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 do you do? I am an elementary school teacher in Vancouver. I teach grade 7 and enjoy it very much.
Who did your ink? I got my first tattoo—a treble clef—at the age of 18, and my daughter’s name on my foot in February 2015 at Millenium Ink (1814 Lonsdale Avenue) in North Vancouver.
Why did you choose that artist to do your tattoo? I actually came across Billy by sheer luck. A good friend of mine knows Jeff Tam, the owner of Monkey King Tattoo.
I went to go see him initially but he was booked solid for a couple years—after all, he’s an amazing artist. Jeff told me he had a new guy working at the shop and I was at first hesitant, but also figured there was no harm in seeing what this guy can do.
I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted my tattoo to look like, but also knew the artist would have to be able to help me make some final decisions as well as meld together a few images I had in my mind.
I sent my ideas to Billy and he expertly put together what he thought I wanted and sent it to me. It was very close to what I was looking for and he also gave me some good advice.
When I went to see him, he was very welcoming and personable. He told me a bit about his background and why he moved to Vancouver and we connected. He made me comfortable and it made me feel as though I could trust him.
Considering tattoos are meant to be permanent, I feel trust is paramount. I also knew that Billy wouldn’t tattoo anything he was super uncomfortable with and, more importantly, anything I wasn’t comfortable with.
The first tattoo with him (the Piglet tattoo) is one of my favourites. He was careful, gentle, and professional. I knew he was someone I was going to come back to see to get more ink. In the last two years, I have had a total of four tattoos done by Billy with likely another one on the horizon.
I’m quite happy not only to call him my tattoo artist, but also my friend.
Is there any meaning behind them? There is most certainly meaning behind every one of my tattoos. I am a firm believer in ink being art and is a personal expression.
My first tattoo was a treble clef. My best friend through high-school and I essentially got matching ones—only hers has a red heart dangling from the treble clef. We met in band class in high-school and we've both always had a love of music. We still talk and see each other sporadically, but not nearly enough.
My second tattoo was of my daughter’s name. It’s pretty self-explanatory. I had wanted to get something to commemorate her, simply because she’s just such an amazing kid.
She brightens my world and is fully accepting of who I am and we have unconditional love for each other. She makes me a better person. This way I am able to carry her with me everywhere.
My third tattoo is the one of Piglet holding the heart balloon. I’ve always loved Piglet from Winnie the Pooh. He’s a truly loyal friend and, although little, is brave and approaches his fears. The concept of him is what I truly enjoy. My daughter was also born in the year of the golden pig on the Chinese zodiac—how fitting!
In some ways, he represents me. Piglet is also holding a heart balloon filled with different coloured puzzle pieces. This is representative of my life. I’ve been through several hardships, as most of us have. The balloon is heart-shaped because I have a big heart. I like to do the little things for people and am thoughtful.
The different puzzle pieces are aspects of my life, all fitting together to make my heart whole. It may sound cheesy, but it also completely makes sense.
The fourth tattoo was the yin yang sign and Chinese characters. The yin yang is indicative of balance. I am constantly trying to achieve balance in life, in all my relationships, and within myself. The balance keeps me grounded and allows me to move forward.
As for the Chinese characters, they represent the four elements: earth, water, wind, and fire. I wanted the four elements not only to pay homage to my ethnic background but also to represent gaining knowledge from all areas of the universe: north, south, east, and west. I am a life-long learner with an insatiable curiosity.
My fifth tattoo is the one of the purple gerbera daisy and my daughter’s name. Yes, I have two tattoos with my daughter’s name. I wasn’t completely happy with the one on my foot and I will likely, at some point, do something different with it. In the meantime, I got another!
Gerbera daisies are my favourite flower. I can’t help but feel happy when I see them. Simply put, I think they are a wonderfully happy flower and they are also so bright and cheerful, popping with colour. Purple is my favourite colour: the mix of blue and red, and happiness, calm, and feistiness.
Along with my favourite flower and colour, I wanted my favourite person, and therefore my daughter’s name. Her favourite colour is blue and so it made sense to also add some blue to the flower. Billy wasn’t stoked on doing script at first, but he did a fantastic job.
Who's your favourite local tattoo artist? Without a doubt, Billy DeCola. He has a such a positive persona and energy that it’s hard to not be drawn to him.
Go see him, you won’t regret it!
What's next on your ink list? To be honest, I’m not completely sure. I love the mountains and the water—anything outdoors, really—so maybe something with the environment. Nature therapy is a good friend of mine.
I do also love the idea of peace and living life to its fullest, so perhaps something about unalome (a Buddhist spiritual tattoo connected to birth, life’s roller coaster, leading to the lotus flower). However, it seems to be becoming more popular than I’d like.
There’s also the concept of ubuntu: I am because we are; speaking to the interconnected of us all. As you can tell, I’m a bit of a thinker. All that being said, Billy has teased me in saying he wants to do a huge arm or back piece on me! That will take some convincing.
I’m sure with upcoming conversations I will have with Billy, decisions will be made and I will be tremendously happy with my next tattoo, whatever it may be.