Alberta Bound Tattoo and Arts Festival featured artists of both genders 

From tattoo virgins to bodies covered in ink – this year’s Alberta Bound Tattoo and Arts Festival, held Oct. 17 to 19 at the BMO Centre, was packed with self-expression. 

However, with varying faces and creative interests, there seemed to be one demographic that fell slightly short – female tattoo artists.

The question buzzed over the colorful mass of body art– are women still breaking ground in Canada’s tattoo industry? Although the tables were occupied by an evident equal amount of men and women, the pain stricken painting seemed to be done by a male dominated crowd.

Moving into her 18th year in the industry, Stephanie Corvus has been filling human canvases since 1996.

“When I first started tattooing, I only knew one other female artist – I didn’t work with my first until 2005,” she said.

Despite the sluggish catch-up, female artists are leveling out the playing field and letting the tattoo community know that girls can play too.

 “I don’t know if we’ll ever outnumber the boys,” says Corvus. “Either way, there are so many wonderful and talented female artists out there – we finally have a place in this industry.”

Even though Corvus has made a permanent name for herself, it’s been far from easy to get to where she is now.

At age 19, this determined artist made her way to ten different tattoo shops – all at which closed their doors simply because she was a girl.

After a long and frustrating day, Corvus made one last stop.

“The manager told me, ‘no one wants a girl to tattoo them.’ He didn’t even take time to look through my portfolio – so I lost it,” says Corvus. “If a d*ck is the problem, I’ll go buy one – it’s going to be bigger than yours and I’m going to wear it on the outside of my pants,” she said.

It was a mighty strong stance for her young mouth, but this becoming artist has always known where she was meant to be, and that was in a tattoo shop.Stephanie Corvus works on a skull tattoo. Corvus has been tattooing since 1996.

Photo by Kassidy Christensen

“They ended up hiring me, and haven’t been able to get rid of me since,” says Corvus. “So I’m here to stay.”

Although Corvus has years of experience with a tattoo gun, other female artists are creating their own image to stand out from the talented community.

Miss Inked Up Montreal, Maryam Majdi, is a “late bloomer” when it comes to tattoos.

Doctor by trade with a PhD in neuro-pharmacology, Majdi turns a cheek to judgment and smiles at the idea of tattoos still being taboo.

“I feel like I’m opening doors for society to see that you can have ink, you can express yourself, and still be any kind of professional.” Well spoken and collected, Majdi is proud to be part of the vastly growing tattoo industry, ignoring potential side comments that come her way.

“A lot of people judge, but by the same token we need to pave the way for women in my field,” Majdi said. “For a lot of them it’s hard to be accepted.”

Despite a latching ’50s idea of what women should and should not do to their bodies, Majdi carries a passion, which she hopes to share with future clients.

“This industry is extremely empowering,” says Majdi. “Especially if you’re a woman.” Disregarding gender, artistic forte is what grounds the authenticity of self-expression.

Ryan Tews, who has been an artist for five years, says that it’s the portfolio that counts, male or female should be seen as irrelevant.

“At one time tattooing was a giant boys club – bikers, sailors and all that,” says Tews. “As a result there are very few seasoned, old school lady tattoo-ers.”

With ink culture still being predominantly male, Tews has seen the community grew to be much more accepting.

“The industry has opened up to women in a big way,” says Tews. “Your portfolio speaks for you, not your gender.” With artistic ability drawing the line between success and failure, female artists are settling into a more positive space.

Erica Cyr, a tattoo artist for two and a half years began her tattoo career as the only female in her shop. “There was never any attitude towards me,” says Cyr. “I was accepted for my art.”

Like any career, it’s the hard work and dedication that makes an employee shine from the rest. Acceptance follows, and is something that Cyr has made prevalent in her life.

“I find now, it’s a lot more about the art, it’s not so much about the persona of the tattoo artist,” says Cyr.

Despite sex, the muscle of tattoo’s still lay in artistic talent.

“If you just want to be better as an artist, you’ll be accepted whether you’re a woman or a man.”

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