Dominique Bodkin Talks Family Tattooing Tradition, Her Machine Collection And Finding Life Balance...
Point to Point takes you behind the needle to share the personal journeys of tattoo artists like you. Drawing inspiration, spreading respect and love… This time we’re talking with with second generation tattooer, and shop owner Dominique Bodkin.
Patrick Coste: Hi Dominique! I’ve been to your shop way too long ago and we’ve seen each other a few times in the past few years, you’re always grateful and appreciative. Your shop has some of the craziest talent in MTL, and that’s just over the short ten years that you’ve been open. Now, you’re just about ready to get going once more. How have you been during these “roller-coastery” past few months?
Dominique Bodkin: It’s true, it’s been a while since we’ve seen each other... we have to meet up this summer! Since the shop opened in 2011 I’ve been very lucky, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the greatest local talents, and from elsewhere as well.
When I opened Bodkin Tattoo, almost ten years ago, I was fortunate to start with an extraordinary tattoo artist from Los Angeles, from whom I learned a lot and who became a great friend; Jessi Preston. And as of right now, our lucky star continues to shine on us as we have a great team here at Bodkin Tattoo made up of both women and men tattoo artists, as well as social media professionals.
PC: Hard not to talk a bit about your late father, Bruce Bodkin. You’re now part of a legacy of tattooers... Your father's humble tattooing beginning was at a time where he was pretty much the only tattooer in Quebec City, and when Canada only had seven or so tattooers. Tell me a bit about your childhood as the offspring of a tattooer.
DB: Bodkin Tattoo is a family tradition since 1963, from father to daughter. Tattoos have been a passion for both of us all our lives. My dad started tattooing when he was 13 years old, he was living in Toronto at the time. As for me, I spent my childhood immersed in the tattoo world and I was initiated as a teenager. I was my father’s apprentice, that was a great blessing in my life.
My tattoo studio is very traditional and old school, it’s really is akin to my dad’s shop in the 70’s and 80’s. It’s truly a continuation of the American walk-in tradition of tattoo parlours where people didn’t book an appointment, but rather dropped in, chose something from the flash, and got tattooed. That’s how it was in those days. Nowadays, the practice of tattooing has evolved, and so has the clientele. Walk-ins are still part of the tattoo culture, but I’d say it’s about half and half, as we now do a lot of custom work too by appointment.
Things have changed so much from back then, it’s crazy. When my dad had his shop, the people who’d come in would be mostly men, about 90% of them. Almost no women got or did tattoos. The clientele was mainly made up of military and underground people, artists, and travellers. We still have that same clientele today, but now we have people from all walks of life that get tattooed, and I’d say about 75% of my customers are women. It’s been completely democratized as opposed to when my dad started.
PC: You know I'm a tattoo history fan... do you have any pictures of those tattoo machines you've always talked about? I bet you also have a crazy amount of pictures and paraphernalia from those times! Share with us, pretty please! Lol...
DB: When I think of my dad’s parlour, I have so many fond memories from those times. Like tattoo machines we’d built together, other tattoo equipment, books, etc. When I officially launched my own studio professionally, my dad gave me 2 tattoo machines that he’d made. They bring me good luck. How does one survive so long in the tattoo world, and for the following generation in our case?
PC: With a lifelong involvement and love for tattooing, I recall you telling me that this is pretty much what you know. How do you balance your tattoo life and life without tattooing? Do you have some sort of balance to keep doing it year after year?.
DB: How do we balance our personal and professional lives with the tattoo world and lifestyle? That’s a big question Patrick. We find some sort of balance between, of course tattooing, but also spending time with our loved ones and our community and nurturing our other artistic passions, like music and art.
PC: I don’t know about you, but I had many other plans this summer... it’s ever changing eh? Ready for vacation I bet, lol, but you just reopened your shop, are you ready?
DB: About this planetary break, this forced pause we’ve just had for the past three months, well, I really hope I never ever have to go through this again. If I wanted to save face, I’d say I lived it pretty well, but that would be a lie. To see the world around you as you know it crumble, is troubling to say the least. We’re very happy to be back to work now.
We’ve been open for a few weeks already, and we’re working in collaboration with prevention organizations to make sure that the new mandatory safety measures are well implemented. For example, walk-ins aren’t allowed until further notice so we’re only working by appointment. A lot of changes have taken place in all our procedures, and no holidays for us this summer, that’s for sure! The good news is that we can finally work again and like you mentioned in the beginning Patrick, it’s important to stay grateful!
PC: Always and I thank you so much for this quick chat Dominique. I’ll give you a holler when I’m around for sure! All the best, meanwhile, be well and be safe!
Follow Dominique on Instagram: @dominiquebodkintattoo