Business on the move — Tattoo Artist Hits the Road
By Suzy Hamilton, The Nelson Daily
There’s a philosophy behind the art of tattooing says BC’s first mobile tattoo artist.
“It’s a healing art as far as I’m concerned,” said Ojas, owner of Cats Tats in Nelson. “People want a sense of belonging; it’s a shared experience with other people who have tattoos.”
“Everyone one is coming in for a reason, whether they know it or not.”
And after a three year effort to become certified by Interior Health, Ojas is taking his show on the road, making him the first of his kind in BC, he said.
“The competition drove me into it. We have three full time tattoo artists in Nelson for 10,000 people. I needed to broaden my horizons.”
If people in the little towns like Mirror Lake and Christina Lake couldn’t get to him, he’d go to them. “The sticking point with IH was that I couldn’t do my tattoos in their homes, it had to be in a mobile unit.”
So after customizing his van to include hot and cold running water and setting it up to meet IH specifications, Ojas tackled getting his mobile business insured.
“I had to go to the top, but I finally found one,” he said.
The response to his “tattoo parties” has been very encouraging, he said. “People were pretty excited when I finally got ( the mobile unit) licenced.”
Detailing his van was not far from his roots. After art school he became a certified motorcycle mechanic and detailed motorcycles for a living. It struck him that detailing art was similar to tattoo art.
That was 15 years ago and since his arrival in Nelson in 1998, hundreds of personal expressions have been inked on Kootenay bodies.
The day is over when clients choose from designs on a wall, like picking out wallpaper from a catalog. Now clients walk in with a topic or design in mind and Ojas creates an image for them before it goes on the skin.
Subjects become fashionable and fade away. Mysterious characters of the Chinese alphabet have been replaced with quotes.
“It’s all about being free or wanting to feel more,” he said.
Little silhouetted blackbirds now adorn many tattoos instead of the butterflies of before.
But one thing is clear, said Ojas. “A tattoo is the one thing people can buy that can’t be taken away.” Therein may lie the sense of empowerment and a connection to collective unconscious he said.
In the last several decades, tattoo body art has become a mainstream part of global and Western fashion, but it’s not just the young who are choosing to tattoo themselves, said Ojas.
The average age of his clients is 25-45 years old, but lots are over 60, many seeking a memorial for their lost partner or loved one.
It may not be hard to explain the rise in popularity in tattooing after seeing his designs and the spa-like clinical setting which he has now copied to the inside of his van.
“Inks have gotten better, the machines are better, tattoos are now more visible and the status of the art has changed,” he explained.
And on a more personal level, “ the state of the world…it’s not a really great place. Young people come to me and they are lost. I think they are needing to feel pain to release pain.”