Body Art & Soul
by Alex Nikolic, Tofino
He received his first one at the age of sixteen--a "sacred heart" inked by the person who would become his teacher. It was quickly evident that David Lamy had a passionate connection with the ritual and spirituality of giving and receiving tattoos. His first two years doing piercings at Montreal's Mystic Tattoo turned into a four-year tattoo apprenticeship under the intense scrutiny of his mentor. This prepared him for the pressure and care that comes with leaving indelible marks on his clients' skin.
In 2000 he started a home studio, and a few months later opened a small tattoo parlour, Ritual Tattoo, in Montreal. He spent the summer on the west coast of Vancouver Island in 2006 and returned briefly to Montreal. Seeking a new beginning and a new life, he packed his belongings in his truck and made his way back across Canada, drawn by the spiritual nature of the Pacific Rim.
Spending his time surfing, connecting with nature and living out of his truck at the landfill, he had no intention of opening a tattoo shop in Tofino. Nonetheless, a little voice in the back of his head kept suggesting it was what he should do. After giving the odd tattoo to friends, he decided to invest his savings in his entrepreneurialism, and "let it ride on a feeling." With the bank and landlord convinced his venture was viable, David officially opened Ritual Tattoo above Live To Surf in Tofino on September 1st, 2007.
For David, the tattoo ritual is a spiritual experience. He sees receiving a tattoo as a personal exploration and growing experience, and the body as a structure for expression. It's more than a tattoo," he asserts, "it's a reflection of someone's character. To pick something from your soul and put it on your skin is like a meditation."
"Tattoo releases endorphins that ease the pain, not unlike the physical rush of surfing.
It forces someone to focus on the self and how to deal with their threshold of pain. It makes you go inside yourself and accept what you are receiving. There is a spiritual advancement and forgiveness in receiving pain without giving pain." He often uses un-inked needles on more sensitive parts of his own body so he may relate to his clients who choose to receive tattoos there. He also uses his own body as a canvas for his artistic creations.
David's love for giving tattoos is a constant reminder of why he started tattooing. Again, "it's more than just a tattoo." It is an avenue to reach and connect with people. "I immerse myself in the tattoo. My heart is in the tattoo. A close relationship and bond between client and artist is important. It is an honour to participate in the client's spiritual journey." Not surprisingly, because of the trust developed through his work, David has formed many friendships with his customers and his most memorable tattoos have been ones he has given to friends.
He enjoys working together on designing tattoos with clients and encourages them to participate in the process by giving careful thought and researching their design. "I do it the old-school way. I don't judge, but if it doesn't feel right I'll ask them to think about it a bit longer." Having lost his portfolio in the mail, he relies a good deal on his customers' trust and word-of-mouth.
Although he admires the talent depicted in tv programs like LA Ink, "it's not reality. You don't just walk in and get a tattoo and walk out. There's more to it than that." He also cites the importance of a brotherhood, respect and camaraderie, rather than competition, among tattoo artists.
As certain products can become volatile when mixed, Ritual Tattoo pays particular attention to cleanliness and safety. New needles are used for every appointment, tools are sterilized after every use, and used-needles are discarded in approved containers.
Above all, David's passion for the ritual and spirituality of tattoo is reflected in his art and his work.
1180 Pacific Rim Highway,
above Live to Surf • (250) 522-0101
Alex Nikolic is a contributor to a number of publications in BC. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org