With files from Rebecca Dingwell, News Editor.
After nine years of tattooing in Nova Scotia, Gabe Squalor decided to fill a need in the community of Halifax by opening up an LGBTQ-friendly tattoo parlour, Outlaw Country Tattoo.
“Ever since I got into tattooing – ever since the very beginning – honestly it was very apparent that it was deeply needed,” she says. “It’s like one of those things where you start to get into an industry and you start to look at your peers standing all around you and you noticed you’re very different from your peers.”
The parlour – located on the corner of North and Clifton Street – will be co-owned by Squalor and her best friend Tucker Bottomley. They hope to open around Oct. 1.
“A lot of people didn’t think we’d make it this far, but we have so much passion and desire to do things like this,” she says. “We’re doing what we’re passionate about, which we believe to be one of the most important things in life.”
Comfortable clients are happy clients
The goal of opening Outlaw Country Tattoo is to make people feel comfortable. Squalor says tattooing is a very intimate experience and it’s important to her that her clients know she cares about them.
Throughout a tattoo, Squalor normally asks her clients how they’re feeling and if they’re okay.
“You could apply that to queers, you know when a queer [person] is asked ‘what is your pronoun?’,” she says. “We then have the opportunity to say what we need, what we want. That’s so important, for tattoo artists to continuously create a platform where then the client can say what they feel, what they need, what they want.”
Throughout Squalor’s time in the tattoo industry she noticed that it’s “an industry for people who can’t behave in your normal day-to-day society.”
“We’re very outspoken, we’re very interesting people, and so in the tattoo industry there’s the good and the bad,” she says.
“There’s all this extra room for people to be freaky. There’s also all this extra room for people to be prejudiced, outwardly. We can speak out about whatever we feel, like there’s so much room in the industry for that because there’s no rules and regulations or any dress code, et cetera. So you’ve got a lot of people just being themselves and that’s great but then on the other hand, because of who’s in power, most of the time you get a lot of people who are able to just express as much hate as they want on whatever they want to hate on.”
A scar that lasts a lifetime
Squalor says, tattoos aren’t just about how they look, but the experience of getting them. She compares a tattoo to a scar: you’ll live with it forever, reminded of it always.
When clients of hers discuss a bad experience in getting a beautiful tattoo she finds herself adding to it or covering it up to help the person through the negativity associated with it.
“Even just the simplest touch can really heal a bad scar like that,” she says. “That is why I focus so much on inclusion and safety in a space and I try to really leave the air open for whatever the client at that moment wants to have as an experience.”
In her experience, Squalor says that the people who are describing bad tattoo experiences are women who’d had misogynistic men who wouldn’t listen as their tattoo artists. It could be a great piece of art, just not for the person who got it.
“When you have something like any kind of non-consensual ink on your body, it really impacts your life. Every time you look down you see this time that you tried to say no and it didn’t work, or you weren’t asked if the tattoo artist could do this or that.”
When a simple change is made it changes the clients view of the piece. Squalor says, “the intention has been set in through the ink and the client can feel that and it’s healing.”