Accidental tattoo artists

Emilio Hidalgo trained in Peru, where he was born. | Photo by Gurk Bains

The Vancouver Tattoo and Culture show will be at Vancouver Convention Centre in Canada Place, Hall C on Apr. 20–22. With almost everyone nowadays having at least one tattoo, it is hard to believe a time when being a tattoo artist was not seen as a good profession.

Two artists who saw the possibilities in the medium are Emilio Hidalgo who can be found at The Fall Tattoo Studio and Mirella Stefanucci of Mirella’s Touch of Class Tattoos in Burnaby.

Old country, olden days

Born and raised in Lima, Peru, Hidalgo wanted to be an artist, but his parents wanted him to study something more respectable.

“They wanted me to study architecture, but I wanted to do art,” he says.

Once in art school in Peru, Hidalgo discovered tattooing. He left school and went to a shop in the city to help out and in 2000, he started tattooing as a career. Tattoos still carried a stigma in Peru: his first clients were gangsters, the kind of people that did not care about stigma and could afford tattoos. In 2007, leaving his shop in the hands of his sister, he moved to Canada with his Canadian wife and started working as just an artist at the Fall. With the headaches of owning a shop gone, he likes that he can focus on his art and leave the business to other people.

New world pioneer

Mirella Stefanucci was the firstwoman to own a tattoo studio in Canada. | Photo by Gurk Bains

Vancouver born Stefanucci has been tattooing for over 25 years, but tattooing came into her life almost by mistake when she was in high school.

“I hated school, but I loved art so took every art course I could take. I was going to become a graphic artist when just by fluke I met a tattoo artist.” Says Stefanucci.

The tattoo shop she walked into was Curly’s Tattoos. He thought she was a great artist and asked her if she would like to come help out in the shop and it took off from there. Just like Hidalgo, Stefanucci had a bit of pushback from her parents.

“I was the little Italian girl and Mom and Dad wanted me to work in an office and conform to that kind of life and it really was not my cup of tea.”

Directly from her apprenticeship Stefanucci opened her first studio in Vancouver, becoming the first female artist to own her own tattoo studio in Canada.

The future

For Hidalgo the future lies back in his home country of Peru. He wants to develop his art and broaden his influence on the tattoo world and then go and maybe own a small shop in the country. Where people who want his kind of tattoo will come and find him.

“I would like to move back to my country one day and be more relaxed. Somewhere out of the city and people who like my work will follow where I am,” he says.

For Stefanucci the industry is headed for a bright future.

“I don’t know if it could get any better than what it is. These young artists are just phenomenal. When I started no one was aspiring to be a tattoo artist and now kids are going to art school so that they can become tattoo artists,” she says.

For both these artists who have made a career out of practicing art in a way they did not originally thought possible, it has become clear that the stigma of tattoos are going away and art schools are now not accidentally giving us tattoo artists, but eagerly training the next generation of body artists.

Some of those young tattoo artists will be displaying their art and capability at the Vancouver Tattoo Show.

For more information, please visit