Introducing Ink & Water, Toronto’s Coolest New Tattoo Shop

Getting a tattoo is perhaps the most intimidating, nerve-racking beauty experience ever. It’s painful, permanent and don’t even get me started on the incessant, slightly terrifying sound of a tattoo gun. As someone with three tattoos and zero positive tattoo shop experiences (they were fine but impersonal and, like I said, intimidating), walking into Toronto’s new(ish) shop Ink & Water was a breath of fresh air.

The shop, located at Bloor and Lansdowne, is large, airy and beautiful (aka very Instagrammable). From the white brick walls to the pink neon signs to the lush plants and cute merch, not only is Ink & Water a millennial’s dream photo opp, but it also set the stage for an ultra-relaxed, chill environment. And who wouldn’t want that, while being stabbed repeatedly with tiny needles?

I sat down with founders Prairie Koo AKA Mr. Koo and Michael Pecherle, and Ink & Water artist Tiff Lee, about what makes the shop so special.

FASHION: Happy one year anniversary! How did the idea for this shop come about?
MP: To be honest with you, it was just meant to be a fun thing. He [Mr. Koo] was a designer full-time. I was doing sculptures on a commission basis. We just were kind of having fun exploring a new art form. This came up and we said we should give it a shot. For some reason we took it very seriously. A year later, here we are.

FASHION: The shop is often referred to as being “femme-focused and inviting.” Can you elaborate on that?
TL: When you look at the general design of the shop, it’s very clear that it’s supposed to be a welcoming environment. I think a lot of tattoo studios are somewhat intimidating. When you create a welcoming environment, it creates a safer space. It’s a pretty intimate experience, tattooing. You go from meeting someone and then they’re semi-nude. There isn’t that pretension or desire to intimidate here.

FASHION: Would you say most people coming in are getting their first tattoo?
PK: Not most but a lot of them, especially my clientele, because they’re not committing to huge pieces.
MP: We do have a pretty high percentage of people coming in for their first tattoo. They’re recommended this place because people say it’s clean and safe. When people say ‘safe,’ I find it kind of funny [because it’s like] we’re not going to attack you or anything. Every time you look at a tattoo, you have a very vivid memory of getting it. If you look at it and go, “That guy was a fucking dick” or “What place was so creepy,” that’s with youfor the rest of your life.
PK: We even always have the same incense burning that’s very unique to our shop. I bring it back from India.
MP: We expect that if you’re remembering a tattoo from us, [the memory] has to be just as good as the tattoo itself. Both go hand in hand.

FASHION: Do you work with your clients on designs?
MP: It’s so important that there’s an actual connection. They walk in, we shake their hands, sit down, refine the idea. We have a coffee, have some candy… We’re taking their idea and tailoring it to them specifically. A lot of people come with ideas that are very general that anyone could do it. But it’s our job to take that [idea], have a meeting, and say, “What does this mean to you?”

FASHION: What are your favourite body parts to tattoo?
TL: Legs and arms all day, every day.
PK: I like skull and face tattoos.
MP: I only do neck tats. [laughs] The best case scenario to tattoo is the top of the forearm or top of the thigh. It’s nice, tight skin. You barely have to stretch the skin. You’re just drawing at that point.

FASHION: How have your techniques changed since you started in this industry?
TL: I feel like the first year you’re tattooing, you’re just a fucking idiot. You’re just going through it and don’t know what the fuck you’re doing. You’re just trying to figure it out. I started five years ago before shops like this were open. I was tattooing with grungy guys. I was tattooing in places where they didn’t teach you. I was tattooing in places that were meant to intimidate.
MP: When you first start…that’s a rough first year. As an artist, you’re constantly critical of your work. I’ve done tattoos and [while I’m] doing it I’m thinking, “I’m crushing this.” Then they’d leave and I’d think, “I’m trash.”