Tattoo artist series: Kevin Leippi

This is a selfie of the owner in his shop. He is wearing a white apron, his arms are covered in tattoos, he has a medium beard and glasses. He also is holding a mop in the picture, and the walls in the background are covered in collected art pieces.
This looks like a fun dude! Kevin Leippi

Things to know about getting your first tattoo

Tattooing is an art that many have made their whole careers, including in many shops in Regina. With the creation of Instagram, many people are given a new idea of what tattoos can look like, and thus tattooing has become more popular. Although tattooing may seem like a new art, it has actually been practiced by people for thousands of years (at least).

In Canada, the art of tattooing has long been practiced by Inuit and other Indigenous groups, often for spiritual or coming-of-age reasons. For a while, tattoos were considered sinful and were rejected by settlers who didn’t make an effort to understand their significance. In recent years, tattooing has become a more widely accepted art.

In 1997, Health Canada sought to create a comprehensive guide for tattooing and other body modifications to best project the health and safety of Canadians. In July 1999, the document “Infection Prevention and Control Practices for Personal Services: Tattooing, Ear/Body Piercing, and Electrolysiswas published. Ever since, specific provinces and territories have their own regulations, such as age limits and other tattoo-related modifications.

Today, Regina is no stranger to the tattoo scene, with many people making the art their whole life. Kevin Leippi, the owner of Traditional Tattoo in Regina, has owned his shop for 15 years and is known for his quality work and friendly disposition. Here we ask him about how he became a tattoo artist, and tips for first-time tattoos.

Who are you? How did you get started as a tattoo artist?

My name is Kevin Leippi, and I’ve been tattooing for 20 years in Regina. I own Traditional Tattoo on 1627 Broad Street. I consider myself a jack of all trades when it comes to tattooing; I’m not afraid to try anything. My favourite style is traditional Japanese and new-traditional western.

Before I began tattooing, I would go and get tattoos from all different kinds of tattoo artists. Whenever I expressed any kind of interest in becoming a tattoo artist, these guys always said “You don’t wanna get into tattooing.” At the time, 30 years ago, the tattoo community was small and tattoo artists wanted to protect what clients they had.

My first gig was as an apprentice at a local shop; they didn’t want me there at first, but I kept coming back every single day. I bothered them so much that eventually they hired me, but not [as] an apprentice. I swept floors and learned whatever I could at the time. I talked to the piercer about sterilization, and tattooed a lot of grapefruit, and I waited patiently for something to open up. I stayed for a year and a half, and eventually the other apprentice left for BC and I jumped right into her job. That’s really what you had to do 30 years ago to get into tattooing, you really had to apply yourself. For my apprenticeship, I also didn’t get paid with money, but with experience.

After working there until the end of 2007, the boss sold the building and moved to Regina Beach. I eventually lucked out and was able to get the spot where I am now. I’ve been here for 15 years. Traditional Tattoo is Regina’s longest lasting tattoo shop in the same place. I really enjoy it; you meet a lot of great clients.

What is unique about Regina and its tattoo scene?

Today I find a lot more diversity within the tattoo community. A lot of young ladies [are] getting into the industry, which wasn’t all that common before. Although something I’m a bit upset by is how tattooing becomes a lot about sameness, copying even. Today I see a lot of the same things, small floral tattoos, line tattoos, all of these trends that come and go. But besides that, Regina doesn’t have a strong tattoo scene. Each shop is their own thing, there’s not a lot of mingling besides maybe saying hi at conventions.

I have been to many conventions in North America. These conventions are in Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Colorado, Halifax, Toronto, Medicine Hat. I’ve gone to these at least five-six times, and it’s always a great time. Sometimes I go there to get tattooed by my inspirations which is such a cool experience. I also collect old machines, some worth up to 800 bucks.

What good advice can you give to people who are getting their first tattoo?

1. Do your homework, this is so important. You should know what you’re getting into, and look at other peoples’ advice.

2. Lock down a design or idea to give to the artist, whether it be 2-3 references or a simple line drawing.

3. Call tattoo shops, talk to people about their experience with specific artists. Don’t be afraid to book a consultation, it’s really helpful when gauging how well you like the artist and their shop. Take note of red flags such as hygiene or safety issues. If you book a consultation, know it’s never a requirement to go to that person. Go with your gut and don’t be afraid to say no.

4. Get a good night’s sleep, drink water, don’t be hungover, and assess your own health. Take note how your skin health is, and mention to your artist if you have any scars in the area where you want a tattoo. Especially keloid scars can be tough, and it’s important for you and your artist to work around it. For general scars, be mindful if the scar is under 5 years old as it can change the look of your skin and your tattoo.

5. Consider your pain tolerance and the area you’re getting tattooed. Don’t get a painful area the first time, such as ribs, ditch of the knee, hands, feet, etc. Most people don’t know their pain tolerance when it comes to tattoos. There are a lot of people who use numbing cream as well, which you can often talk to your artist about. I know in my shop I’m partnered with a great brand called Miracle Numb.

To learn more about Kevin Leippi and Traditional Tattoo, visit @traditional_tattoo_regina.


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