Kaitlin Todd has been collecting tattoos her whole life.
She started when she was eight years old, printing off designs from Google images. Once she turned 18, she had them tattooed onto her body. Now her love of tattoos has led to an apprenticeship under Andrew Schmah at the 100 Mile Tattoo Studio.
“I’ve always loved drawing so it feels good to be making a living doing it,” Todd, 28, said. “You pretty much work for yourself, it’s not a bad gig.”
Her apprenticeship started three years ago. Her first lessons focused on how to properly clean skin before inking to avoid the spread of blood-borne pathogens, as well as how to talk to clients. “It was a lot of watching, learning and absorbing what Andrew does,” she said.
She then practiced her design work with pen and paper and later by tattooing oranges and grapefruits. The fruit allowed her to evaluate how deep she was inking by peeling the fruit.
“It’s a starter and it gets you comfortable with how the machine moves and the weight of it. That’s all something that you have to factor in and you can figure that out without doing it on somebody’s skin.”
Her first real tattoos were done on herself, her mom and Schmah. She only began taking clients just over a year ago.
“It’s a very stressful idea altering somebody’s body for the rest of their lives,” Todd said. “It definitely took some borrowed confidence to get started.”
Todd said it’s important to work with her clients on what a tattoo will look like before she starts the tattoo. While her mentor’s style is dark and realism-focused, Todd has found a love for colour, thin lines and loose-flowing designs. Flowers have especially captivated her interest.
“I wouldn’t say I have a style specifically yet but that tends to be what I like to do. It’s funny because that’s not what I thought my style would be and it’s definitely not the style of tattoo I get, but I like them and clients are always happy.”
Most of the clients in 100 Mile House also don’t fit the usual mold. Rather than bikers or young people, she tends to tattoo mothers and grandmothers. She said some were turned away because past tattoo artists didn’t like their designs or because they didn’t have enough tattoos.
Todd said she does her best to make them feel comfortable and welcome.
“It’s a very interesting industry to be in. It’s very accepting and I like that it’s becoming a lot more female-dominated,” Todd said. “It used to definitely be a very ‘biker guy’ scene but that’s not the way it is anymore.”