BUSINESS PROFILE: A new Perspective on tattooing
Housed in our Columbia Avenue landmark The Velvet Building, Perspective Tattoo is currently on the cusp of undergoing a cosmetic and structural makeover similar to that undertaken on The Velvet’s exterior; while Velveteen landlord Andy Talbot tinkers with the burgundy frontage, Perspective Tattoo’s resident artist and owner/operator Sean Cooper is preparing to expand his second floor studio space.
In a recent cold November rain (cue the Guns N’ Roses), this writer was able to catch Mr. Cooper during a rare spell of relative calm. Leaned up against his custom curved furnishings in his modern, well-lit headquarters, Sean spoke of his various trades, crafts, art and other activities that have helped shape him into our de facto local ink-slinger.
I took a seat. He chose to stand (plenty of Sean’s time is spent stooped over clients, therefore respite is taken vertically), and we got things rolling.
An R-Town fixture since 2002, Sean has spent much of his adult life living in ski towns with time served in Jasper (’93 to ’99), and then Fernie until his relocation here. A former professional cross-country mountain biker, the same weave that captured a lot of us in the Mountain Kingdom driftnet snagged Sean.
Peering out the window (with a great view of our dusted peaks), Mr. Cooper nods. “I’m here to do some skiing, same as everyone else. I just got some new boots.”
Surrounded by Sean’s canvases and 2D visual art, the studio is at once inviting and comfortable, an atypical atmosphere for someone more accustomed to the tattoo studios found alongside head shops and bail bondsmen in big city USA. It’s rare to find a space that is at once immaculately kept and sterile, but still able to encapsulate and project the character of the resident craftsperson/craftspeople.
The studio, then, is a rarity in that it is so successful in conveying the personality of its proprietor, that is, laid back, composed, and at ease with it/himself.
Of the setting and selected works, Sean shrugs and states, “I’ve always been an artist, I grew up with it.”
With a bevy of familial influences such as mom being a watercolour painter and grand-dad a cabinetmaker, it is clear in Perspective’s interior and Sean’s other work that the lineage has made a lasting impression.
Consider, even further back, the roots of Sean’s surname; like Taylor, Smith or Carver, Cooper is a trades-derived name, coopers skilled woodworkers that crafted water-tight barrels to house all manner of liquid libations.
[NOTE: Such a barrel may have proved useful at the recent Lifecycles premiere where Mr. Cooper was observed transporting many a beer amidst the revellers and MTB fans, but mid-interview I resisted the urge to lend voice to said observation… only to scribe it here. Ha]
Sean’s affinity with and ability in the mountain bike scene has obviously played into his development as an artist. With a background in CAD design and metalworking, he used to build custom MTB frames as “Whiley Tube Works,” adding another personal touch and element of customization in the form of airbrush graphics and detailing, a practice that eventually led to airbrushing Harley tanks, goalie masks, vans, and other less conventional items.
In his tattoo work (generally conducted Fridays and Saturdays, his Mondays through Thursday being spent working as a finishing carpenter), Sean draws most of his inspiration from the clients themselves.
“I like working with peoples’ ideas, matching the art with the concept.”
‘Fleshing the idea out,’ as it were?
“I draw from [clients] and help them realize their vision, create the atmosphere and the mood. For me, sketching and development are the real time commitment. I’m not in a rush to cram ink into people, so when I’m not comfortable with where the design is at, the client has to wait.”
Sean approaches all of his work with the same discipline and emphasizes that jobs, however big or small, represent a real commitment both for him and the client. Recognizing the permanence of the medium (barring a date with a laser), he observes that, “…a big back piece gets the same treatment as someone getting a small piece. Touch-ups, cover-ups, it all deserves the time needed to get it right.”
With an eye to growth similar to that set on the process of tattooing, Sean’s expansion of the studio is well-thought-out and meticulous. When the renovation is complete, the committed gallery space will showcase his artwork and that of friends and associates, while the studio space, complete with autoclave, equipment, etceteras, will feature increased elbowroom and creative zones.
With shop helpers Kaileah Wert and Catherine Craig helping things along, the perspective and outlook is positively… positive. And who knows? Further down the line, it may even grow into a family business; Sean and wife Heather have two daughters, Alora and Sienna. The latter is already expressing an interest in the trade.
“She draws on her friends at daycare,” Sean laughs, proud father of another budding artist in the Cooper clan. Maybe she’ll go into barrel making…
Perspective Tattoo is located on the 2nd floor of The Velvet Building at 2197 Columbia Avenue. Appointments can be booked by calling (250) 231-0144, or you can drop in on Sean and the Perspective crew some time this season and see what the buzz is all about.