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Toronto Tattoo Artists Say Lockdown Has Been More Painful Than They Could've Ever Imagined

Industries across Ontario have faced rolling closures for over a year now, but one profession has been badly hit in particular.

Toronto tattoo artists have faced more closures than many other industries — and they say they're feeling it.

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Under the City of Toronto's COVID-19 guidelines for business, tattoo shops fall under the category of personal service setting — an industry that has been closed for a total of eight months since the beginning of the pandemic.

Narcity spoke to two tattoo artists at Golden Iron Tattoo Shop, located at 401 Spadina Avenue in Toronto, to find out more about their experiences.

How have tattoo artists in Toronto been affected by COVID-19?

Taylor Schmid, otherwise known as @lilindigotattoo of Golden Iron Tattoo Shop, said she's been out of work for eight of the last twelve months. 

"I live [in] downtown Toronto with my boyfriend and our combined financial support was only ever enough to just cover our bills. I [had] to use my savings to pay for our groceries, anything else we needed for the house, for our dog," Schmid explained.

Another artist at Golden Iron, Jade Soropia, suffered through the same financial strain.

"As an artist living in the city, the CRB has been keeping me afloat, but with living expenses and groceries, it’s been hard managing my financials," she told Narcity.

Schmid held up okay during the first lockdown — "not great, but we managed," she said.

However, the rolling closures would only continue.

"[In] November 2020, we were put into [a] 2nd lockdown and immediately, it felt so different from the first. I think the depression hit me almost instantly," she recalled.

What have the mental health impacts of the lockdowns been for tattoo artists?

"Going into the second lockdown in November 2020 wasn't easy," explained Schmid.

"I think I hoped my depression was just a reaction and that it would go away after a bit, but that didn’t happen. [..] The depression unfortunately only got worse. I couldn’t even really draw anymore because it just made me more sad. [It] made me miss my job," she said.

Fast forward to March 2021 — Golden Iron Tattoo Shop had yet to reopen.

The Ford Government briefly teased an April 12th opening of personal care services, but the province was soon thrown into shutdown again amid rising case counts and hospitalizations.

In March 2021, Schmid was put on anti-depressants for the first time in her life.

"Things had gotten bad enough that everyone around me was worried," she recalled, "It was more painful than I ever could’ve imagined."

A year into closures, Soropia's motivation is also nowhere to be found.

"Now, I wake up and I just can’t seem to find the energy to get myself out of bed. With no work, nowhere to go and no one to see, it’s been hard keeping myself motivated," she told Narcity. 

Are personal service settings furthering the transmission of COVID-19 in Toronto?

The City of Toronto has been tracking workplace COVID-19 outbreaks since the beginning of the pandemic.

According to their data, there has only been one outbreak originating from a personal service setting in Toronto since March 2020, meaning that of all workplace outbreaks in Toronto, personal service settings have only made up 0.17% of them.

Neither Soropia nor Schmid feels the closures fairly represent their industry.

"Pre-COVID-19, we [had] many important safety measures, such as cleaning with medical-grade cleaners, sanitizing after every client, single-use products that are thrown out after every customer, and blood-borne pathogens training. After [the pandemic], we only increased our measures," explained Schmid.

"We have had the least amount of outbreaks, and as a tattoo artist I know that we play it safer than most," added Soropia.

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