Despite the challenges his business has faced from the coronavirus and all the construction in the Yonge and Eglinton area, owner Damon Han is confident Pine Ink Tattoos will continue to make its mark — literally — on the neighbourhood.
Han chose to open the tattoo studio last year at 2367 Yonge St. in June 2019 because of its demographic — “young people that would want tattoos,” he says — and because it’s a fashionable area that would appreciate Pink Ink’s artistic designs.
It’s been getting many local customers, but also people have travelling to the studio from all over the city, he’s found.
That being said, “it has definitely been tricky to keep clients coming in,” according to Pine Ink artist Rachel Weldon.
“There’s always kind of a negative stigma” about tattoos, even before the virus, and during the pandemic more potential clients have decided to postpone getting a tattoo indefinitely.
Fortunately, Pine Ink has still been able to sustain its business, in large part due to the COVID-19 safety protocols being adhered to, Weldon says. Luckily, the shop is big enough to maintain physical distancing.
“Everything is six feet apart – the office, the waiting room, the bathroom and every tattoo station,” she says.
Staff at Pine Ink are already used to using hand sanitizer and washing their hands repeatedly,” which Weldon said is “standard tattoo shop stuff,” though hand sanitizer is now also readily available for every client, who is asked to use it upon entry.
“Of course we’re both going to be wearing masks throughout the entire appointment,” Weldon says.
Also, Pine Ink being a tattoo shop, everything is already covered in single-use plastic, which gets thrown out the second the job is done.
In addition, Weldon says, they sanitize the area with cavicide, a hardcore, chemical cleaner that cleans anything that’s alive, including germs.
Pine Ink is not just your ordinary tattoo studio, as it specializes in Asian and Neo-Asian art, both in modern and old-school motifs.
Han’s apprentice, an artist who goes only by the name “Drone”, proudly states Han is really skilled at realism as well.
“Damon has a good grasp of making it look very real,” he says.
First-time customer David Delmendo was referred to Pine Ink by a friend and was drawn to Han’s Instagram page. He had looked into other tattoo studios, but he said that Han’s art work stood out among the rest. Drone agreed.
“With Damon’s art, you see it, you know.”
Drone said that part of the reason why the Asian symbols are so popular has to do with them being “associated with the warrior because they were around during the time when people were on battlefields.” In fact, many of the characters customers’ requests for tattoos, such as the famous Monkey King, are from written stories routed from their “visual illustration through time.”
Cherry blossom tattoos are also highly sought after, as they represent the Asian belief of transient beauty and provide what Drone calls “a heavenly glimpse [just] for the moment.”
Isabelle Danyi, another artist at Pine Ink who has worked in other tattoo studios in Toronto, said Pine Ink is “much more relaxed, not as hectic, not as loud” as some of the other studios, which Danyi prefers. Customers also appreciate being in a more relaxed atmosphere, especially if it is their first time getting a tattoo.
Artists at Pine Ink aim to develop connections with their customers similar to relationships between hairdressers and clients. “With every single tattoo, you become closer with the person,” Drone says, because tattooing involves two people.
“You have to trust the person and both of you bond through this experience.”
Weldon says staff members at Pine Ink are so “happy and grateful … that we’re still able to do our art as our career and that people still trust us to do it safely.”
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