Culture | Mile End ink

Bodkin tattoo has left a mark on Bernard

A little over a year ago, Mile End’s Bernard gained a welcome addition for ink enthusiasts. Artist Dominique Bodkin owns Bodkin Tattoo, a neighborhood business with a cozy feel and a sharp approach to body art. Business is growing swiftly for this Mile End parlor, who recently celebrated its one-year anniversary.

The shop is one large room, with a small, enclosed area at the back for clients who prefer to have ink applied away from curious onlookers. The place feels like an old repurposed Mile End apartment, with vintage wall trim and mouldings. Posters of classic tattoo drawings and inked sailors share the wall with eclectic art prints. Inviting, mismatched couches and armchairs add to the cozy atmosphere of the shop. As I talked to the artists, a young client was checking out tattoo drawings with an artist while his friends alternately joined in conversation and played DJ on the shop’s laptop.

Tattoo artist David Choquette is the latest addition to the team. Hired only three weeks ago, he was drawn to Bodkin after several stints at other studios. “Bodkin is a welcoming place,” Choquette explained. “Away from the larger downtown studios there is more freedom for creativity.”

His arrival brings the team to three artists, two of them women – Dominique herself and tattooist Jessi Preston. The female majority makes this shop exceptional in the tattoo world, which is heavily dominated by male artists.

In opening her shop, Dominique Bodkin followed in the steps of her father, a tattoo artist from Quebec who often pops into the Bernard business. This legacy, reflected in the old photographs hanging in the shop, shapes Bodkin’s character. It’s no surprise that her father passed down the torch in an artistic tradition that has often marked by familial relations or cultural ties.

The vintage decor of the shop  reflects the blend of tradition and modernity in the artists’ work. The artists at Bodkin specialize in both custom and classic tattoos. Choquette noted a growing trend for an old-fashioned style as vintage tattoos have been experiencing a comeback. Checking out Bodkin’s surroundings, it’s clear that this retro lean is part of more widespread aesthetic nostalgia, manifest in a neighborhood cluttered second-hand clothing stores, such as Annex Vintage and Citizen Vintage nearby. “More clients are coming in for their first tattoos,” noted Choquette, “and tattoos have been getting bigger,” a fact the Bodkin artists attribute to a growing acceptance of body art in mainstream society.

Bodkin’s approach to tattooing blends tradition and innovation. Customers can choose from pre-drawn tattoos or create their own with the artist. The process can be as collaborative as the client wishes. “Large tattoo studios are often less flexible,” Choquette pointed out.

Bodkin Tattoo’s character makes it ideally suited to the neighborhood, which is a large part of the shops success. Choquette noted the shop among the Bernard  businesses, most of which are also relatively small. The shop relies heavily on neighborhood patrons, and walk-ins make up at least half the clientele. It’s a neighborhood spot in the best of ways – and with Bodkin around, the neighborhood will be getting inked for years to come.


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