As a tattoo artist, it's hard to watch your art evolve. You can’t throw away your canvases.
—Nadine Mitchell, tattoo artist and business owner
When Nadine Mitchell first started thinking about becoming a tattoo artist, she didn't have one tattoo.
But she decided to stop pursuing a degree in education and her ultimate goal of becoming an art teacher. Within a few weeks she began volunteering in a shop in Edmonton, drawing custom work for the tattooists and working as a body piercer.
That was in 1994, the same year she would finish the first tattoo she charged for. The above image of The Tick
earned her $50 and Mitchell says going back through her archives was a bit humbling, "As a tattoo artist, it's hard to watch your art evolve. You can't throw away your canvases."
"It's indicative of the trend at the time, Tribal, Celtic, cartoon characters. I like The Tick so I think it's a fun one, I'm pretty proud of it. At least it's not a heart with eagle wings 'cause it could have been," she says, laughing.
Cherry blossoms on a sleeve design in progress. (Nadine Mitchell)
18 years later, Mitchell owns her own shop in Winnipeg and is one of the city's most popular artists. She started Metamorphosis
with her mom, Dianne Matt who left her job as a nurse to help set up the business. "She decided to take the risk to create her own hours, her own life, not have to go to work on Christmas," Mitchell says. "And she does the hard stuff, payroll, ordering, management. She's also a body piercer, though she does that a little less now."
That's because over time, Metamorphosis had grown to be one of the biggest studios in the country, and the 4500 sq. ft. shop in the Exchange District currently employs 11 people.
The tattoo designs at Mitchell's shop are original work. They do a lot of custom designs, and one of Mitchell's favourite challenges, fixing mistakes or reworking old tattoos that clients no longer want.
"A hairstylist had a tattoo of an orchid with shoots of black Tribal coming off it and she was really unhappy looking at that every day," Mitchell explains. So she turned her talents to creating the bold, bright new cherry tree design (above) to put over top.
Over five sessions that lasted about five hours each, Mitchell used the technique she has adapted for cover ups, "My trick is always to lighten things, never to darken. I hit it with lots of medium tones and try to lighten things. So when you're done it might be bigger but you'll have something that's not dark but full of life."