Ryan Gagne is a classic tattoo artist from Calgary who has been working to perfect his trade for the past ten years.
Following some of his recent ventures, Gagne worked at Classic Tattoo in Red Deer, Alta. for four years before moving to a more local position at Strange World Tattoo in Calgary until 2014.
Gagne moved to Government St. Tattoo in Victoria, B.C. in 2014 where he worked for three years before he felt it was the time to open up his own shop.
“We opened up one block away from the beach, right in the heart of downtown Parksville, B.C.!” said Natalie Gagne, Ryan’s wife and now business partner.
The shop was leased in February, followed by a three-month renovation before opening on June 1, 2017.
“It was our blood, sweat, and tears that went into building it, with late nights and early mornings, even weeks without days off,” she said.
“It was the hardest we’ve ever worked but we feel like we won the lottery with it!”
Location was a big factor for Ryan and his wife when deciding where to open up their first tattoo shop.
“We wanted it to be easily accessible for people walking around, and easily spotted by people driving by,” he said, “and luckily, we found that in this spot.”
Gagne said they weren’t planning on opening up a shop in 2017 but that the opportunity couldn’t be missed.
“Our clients travel from all over Canada to see us.”
“Every single day we talk about how lucky we are. It really is a dream come true,” he said.
The walls at Parksville Tattoo are filled with paintings and flash work from some of the best tattoo artists in the world, who happen to be some of Gagne’s closest friends.
“I really feel like you can feel our love and dedication as soon as you walk in the doors.”
At the end of the day, Gagne says that what makes the shop so special to them is that it’s truly their own.
“We wanted a real genuine tattoo shop that was filled with things that inspire us.”
It was a very calculated decision for Ryan and his wife to move to a small town such as Parksville.
They knew for sure that they would have to move to open their own shop out of respect for the man Ryan worked for before.
“What we wanted was a smaller town, with a strong tourism industry. We also really didn’t want to have to move off of Vancouver Island,” said Natalie Gagne.
She says they have been open for six months now and it’s been better than they could have ever anticipated.
“The community has been incredibly welcoming to Ryan and I and he has been busy since the first day we opened our doors.”
Ryan Gagne still comes back to visit Calgary regularly, where he guest spots at Kensho Tattoo in Kensington for his Calgary clients.
“I’ve known Ryan since high school, before any of his popular tattoo artist days,” said Jim Madden, a regular client of Gagne’s.
“Regardless, he continues to be one of my unbiased favourites.
“Ryan did some of the first tattoos I ever got when he was first starting out. Over time they have held up, which says a lot about an artist.”
Madden said that Gagne continued to get better and better with each tattoo he did.
“Ryan has quickly become one of the few artists that I would trust in the world.”
Madden has been getting tattooed by Gagne for the last ten years and shows off some of Gagne’s most well-known work.
“I get stopped all the time about my tattoos by Ryan, but the most popular are my palms.
“The left one is a rose embedded through a horseshoe, which was done in 2008, and the right one is a Japanese mask, done in 2011.”
On top of their professional relationship, Gagne and Madden remain close. Gagne is going to be Madden’s best man at his wedding in 2018.