After losing his daughter to cancer, tattoo artist Gregory Williams shares his healing through ink
'My daughter, she had a way with life and taught me that everything we do is numbered. Life's not limitless'
This Ink Runs Deep features Indigenous tattoo artists across Canada who are reviving ancestral traditions that were taken away during colonization. Through the film, directed by Asia Youngman, we learn about the practices that were thought to be lost forever, and how their revival reflects a reawakening of Indigenous identity. Stream This Ink Runs Deep now on CBC Gem and worldwide on YouTube.
"My biggest influence influence for wanting to continue as an artist every day is my son, Kayren, and my wife, Susan, and most of all my daughter, who's passed on from cancer," Gregory Williams, a tattoo artist form the Skedans clan of the Haida Nation says as he tells his story to This Ink Runs Deep. "It takes everything in us to just to...just to function, really."
"I feel real connected with her through music and art. The two Ks that I have in Haida ink represent each of my children, Kaya and Kayren. I'm trying to do the best I can to represent her and share her memory with people."
For Williams, whose Haida name is K'aajuu G'aaya, giving tattoos to others is important and intimate emotional work helping others that he's honoured to do. He explains that for the people he tattoos, "They're getting tattoos that signify a part of their life in that moment in time. It's like a stepping stone that they need to move on from something, or a memorial tattoo for somebody. I feel that for me to be a part of that, to help somebody move on from losing somebody or overcoming alcoholism or drugs — I think it's a privilege for me that I get to help someone do that."
"Any tattoo that I do for somebody, it's almost like adding new life into my artwork as well as my own life."
Through this painful journey, Williams hopes he can share his healing with others. "My daughter, she had a way with life and taught me that everything we do is numbered. Life's not limitless and I think that the shop for me, physically, mentally and spiritually helped me. And I'm hoping it can help others."
"I think that people need to pick and choose carefully what they do with themselves, cause everything we do...doesn't last for ever, and I think being an artist is a good way to spend that time."