Mandy Wendt: Immaculate Concept tattoo artist 

 The air smells like sterilization, and all you hear are machines constantly buzzing and buzzing. A place with strong smells, strong noises, and strong personalities shouldn’t be enticing, but apparently it is. It’s Mandy Wendt’s sanctuary. It’s this single mom’s creative outlet, and her second home: Immaculate Concept Tattoo.

Wendt has been a tattoo artist for seven years in Calgary, and has been at Immaculate Concept for four of those years.

Sitting in her private office surrounded by drawings, paintings, and stencils, Wendt discusses how she got into the tattoo business: “I think its just chance.

You know when it feels right you just do it. So I fell into the industry through meeting people who saw my art,” she says, adding with a laugh, “maybe I’m just really comfortable with men; maybe I was just cool to hang out with dudes all day long.”

Wendt started at another shop called Jokers and admits, “I was aware that my work wasn’t that good, but I loved what I did, so I just kept doing it.”

A new single mom’s big break

Her journey to Immaculate Concept came right after she gave birth to her son Cairo Durand. The day she gave birth (almost four years ago) was the day she got the biggest break in her career. She received an email from her now manager, Steve Peace, about an opening at his shop on the day her son was born.

Steve Murdoch getting work done on his first Mandy Wendt tattoo

Photo by: Jessica Brady “Now it’s a constant struggle of timing,” she says.

“I became a mom and then started my actual career as a tattooer rather than just moseying in a business that I knew nothing about,” Wendt says.

Peace says he is always actively scouting for amazing artists. “It’s talent that gets you the job, and we knew Mandy wouldn’t be full-time. We knew there would be challenges.”

Peace explains how Wendt’s art “increases the profile of the shop” and as long as he can put her work on their website, “it doesn’t matter if she only works two, three, days a week.”

Even though Peace recognizes the scheduling challenges for a single mom, he boasts: “Mandy, her stuff continuously gets better. That’s what annoys some of the other people here too, because she’ll have time off for her kid, and then come in here and bang out a sleeve that’s flawless. It’s like, ‘Ugh!’”

“At a shop like this I’m always inspired, because I see people working hard at their craft,” Wendt says.

“When I first got into the industry it was more about making money than making good art. I have a very different mentality here — it’s about how to make my tattoos better, and to keep growing as an artist.”

Mandy Wendt painting

Photo by Jessica BradySteve Murdoch, one of Wendt’s newest clients, says during a session, “Through social media I saw some of her work and I loved it. She’s ‘Calgary famous.’ Kind of a big deal. She’s amazing. Couple hours in with her and I’m loving it.”

Wendt says creating art comes in waves, and sometimes it’s difficult to explore her craft.

“The reasons why I don’t, or why I feel it difficult to grow as an artist, is because I have too many distractions,” she says. “When I feel like creating art I might not be able to create it, because I’m at the park playing with my son.”

A change in priorities

Wendt remembers when she first found out she was pregnant over four years ago. “I don’t really think I had a game plan or knew how much my life was going to change.”

But the day she met her son was worth the dramatic change in her lifestyle.

“All of the uncertainty that I was aware I was about to face didn’t really matter, because I had that little life in front of me that I was responsible for, and that’s all that really mattered. I didn’t really think of anything else. It was the best day ever.”

Mandy Wendt and Cairo Durand painting at the shop

Photo by: Jessica BradyBut then reality set in for Wendt. “I was a brand new mom [with a] brand new job opportunity. So I was like, ‘What am I gonna make work here?’”

Wendt says, “I did decide to go back to work when Cairo was only eight weeks old.” It was the hardest thing she ever had to do and she felt that either her parenting relationship was struggling, or her tattoo career was struggling.

After years of hard work Wendt is now in a position where she only has to accept jobs she’s passionate about. She only consults via email but says, “I read the email (and) if their concept sounds like something I feel inspired by, then I’ll get back to them.” This new process allows her to maintain a sense of passion for her career while preserving a happy home for her son.

“Cairo and I, he’s my best pal. He’s super understanding, caring, and considerate. He has the biggest heart ever,” says Wendt. “For me I would rather prioritize my Cairo routine than my tattoo routine.

Now I’m more accepting of being a single mom, [but] I break down a lot because of it, but [Cairo] doesn’t have to see that.”

“I’m finding the balance. I don’t even know if I’m happy with it now. But I’ve stopped beating myself up over it.”

jbrady@cjournal.ca

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