All you have to do is go downtown and take a look around to know that body art is growing, and fast.
People from all walks of life now have tattoos and piercings. And in a shop on Carleton Street called Dead Tree, nobody takes pride in their body art more than Jeff Forrest, professional piercer.
“I apprenticed under someone who eventually moved to the United States, but he left me with a good skill set,” Forrest said. “And owning my own piercing shop is something I’ve always wanted to do, so as soon as I got back from the oil sands, I got to it.”
Being in the industry for eight years, Forrest’s journey into entrepreneurship has actually been a rather smooth one.
“When I came back and started my shop, I had a decent following already of people who knew me and knew what I did before when I used to pierce four years ago, and they’ve all pretty much come back to me,” he said.
However, Forrest’s journey hasn’t been completely devoid of problems.
“Probably the biggest difficulty I’ve faced is that people are a little hesitant to rent space to tattoo and piercing shops, based on the way they used to run,” he said.
“But they’re not like that anymore, we’re not affiliated with thugs. Tattoo and piercing is clean, it’s artistic and it’s safe.”
Though being a piercer is pretty badass, Forrest said it’s something that takes skill and dedication.
“Piercing can be difficult to get into because it can be hard to get apprenticed,” he said.
“We don’t want to take just anyone off the street, they have to be passionate about the industry. Not to mention that the master is pretty much liable for the apprentice’s mistakes.”
As a trade, the piercing industry is quite different from most others. You don’t go to school and get a degree in it.
“A good apprenticeship should last for about a year,” Forrest said. “We wouldn’t let an apprentice pierce for a while, an apprentice would mostly be watching for the first months before they do any piercing.”
Forrest is very happy to own his own piercing shop, and has some words of advice for anyone else who wants to do the same.
“Do it right,” he said. “Get an apprenticeship, and go through the steps you need to go through, don’t just do it out of your house. And you have to be assertive enough to do what it takes to get where you need to be.”
Customer experience is also a key ingredient for success in the industry.
“You also have to care about your customers, because they’re also your clients,” he said. “A customer who has a good experience will refer more, so you need that reputation as an artist who cares.”
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