Outlaw Country Tattoo is making tattooing less intimidating for the queer community.
Gabe Squalor and Tucker Bottomley, co-owners at Outlaw Country Tattoo, are this week’s midweek mugging recipients. Squalor, a tattoo artist for almost 10 years, said the decision to open her own shop came out of a need for more accepting spaces.
“I felt like I couldn’t provide the space I needed to for my clientele and ensure their safety at the capacity I should be able to,” Squalor said. “So, the idea of opening up the tattoo shop was...because I was tired of trying to make it work in other, non-queer spaces.”
Located at 6103 North St., the shop offers both traditional and contemporary tattoo styles, along with stick-and-poke. It operates like most tattoo shops, with a few important changes—such as employing people who understand their clients’ experiences.
“The whole shop is centered around queer community,” Bottomley said. “Everybody who works here is in the LGBT community, so that right away is already one factor of it.”
The shop also asks for preferred pronouns and names on waivers, actions that “any shop can do, but they tend to not. They just don’t think of it, because they don’t need to,” Bottomley said.
"We’re not going to be the safest place in the world for everbody, but the thing about the queerness and queer-centred space is people can come into this space and know that whatever experiences that they’ve had in their lives, we can relate...and I think that’s what makes us different,” Squalor said.
Establishing an environment where people feel they belong is important for those outside the queer community as well, Bottomley said. He estimates 75 per cent of their clients are women.
“We try to create a space where people can be themselves, and we also try to be gentle with our clientele, which I think is a very important approach,” Squalor said.
“Gentle and friendly,” Bottomley added. “Because sometimes when you walk into a tattoo shop, you can feel really intimidated...with us, it’s totally different. We engage with the clients, we have conversations with them, we joke around, it just creates a more comfortable atmosphere.”
Those who are interested in getting a tattoo are recommended to make an appointment, as walk-in space is hard to come by. Squalor herself is often booked 3-4 weeks in advance.
She said for her, tattooing isn’t about how a piece looks so much as how it makes a client feel.
“The pieces I’m the most proud of are the pieces that make people feel really good,” Squalor said. “You know, if I have a client and they want me to tattoo their sternum, and all of a sudden they’re wearing crop tops all the time because they just want their tattoo showing, because they love it so much—that to me is how I feel successful.”
For the two friends, who have known each other about 10 years, the important thing is creating an atmosphere everyone feels welcomed in.
“Just because it’s queer-centred, doesn't mean it’s exclusively queer-centred,” Squalor said. “This space is available to anybody who’s willing to respect other people in this shop. We’re not an exclusive space by any means.”
“Just no jerks,” Bottomley said.