Who Did Your Ink?: Margie's Japanese-style tattoos pay tribute to mom

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      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?  Margie.

      What do you do?  I’m a corporate educator by day and an aspiring YouTuber by night.

      I'm working to launch a set of lifestyle-focused YouTube channels (Margieville and Vancity Girls in the Kitchen) in the new year.

      Who did your ink?  I have a couple of small tattoos, which were done 15 to 20 years ago. All of my larger tattoo work, including a full back-piece currently in progress, is by Billy DeCola, owner of Kiku Tattoo Parlour (3299 Smith Avenue, Burnaby).

      Why did you choose this artist to do your tattoo?  It was happenstance that I found Billy. When he moved to Vancouver, he essentially moved into my neighborhood.

      To establish himself in this new market, he had dropped off some of his business cards at local shops. I mentioned to a woman I did business with in the area that I had been checking out tattoo artists around town in hopes of getting some work done to celebrate my daughter. She passed along Billy’s card.

      I looked into his work and his style fit perfectly with what I was looking to do.

      Our initial consultation went well and I was really pleased with the art he came up with for my half-sleeve, so we got started. During the multiple sessions he worked on the tattoo, we built a rapport and, as my desire for further work grew, he was a natural fit for what I had in mind.

      I keep coming back to him because, not only is he a great artist who is constantly honing his skills in a variety of mediums, he’s also a great, funny, and personable guy with a mellow vibe and zero ego despite spending a couple of years on TV.

      Is there any meaning behind them?  There is meaning to everything I have on me now. I’m actually a little late to the game when it comes to getting tattoo work done.

      After getting a couple of tiny tattoos done in my 20s for no other reason than to get tattooed (I know, stellar reasoning there), I didn’t get any more for the longest time. My day job is in a very conservative industry and I have a conservative family so tattoos were frowned upon and large tattoos were definitely a no go.

      As I got older and wiser, I realized that I had to make myself happy and, after the birth of my daughter, I found my confidence. It was finally time to fulfill my desire of putting ink on skin, even if I was starting at the ripe age of 39. And while she may not know about all of them, the Japanese style is a nod to my Asian mom.

      My first piece by Billy is a Japanese traditional half-sleeve featuring narcissus flowers. The narcissus flower is my daughter’s birth flower and we added a tag on the inside of the arm which has my daughter’s name written in hiragana.

      I decided against traditional narcissus flower colours because, in all honesty, as beautiful as nature has made them the narcissus flower colouring is kind of boring. So, Billy and I took inspiration from the bold daisies you can find during the summer and coloured the flowers in an amazing selection of bright colours.

      I'm so glad we did; I love the vibrancy and I get compliments on it all the time.

      My second piece by Billy is a daruma doll on my thigh. I got this tattoo while I was in grad school because of the story behind the daruma.

      A daruma doll is a Japanese doll modeled after the Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism. It is a talisman of good luck or wish fulfillment. The story goes that when you receive a doll—or, in my case, the tattoo—you only colour in one eye.

      You are, in essence, making a deal with the daruma to grant him his second eye when your goal is fulfilled. The really awesome thing about this tattoo is that Billy did much of the colour using a Japanese hand-poke method of tattooing known as tebori.

      Even though I’ve since completed grad school, it looks like daruma may be waiting a little longer for his second eye, while I work on furthering some of my other goals.

      My third piece is the back-piece we are currently working on. I brought an idea I had been sitting on for over a decade to Billy and he was just as excited as I was to dive into it, which was awesome.

      It’s a geisha piece with some additional elements like a set of books, a monkey, and a lot of flowers worked into the scene. These various symbols in the piece celebrate my daughter, my education, rebirth, renewal, and personal growth.

      In particular, the symbolism of the geisha was important to me. Traditionally, geishas were not only dressed and adorned beautifully, but they were also highly skilled and educated in arts and culture and provided entertainment through music, drama, games, and conversation.

      I loved the idea of a multi-faceted woman who is "more than meets the eye"—something that I think represents me in a way. I may look like your run-of-the-mill corporate trainer during the day but when the suit jacket comes off, my tattoos reveal a whole other layer of who I really am.

      Who's your favourite local tattoo artist?  Well, of course, Billy DeCola.

      I also love the artwork of Moorea Hum and Frank Grimes and hope to get work done by them in the not-too-distant future. I’m also a big fan of the black and grey flower tattoos done by Vanessa Dong.

      What's next on your ink list?  Well, Billy and I need to finish off this back-piece which will probably be done in the next few months.

      We’re also planning to extend my half-sleeve to a three-quarters-sleeve next year and maybe get started on a set of black and grey roses on my stomach.

      I have plenty of clean space left and a ton of ideas, which will probably keep me going back to the tattoo parlour well into my 60s. They’re not kidding when they say it’s an addiction!