Who Did Your Ink? is the Straight’s weekly feature, where we ask badass Vancouverites about the talented artists, indelible stories, and, at times, questionable antics behind their most treasured tattoos.
What's your name? Thomas Lockhart.
What do you do? I'm a semi-retired tattooist—just finishing off what I've started—and a tree farmer in the Okanagan valley during the warm weather. I spend my winters at my house in the Caribbean.
Although I graduated from the University of Carleton trained as a commercial pilot (I still fly recreationally with my own ultralight), it was toward the end of the Vietnam War that I completed my program and there were an abundance of pilots. Tattooing appealed to me so I thought I'd try it, you know? Just for a year.
Who did your ink? Back in the 1970s, there was no apprenticing—you purloined a machine or made one yourself and started scratching. In order to excel, I knew it was paramount to track down the supreme tattoo artists so I started attending tattoo conventions stateside.
At the time, Don Nolan, Cliff Raven, and Ed Hardy were the best so that's where I started my sleeves. I later became enthralled by the Japanese and began the first of many treks to Yohohama, where I was poked by Horiyoshi (Nakano) and Horiun (Ohwada) a number of times. Along the way, I had a little fill done by Shore, Irons, Cameron, Pato, had some hand-poking done in Sarawak, and a major swath done by Jefferies.
Is there any meaning behind it? My bodysuit is a traditional Japanese kimono. The back has a demon (my alter ego) fighting a number of Tengus (representing my varied and numerous vices) and the sides are basically a representation, in animal form, of yin and yang.
Who's your favourite local tattoo artist? Locally, I probably admire and owe the most to Dave Shore. He was free with his time and advice and was my biggest single influence. Bryan Zuk [at Ace Tattoo in Langley] has the best stories and is my biggest source of local lore and history.
What's next on your ink list? I've owned a few tattoo parlours: West Coast Tattoo, originally on Davie Street and now on Hastings; Tengu Tattoo in Victoria; and Tattoo Tropical on Canary Island. Over the last five decades, I probably punched in over 60 bodysuits and 700 sleeves, and am still trying to finish off many of them.
I've also been involved in over 30 movies as an actor and a consultant. This culminated in Vanishing Tattoo, a documentary pilot for National Geographic that was filmed in Borneo on the Skrang River. I'm currently authoring a book on the history of tattooing on the West Coast.
It's been a blast—a whirlwind of excitement—but it sure has taken it's toll.