Petor Tattoo Talks Coming Full Circle, His New Shop, and Navigating Life and Health
Patrick Coste: Good day Petor, how’s it going? I was told by Anthony Jenkins that you might have something to shout about! Lots of action in Hamilton these days…
Just to let the readers know, Anthony won our #drawallnight drawing contest a few weeks back. Since we’d already spoken to him on Point to Point not too long ago, he suggested I interview you, as you’re a great guy and it would be worth the time and excitement! LOL, how are you Petor??
Petor Tattoo: I’m doing great. I was coming up from the basement and I wondered if there was something funny going on... I'm figuring out the new shop. I don't know how it works yet. Hah!
I was nervous this morning waiting for your call. I like to keep a low profile. I don't do a lot of interviews and stuff, but you know what? At the same time, I love it because I love just chit chatting…
PC: Let’s do that! SO, you just moved in to a new place… My God, so many things are happening, but there’s nothing on your Instagram page. Lol.
PT: Instagram? What's that? Lol, moving? Yes and no. We own the building but I didn’t have a shop below before, so it’s a nice change of pace!
PC: Oh nice! Nothing beats the no-commute thing, eh?
PT: Indeed. I’ve also been off social media for a little bit, so I find if I have some time off, I disappear for sure and I have to crawl my way back into that social media stuff. I’m trying to get better at it.
PC: Lol. All joking aside, there's shitloads happening for real in your daily routine… The NEW SHOP alert is truly great news!
PT: Yes, the shop for one, I mean the private studio, which is coming along great. Lots of red tape. I was hoping to be open last November but there are so many hoops, SO MANY HOOPS, to jump through in the city. But, we got there.
PC: Congratulations! Woot woot! First one?
PT: I've done this before actually, that's how I met Anthony. I had opened Atomica, I think it was early 2006 to the end of 2008, and it was just me and I had a piercer. We decided to stop piercing and just focus on tattooing and then that's how I met Anthony. I was looking for another tattooer, and you know, he showed up! He's so great at what he does.
PC: Genuine too!
PT: YES! It may be kind of weird, but I feel proud of him. I've seen him grow so much, it's just, he's gotten so good and it's incredible.
PC: In 2012 you were saying? So basically, you met him in 2005ish?
PT: It was probably around 2007 when he came on. Yeah, long time. I feel old now saying that…
PC: I won't write it down “Old Man”…. :P
PT: I’m 45… I don't feel like it, my brain is like 18, my body is like 95.
PC: Eternal 45 eh? I’m 46. I hear you, lol!
PT: Yeah, yeah, mornings are harder, but evenings are way sweeter!! Lol.
PC: Since there’s no info about this mysterious Petor Tattoo on social media, I’ll have to bug you for a while, lol. Where does Petor’s love for tattoos come from?
PT: I've been tattooing since, I think I started my apprenticeship in 1999. It was like, you know, the tail end of if someone was teaching you to tattoo, it was probably a biker. I count myself lucky to be a part of it.
My new shop is just a few doors down from where I apprenticed. I feel like I've come full circle now.
PC: Too bad it wasn't the shop itself, you know?
PT: Lol, that's true! It's been long-gone for a while now, you know? I've got the old logo in the front window and people remember it. It's kind of really cool to see people I talked to 20 years ago, when apprenticing, they're still in the neighborhood and it's kind of a really cool vibe.
PC: So the old days apprenticeship, was it the “old school” way?
PT: Pretty much… Like, I remember washing cars. They were crazy back then, and I was just a kid, you know? A big burly guy comes in and tells me to wash his truck, you just go wash the truck. You don't question anything at that point. You know, it was amazing because I mean; there's no no sense in making needles or inks or anything anymore, but I do all that or I can do all that… Mixing inks and you know, I can tattoo off of a car battery if I need to.
PC: OK, ok,now you have my attention! Lol…
PT: Yes, I would never try it, but I was taught to do that when I got my apprenticeship. I met a man once, he was named ‘’Bear’’ from Ontario, and he was not a big guy but he was a scary guy. Anyway, if the power went out, every station was equipped with a car battery in the basement running up to the station. Nowadays you just reschedule. Different times…
PC: But really we’re back to this, in a sense, now with wireless?
PT: Well yeah, that was about that time and it's been really interesting since then to watch this industry, where it's going… Battery packs, information and technology have come SO far.
Anthony is the one who got me into wireless. He let me go with the Cheyenne Sol Nova Unlimited for a week. I didn't want to give it back! It was immediate as soon as I gave it back, I knew I had to have it.
PC: There's so much freedom right?
PT: Yes, torque is there, you know? Like, that used to be a problem, but now it's pretty much there.
So much has changed since. It was just a crazy time, but yeah, you end up doing just a lot of different things which is probably good. Find out what you like, what you do and it just, I mean just from a technical standpoint, it's going to make it better anyways.
I remember with street shops, back then there wasn't really a lot of booking appointments, it was walk-ins, you had lineups down the street.
It's funny because I don't think about it, and then when I actually think it was like, “Wow” that was you know, 22 years ago. But in that time I think this industry has been going in leaps and bounds just introducing new things, safer things, better things, just like gloves… I wish you would start carrying hot pink gloves by the way…
PC: We’ll see what we can do about that. How long was your apprenticeship? Was it a classic one?
PT:· Two years. First year, you know, you're doing all the grunt work. Second year, still doing all the grunt work and chattering and then yeah, I stuck around for about 6 years before I opened my first shop.
PC: So you gave more than you were given, so that's kind of cool.
PT: I was very loyal to my mentor in the shop, but it got to a point where I wanted to grow and expand and travel and you know, do all the fun stuff you get to do being a tattooer
That would have been in the early 2000s to about 2009. Wow, it's been so long. I need more coffee, I’ve only had four coffees already. Oh my goodness.
They were good times though, the apprenticeship was great and I learned a lot, and it was kind of a special place to be. I mean, it's been crazy since then just traveling and doing all this different stuff, working different places, learning from different people. I don't think that ends, or shouldn't anyways, as far as I'm concerned.
PC: Have you had any apprentices as well?
PT: I've never had an apprentice ever. Someone actually had just approached an old client of mine about it, so I'm thinking about it. I've never really felt that I've been at a level to teach. I still feel like I'm always going to be growing, so I don't want to teach someone until I'm done growing.
PC: Yeah, you're still 18, like you were saying. Yeah?
PT: I think it's just a mentality thing though. It's like, yeah you know, I'm not quite where I would like to be yet. I don't know if you ever are though.
PC: True that. True that
PT: Again, you're always growing, but I'm considering it now and I've slowed down a little bit to work on some art and then personal art that I haven't worked on over the last 20 years. So I’ll try to do both, continue tattooing, work on more art, sculpting printmaking. Yeah…
PC: It seems like you sort of refocus yourself a bit.
PT: I like to do it every seven years or so. It is nice to step back, have a look at what you're doing and, you know, reassess stuff. See what you like doing, all that stuff. Yeah, just get to refocus.
PC: Or life slaps you in the face, right?…
PT: Yeah, that happens too, lol. It’s like when I started out in this tattoo life, the internet wasn't really a thing. Social media wasn't really ‘’there’’ you know? I think we had ‘’MySpace’’, so there wasn't a lot out there and then as things started growing with Facebook and Instagram and stuff like that, I mean you started being exposed to so much more that you started wanting to do everything you saw.
PC: Did you learn a lot online? You know, like by looking around the internet?
PT: You know, I like to meet people and talk and chit chat. I think a lot of it comes from just meeting other tattooers, you know, inks, machines, just shop stuff.
It’s like coming back from a convention, like coming back to the shop and you're just pumped. I’m like, that's how I feel and I'm just ready, energized. Get back to work because you're watching amazing people doing amazing things and it kind of lights that fire under your ass.
PC: So very little sleep happens during those times…
PT: You don't even want to sleep. You're just ready.
PC: I believe this year we’ll see a full convention season! I’m so excited, but before that, you just opened your new shop. It looks really good from here! Were you always in Hamilton?
PT: Pretty much. I was born in Montreal after my parents moved over here to Canada. The whole family had moved to Hamilton and yeah, it's hard to find a good bagel here.
PC: OH NO! Lol…
PT: It’s sad… proper bagel please… There's one here in town, but it's not quite the same, you know?
PC: Yeah, nothing beats fresh every day.
PT:· Oh my goodness! Well the last time I’d been in Montreal, and I hadn't been to this bagel shop in so long. It starts with a “V”, I can't remember the name of it, but it was like one of the originals and growing up he and his friends would steal bagels from there.
PC: St. Viateur!
PT: YES! That’s it! Last time, I bought a huge bag and I ate them for the whole drive back. There were none left when I got back to Hamilton.
PC: Seven hours of bagels!
PT: …But so worth it. I would have turned around and driven back to get more…
PC: The smell right?
PT: I think it was actually during lockdown, um, I saw an ad for one of the bagel shops that you could actually order and have bagels delivered as far as Toronto.
PC: Oh my God! Toronto, that's close enough. You could drive and get them.
PT: Close, but I didn't order any….
PC: Boooooo! Lol! Let’s get back on track, or just wait, I’m gonna go get some bagels… Lol.
Seriously though, times were weird for sure, was the new shop a way to cope with all that?
PT: It's a funny tightrope to walk. I mean you have to make money, you have to survive and live, but at the same time I don't want to die, or get severely ill because I've been compromised and it's freaking me out a little bit more.
I have great clients. I've been lucky to have really good people that I get to tattoo and it's always open dialogue with stuff, and everything just works. So, it’s been pretty good. I had to think about myself a bit, my immune system is not what it used to be anymore, unfortunately. But I mean that's another thing with the private shop. It's easy to manage. It's easy to run. It's just a nice environment and like I said, I like to keep open dialogues with people. Clients are like friends, almost, because people invest in their bodies over the years, you know? So that's a close match to nothing really, you know?
Some clients give me some of the nicest, craziest stuff like; a giant bag or box of vintage cameras. That was it, and I’ve sold them all now. Lol. I just have no room for them. I once got an amazing ceramic wizard holding a crystal ball… Things people bring me, but I appreciate them all. Yeah, it's amazing! It's just like, that was our time and whatever it may be, you know? It's a token or a gesture of their thanks or respect… I don't know, that's amazing.
I remember I was still in my first year tattooing, so I would have been still apprenticing that first year, and someone wrote me a letter and then just put it in the mail. It was about how, you know, it was great and it was such a good time and stuff, and I still have that in the frame and I’ll hold onto things that are somewhat special. I’m like a crow, I gotta collect everything and I have little spaces to hang all of this stuff. So I mean, that's been fun through the last like, well 20 years or so.
PC: Twenty years of tattooing and you've got your own shop going on. Like, is it ready now?
PT: We actually just opened last Friday. We had to rezone the building, jump through all the hoops and and all the red tape but finally… I was hoping for last November but we’re open now, so it's good.
It's nice because it’s my building now and stuff. I've had to slow down a little bit, which I think bugs me the most. I don't like slowing down, I like being busy all the time but I think, you know, having this space now, it's gonna offer me a good balance now to manage to continue tattooing because I have no desire to quit yet or stop.
PC: Apparently you never do, you never quit tattooing, you just slow down…
PT: True, true, and if I have to, and the thought was if I have to stop at some point because it gets too bad, you know, I have a shop and people can come through and still have guests. It's still a way to keep in it, but I do love it so much.
PC: You were talking about rezoning and that means building the space you got yourself below your apartment, sort of thing…
PT: My art studio is in the basement. I've never had such a big art studio, so that's pretty amazing. It all happened last year.
I was at Epoch here in Hamilton prior to opening my new shop. It's nice to go see them, we still do paint nights, I still take out their garbage, you know, when it's garbage day. I don't know what the hell I'm doing, lol.
I love those guys, you know? I was sad to leave, but I think we still have a great relationship. I don't burn bridges.
PC: That's very important.
PT: It’s nice to have a good connection with that shop and everybody there and you know, everyone's coming over here to have a paint night next weekend, so…
PC: Hamilton is so nice. So besides the shop, you were saying you can't wait to go to conventions, but are you gonna go to conventions this year?
PT: Yeah, well you mentioned NIX. I’ll probably not be working, but I'm definitely going to go and just wander around. It's been so long and one of the things I love about conventions is that you get to see people you don't get to see, and sometimes it's years, so that'll be really nice. Other than that, I'm not sure. I don't even know what the general feeling is right now. Everything seems very divided. I think anything right now is good. I remember doing NIX During the G-20 summit and there was nobody there. It was awful. Like there was just, we were tattooing each other pretty much.
It was still good to be there. It was still good to chit chat, meet people, maybe get some prints or whatever, as a tattoo community. It’ll be good to get back to doing conventions and just seeing each other again. For us it will be good. Hopefully there will be people though.
But really, you know, you've got a plan and you can kind of see the future to some degree, but life weaves in and out in waves, and it makes it exciting.
PC: You're quite philosophical. I like that.
PT: I feel like I've come full circle now. Like I'm like four doors down from where I started tattooing and after traveling around, it just feels nice to come around full circle. Being sort of an agent in the time I've been tattooing, it's nice to pass on knowledge now, you know? I don't imagine there’s anything else I want to be either.
PC: Wow, time flies!! To conclude this interview, tell us what’s next for you Petor?
PT: If my health permits me, (well, my health took that turn in 2016), I think it gives you a different perspective. I think when you’re forced to change, and at that time I thought it was done tattooing as well, I'm like, this is it, you know? I'm not gonna be able to do this anymore, and I think that it sort of gives you a different point of view.
PC: It was very serious…
PT: Well, yes, I don't know… They still don't know what it is, a nerve disorder? I literally need to take medications so I can even walk with you.
I’ve got a cool cane, so you know, as long as they have nice looking canes, all is good.
PC: Okay. I didn't expect that…
PT: It’s part of me. I’m mostly good except my pharmacy screwed up my prescription, so I didn't have it for two days a couple of weeks ago. And yeah, it's a matter of a couple of days, I'm not even walking.
…And again, that's sort of part of, why have the shop? But it's going to help me manage that way better.
PC: I mean you just bought yourself at least four hours a day by working in your own place, you know?
PT: It was huge because I thought I was done tattooing, and the biggest fear I have is if I can't tattoo at least feel that I can sculpt. I've been sculpting since I was 19.
You know, I've been doing screen printing too and stuff like that, but I mean sculpting I think is as far outside of tattooing as you can get. It’s like, my main passion and I love doing it. I want to sleep sculpting. I will forget to eat, sculpting and stuff like this, so I need those hands and I could try my feet. Maybe. I don't think it was good though.
I'm enjoying those moments.
PC: You make me feel like I should enjoy every moment!
Thank you Petor, see you at NIX22!! Thank you so much for this moment, Cheers…