The tales tattoos tell on the skin of some locals in town were interrupted mid-story by the pandemic.
But starting this week, the stories can continue
Andi Jane Monk., of Ashlar Tattoo, said that some clients were set to return for finishing touches on larger works when COVID-19 hit B.C., closing tattoo shops for months.
"it is very common for large work to take several months or even a year or longer to complete, but man, yes. There have definitely been some people who are chomping at the bit [to continue their tattoo]."
The Squamish shop, and others like it around the province, is opening back up this week, with the increasingly common pandemic protocols in place.
Unlike other industries that don't have quite the same health standards in place already, tattooists don't have to change a lot to reopen, Monk said.
"Tattooing is very centred around preventing cross-contamination and proper sterilization and protecting our clients," she said, adding the studio has always been set up with lots of distance between artists.
What has changed is that when clients arrive, there is no waiting inside before a tattoo session.
And all walk-in service has been stopped. Instead, appointments are required for all tattoos.
Clients must come alone, not bring a friend or family member with them.
Like patients at local dentist offices in town, tattoo clients must sign a second waiver that states they don't have any symptoms of COVID-19, and that they haven't travelled recently.
"That there is no reason why they shouldn't be there," Monk said.
Social distancing will be maintained during consultations.
When clients arrive for their appointment, they have to wash their hands and put on a shop-supplied disposable mask.
The three tattoo artists at Ashlar will wear cloth masks.
Monk acknowledged it is going to be an adjustment for everyone.
"You can still talk through the masks, which is fine, but the tone and vibe is going to be a little bit different straight out of the gate," she said. "We are confident that our studio has met and exceeded health standards... but once again, COVID-19 has never happened before. It is still a new situation so we are going to ease in lightly before assuming everything is back to 'normal.'"
During the shutdown, tattoo shops were a bit of the forgotten little sister to the other service industries that were cited by the provincial health officer and in headlines, said Monk.
"Probably the most frustrating part for tattooists is other businesses would get mentioned in the phases, — like hairdressers, dentists — so there was a lot more clarification. With tattooing, we were speaking with the local health board and even they couldn't give us a solid answer if tattooing was part of Phase 2 until last Friday — just before the long weekend," she said, adding their hope was to open up on May 19, but given the late confirmation, that wasn't possible.
"We were waiting to cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s [to] get back open."
Monk said lots of tattoo shops have been hit hard by the pandemic shutdowns.
"It was very eye-opening for our industry. I know a lot of tattoo shops have closed down," she said.
"Because a lot of tattooists are sole proprietors and self-employed, rather than employees, a lot of financial support for businesses and individuals was difficult [to get] or non-existent," she said, adding that over time, some of the requirements for government assistance have eased, allowing for self-employed people to access funds.
There's been talk in the industry about how the government could help "underdog" businesses like tattoo shops weather storms better, Monk said.
"Tattooing has definitely gained momentum and become more mainstream in the last 20 years, but it is still not talked about alongside other businesses like hairdressing, dentistry, nail techs and estheticians."
Monk said she feels grateful Ashlar is getting back up and running.
"We just want to thank the public for being patient and being supportive of local business. We are all very excited to get back to work and start decorating all the Squamish locals again."