Why do you get tattoos? Why does anyone? Have you ever wondered why the people who give you tattoos first got theirs? 

Laura Casey at Lady Lo

Laura Casey is likely better known under her studio moniker Lady Lo, and is now into her third year at her Duckworth Street studio, Lady Lo’s Custom Tattoos.

Laura got her first tattoo, two swallows on her ribcage, at age 15, an age she says is a bit earlier than she’d recommend to any of her clients. She drew the birds herself, and says that even at such an early age, the tattoo was “very sentimental” to her.

Now Laura has 17 pieces in total, “with two pieces merging together on my back.” While working in the industry, she got a few tattoos she said she wouldn’t have normally planned.

“Sometimes when you’re not busy you can just be like yeah screw it,” she said. One day a shop she was working in had five cancellations, so she filled that time by getting a camel tattooed on her toe. Even though it was “spur of the moment, I do not regret that one.”

Other pieces that she did plan feature photos of her family, including a Polaroid of her and her siblings taken when she was about one. She says her mom didn’t love it, saying there were “a lot better photos of you guys!”

As for the ravens on her hands, she got the idea while travelling. “They live in family groups, they leave each other in the day time, but they always go back and nest together.”

Laura said that love tattoos are something she and her husband have in common, and the ravens aren’t the only ones they share. “I have what you would call a glove, it starts on my forearm and goes down to my hand, and my husband has the upper half, it starts where mine ends, and goes up his arm.”

Laura says people get tattoos because “we live in a culture where we’re constantly trying to find a way to seek individuality. Whether expression comes from clothing or something that you do, music or art or whatever, we’re just looking for a way to express uniqueness. Tattoos, they’re a way for people to express little bits of themselves to the outside world without having to shout it.”

Dave Munro at Trouble Bound

Dave Munro is the owner of a popular, long running studio called Trouble Bound. Dave’s first tattoo came when he was 16, he has since covered it with another piece.

Tattooing wasn’t really considered a profession when Dave got his start, working in one of only about five tattoo shops in Toronto back in 1993. He’s now been doing it for 22 years.

Many of Dave’s own tattoo inspirations come from his favourite movies. “My left arm is mostly movie monsters because I grew up watching monster movies.”

His right arm is a little more serious, featuring Easter Island statue heads – a fascinating discovery that has stuck with him since learning about Easter Island on a 70’s TV show called Max the Mouse.

Dave says he doesn’t really have any “whim” tattoos, and that “not all of them carry specific meanings, some are very distinct to me or my family, or where I come from.”

Dave also thinks there is still an unequal balance between how people with tattoos are viewed, in that a “260-pound male with tattoos” will be regarded differently than, say, a woman. “A woman will always find that they will get asked more questions and face more social pressures for having tattoos than I will … because our society is f**ked.”

So then why do people get tattoos? Dave thinks it’s because people are stupid, but that’s half the fun of it for him.

“Human beings have been stabbing each other with charcoal and soot since the dawn of time, it predates language…we’ve always done it, I don’t think we’ll ever understand why we do it. It’s not practical and it’s not logical, and it’s one of the things I enjoy about it.”