• Be­hind the scenes at Dar­ling Tat­toos

Take a look in­side the west end’s ’50s-in­spired, “drip­ping in ex­tra” tat­too shop.

The Coast - - FRONT PAGE - BY HALEIGH AT­WOOD

PHO­TOS MEGHAN TANSEY WHIT­TON

WHAT THEY DO

While Tonks spe­cial­izes in Amer­i­can tra­di­tional and or­na­men­tal work, Cormier and Dar­ling each have per­son­al­ized neo-tra­di­tional tat­too styles. “I think you could look at any one of our tat­toos and know who did it,” Tonks says. Dec­o­rat­ing the walls of Dar­ling Tat­toos is an ever-ex­pand­ing art col­lec­tion, which in­cludes a por­trait of Cormier’s dog, a large paint­ing in tribute of Dar­ling’s cat and an ar­ray of work from lo­cal artists. On top of be­ing a tat­too shop, they’re also carv­ing out a space for lo­cal art. Dar­ling Tat­toos hosts life draw­ing nights and they have an empty tat­too sta­tion that’s of­ten oc­cu­pied by guests. Last week, makeup artist Elle Mun­ster spent two days of­fer­ing mi­crob­laded freck­les and eye­brows.“There’s no com­pe­ti­tion in art,” says Dar­ling. “We’re hop­ing to be a des­ti­na­tion where ev­ery­one feels in­spired and in­vited.”

WHERE THEY DO IT

It’s hard to miss Dar­ling Tat­toos on the cor­ner of Ox­ford and Con­naught. Cars even oc­ca­sion­ally slow down to catch a peek at the space. Amidst an ex­plo­sion of colour and cre­ativ­ity, a taxi­der­mied pink flamingo greets folks as upon en­try. “When clients come in, their first re­ac­tion is to look around,” Tonks says. “It’s awe­some to have peo­ple walk in and be happy be­fore you even start talk­ing to them.”

The floor is glit­tered and epox­ied. The wall­pa­per is flo­ral. The sink faucet is shaped like a dol­phin. The cur­tains have tas­sels. A gi­ant mon­stera lives next to a shiny re­uphol­stered cor­ner couch in the wait­ing area. Al­most ev­ery­thing seems to be a shade of pink. On an av­er­age day, Dar­ling can be heard singing to Cardi B or Ce­line Dion, but ’80s metal and goth make reg­u­lar ap­pear­ances too.

“We wanted it to feel like a beauty sa­lon from the ’50s that a freaky art kid would feel at home in,” says Dar­ling, who wrote to John Wa­ters’ book­ing agent to in­vite the direc­tor of Pink Flamin­gos and Hair­spray to come bap­tize the shop.

WHY IT WORKS

“We wanted a place that’s warm and wel­com­ing, not like your av­er­age tat­too shop that’s ster­ile and in­dus­trial,” Cormier says. “We wanted curves.” With their own space, Cormier and Dar­ling were free to fos­ter an invit­ing, fem­i­nine-in­spired at­mos­phere that they hope will be­come an es­sen­tial part of the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

“I want to come to work early and stay late—I’m happy to be here ev­ery day,” Tonks says, cap­tur­ing the essence of Dar­ling Tat­toos. The goal is to cre­ate a place where peo­ple feel at home in their own skin. A be­liever in the prin­ci­ple that what you put into the world will come back to you, Dar­ling cred­its the peo­ple around them who have helped in­fuse their shop with hap­pi­ness and vi­brancy. “We have so many peo­ple to thank,” she says. “And we still have some dreams...soon there won’t be a spot in this place that isn’t drip­ping in ex­tra.”

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