretty nice shop, but when I went to add a link to Nick Wasko from the shop's site it turns out that it just closed down at the end of September and on the Facebook page for the shop they said that they weren't sure what Nick was up to at the moment. He just posted some flash on Instagram today but I don't know if he's working at a shop now or what. He seems to do some pretty solid traditional, would love to chat with him one day and get tattooed by him.

    I should get that Smiling Buddha book. Any talk of tattoos in Canada should talk about Paul Jeffries for sure.

    I think that Sailor Jerry Swallow is in Victoria right now and as far as I know, he's still tattooing. A guy I work with went to Halifax to get tattooed by him...I should talk to him about that.

    For other old guys here, Tony D'Annessa (started tattooing in 1958 in New York) still tattoos at PSC Tattoo in Montreal. Got a little snake and rose from one of his old roll-up flash sheets around Easter time this past year after a consult with Dave Cummings there...definitely a neat experience and I got a solid, really bold tattoo. Going to be spending a lot of time at PSC next year, hopefully I'll get to hear some good stories from Tony. The PSC website has an interview with Tony from Tattoo Artist Magazine that's worth a read.

    Heard about Dave Shore's passing, don't know much about him but I know a bunch of people who got tattooed by him or at his shop. I should ask around...

    Thanks for the reply!
    Nick is a friend of mine. He is a really good dude, and he knows a lot about Canadian tattoo history. He also just purchased a whole bunch of Don Nolan flash that I am going to take a look at next week. Nick is still tattooing in Vancouver, and I can put you in touch with him if you are interested.

    Jerry Swallow has been back east for awhile, but he shop in Victoria is called Government Street, and Chris David and D-Boy Sanchez work there (or own it, I am not sure which) and they put out some great tattoos.

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    Re: Canadian Tattoo History

    [QUOTE=Avery Taylor;47613]Nick is a friend of mine. He is a really good dude, and he knows a lot about Canadian tattoo history. He also just purchased a whole bunch of Don Nolan flash that I am going to take a look at next week.

    And Don Nolan is still going and putting out great work, at Acme in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I got a tattoo from him earlier this year. Worked with Sailor Jerry, Bert Grimm, Zeke, Danny Danzl, travelled around the world on a boat trading tattoos for supplies...Someone needs to make a film about him!

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    Champion Avery Taylor's Avatar
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    Re: Canadian Tattoo History

    [QUOTE=Energy;47630]
    Quote Originally Posted by Avery Taylor View Post
    Nick is a friend of mine. He is a really good dude, and he knows a lot about Canadian tattoo history. He also just purchased a whole bunch of Don Nolan flash that I am going to take a look at next week.

    And Don Nolan is still going and putting out great work, at Acme in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I got a tattoo from him earlier this year. Worked with Sailor Jerry, Bert Grimm, Zeke, Danny Danzl, travelled around the world on a boat trading tattoos for supplies...Someone needs to make a film about him!
    How about a photo?

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    Re: Canadian Tattoo History

    @Avery Taylor Being in touch with Nick would be awesome! I'm super interested in this stuff, but not being a tattooer myself, I don't spend enough time around this stuff to get the stories, to see old tattoos and flash and photographs and it doesn't seem like much, if anything, has been written about any of this. I could be wrong. Anyway, PM me?

    @Energy Seriously, photos!

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    Re: Canadian Tattoo History

    im up in edmonton alberta right now doing a guest spot at urge. ive been coming here for the last four years. canada has a lot of great stuff going on as far as tattooing goes.

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    Re: Canadian Tattoo History



    @Energy Seriously, photos![/QUOTE]

    I'm the last person standing to not have a camera, or even a phone that takes pictures. Here's a blurry pic of the Don Nolan tattoo using my laptop. It was a souvenir piece from him (I figured for a Sailor Jerry style piece who better than someone who knew Jerry?) but he is still doing large scale Japanese style work!
    Likes Graeme liked this.
     

  10. #10
    Autobot Contest Winner Graeme's Avatar
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    Re: Canadian Tattoo History

    @Energy That is great and it sounds like it was a super cool experience as well.

    I've found a bit about Haida tattooing as well, which is another subject entirely, but there's a bit of decent information out there.

    Haida Tattoo - The Bill Reid Centre - Simon Fraser University

    The above, from Simon Fraser University's Bill Reid Centre, provides an overview of Haida tattooing, including some late 19th century photographs of tattoos.

    Haida Tattoo Gallery - The Bill Reid Centre - Simon Fraser University

    And this is a collection of photos but mainly drawings of Haida tattoo designs, again from the late 19th and early 20th century.

    There's also this site about Bill Reid that discusses how the Haida style of formline drawing had nearly been lost due to British colonial rule and Canadian law (which is why it probably isn't right to discuss this stuff in a post about "Canadian" tattooing, though it falls there geographically, so...) and that Reid learned to draw in that style through studying tattoo designs collected in books and in museums. I didn't know the importance and influence of tattoos here, so I just learned something.

    - - - Updated - - -

    I hope this works, but here's a 1986 newspaper interview with Keith Stewart, who then owned Point Saint Charles Tattoo, and organised the first tattoo conventions in Montreal:

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?ni...g=1683,3002603

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