Handpoked by Liz

Liz tattooing a palm. insta: @handpokedbylizard

Lizard is a local tattoo artist.  Liz, naturally obsessed with sanitizing and cleanliness, started tattooing a few years ago practicing in their apartment on themselves and their roommate at the time.  They did about 10 tattoos in a year and it unexpectedly became the career they wanted to pursue.

Liz started as an apprentice like many traditional tattooers, but their style is totally unique in the Sault. They are the only hand-poked tattoo artist in the region.

Handpoke tattooing is a machineless process where a sterile tattoo needle is dipped in ink then pushed into the skin. The results are amazingly unique and a totally different experience than getting a machine tattoo.

Liz compares, “a lot of folks describe a machine tattoo feeling like a hot cat scratch, but a hand-poked tattoo feels more like plucking hairs.  Still uncomfortable, but not nearly as painful.” Handpoke tattoos take more time, but the results are worth it.

Liz is a self-motivated, self-taught artist who has honed their craft into such a distinct style, individual from other artists in the area.

Starting out, Liz had to work especially hard because there were no handpoke artists to learn from, “there was no such thing as accessible hand-poking apprenticeships. I managed to earn an apprenticeship for machine tattooing where I was able to start offering clients handpoked tattoos between paying my dues. After about a year of doing that, it became clear to me that handpoking was my thing, despite the intimidation of being the only tattoo artist in the Sault not using a machine.”

Liz left their last shop when the shutdown first started last year.  Liz had just completed their apprenticeship and decided it would be good timing to go solo and try to pursue an independent career.

“I have only been tattooing in shops for two years now. So the majority of my tattoo career up until this point has been in the pandemic. It’s almost like I never got to experience what it was like working as a full time tattoo artist before the shutdown. I’ve done more tattoos with masks on than without.”

Liz shares what it has been like as a new tattoo artist during the pandemic.

“Mentally, it’s more straining than it was before. Before there was the stress of doing the job and doing the job well every day. Because it does take a lot of trust, responsibility, respect and a lot of hard work to be able to do this job properly. People are literally putting how their skin looks in your hands, right? And you have to take that seriously.”

Liz is immunocompromised, so doing their job during the pandemic, working closely with strangers, is a mental minefield.

“Every interaction that you have with a client is automatically that much more meaningful now, because it has to be as safe as humanly possible. I think that’s the most stressful part of all.”

During the shutdown, tattoo studios were forced to close their doors.  Liz spent that time working on their art.

Liz’s artwork at their workstation.

“It is all about making art as much as humanly possible. Getting shut down and not being able to work has been really frustrating, not just financially but emotionally. I found a lot of solace personally in rediscovering things like painting and crafting and learning as much as I can.”

“Just like any skill or talent or trade, if you don’t use it, you lose it. If I wasn’t being creative every day, if I’m not working on flash designs, or working on client drawings for when we inevitably open up again, I feel like that would have made me go crazy.”

Liz is now working in SKINdeep Tattoo Studio in the Paul Mall downtown.  The response since things have opened up again has been overwhelmingly positive, and their books are completely full for now.

Liz is only booking one month in advance in case there is another shutdown, but will be reopening them for May in the coming weeks, pandemic permitting.

“I’m incredibly lucky. I have arguably some of the best clients in the city,” Liz shares.

Liz’s work can be found on instagram: handpokedbylizard