It’s a quiet street in Odessa, and children play. Lawns are the kind of hesitant green of late April. The sun shines bright.
The place I’m visiting today is tucked away under a red brick house on this same street.
I hop down the few stairs under the wooden shop sign, and step inside. It's bright and warm and clean, big windows flanking the shop on either side.
This is The Foundry Tattoo.
“Are you the picture lady?” they ask.
“Yup. I'm the picture lady.”
There are three artists here today: Andrew (owner and founder of Foundry Tattoo) and his friend Josh (who owns Sky's the Limit Custom Tattoos); and guest tattooer Marc (of @tattoomang), who quietly but fiercely works away on a moth tattoo for at the end of the room. His customer lounges comfortable on the chair.
Andrew and Josh are old buddies, who have recently reconnected after nine years. Maybe as a sign of brotherhood and good will, they are trading “shit mitt” tats today. (Google it at your own risk.)
Andrew volunteers his calf first and Josh proceeds to prep and shave the spot. For someone who spends his life tattooing others, and whose skin is plenty-inked (including a nearly solid black coverage of his entire left shin), Andrew complains and whines about the pain more than I expect. I’m never sure he’s fully serious, but they explain that getting tattooed hurts more as you age. As things do.
“Got any tats?” they ask me.
“Nope. Not a one.”
“Hmm,” they go.
What can I say, I’m here to appreciate the art and craft and process, with my very own transactional form of craft – photography. Just one artist admiring the work of another. Honest and gimmick-free #respect. That's the intention of this whole series, truly. To appreciate what capable people in the Kingston area are doing with their lives.
The rest of the afternoon unfolds as you’d expect: most of the conversation is not repeatable, at least on this blog. There’s an easy atmosphere about the place. A lot of laughs. Reminiscing. Talking gear. Talking shit. Talking of the future.
The tattoos progress, first as outlines, then become fleshed out with colour and detail. When Josh completes the work on Andrew’s leg, everyone heads out for a quick smoke break, swigs of water, and then it’s back to it. Andrew slips on black gloves and gets to work on his rendition of the mitten for Josh. (I didn't stay for the completion of this tat: homework help and other motherly stuff beckoned me back home.)
Anyway, while I'm photographing Andrew and Josh, I’m keeping careful track of the evolution of the moth tattoo, over which Marc attends with the kind of care that allows him to join in the conversation only every ten minutes, and only with a brief word or two, just to let you know he’s listening. I’m drawn to such complete concentration. It demonstrates the kind of striving toward improvement that many of us share. We all want to fall into the flow of our work, lose ourselves in our process, and in doing so, to become better at what we do.
I'm also drawn to the small town idyll Andrew has created for himself by choosing to position his shop outside of Kingston. He's heavily involved in the tattooing community, and helps organize the Limestone City Tattoo and Arts Festival. Since it's difficult to just stroll by his shop, unless you happen to live on Shane St, Odessa, the clients who seek him out have done their homework. They go to The Foundry because they love what he does. It's a good place to be, really.
Behind the jokes and shooting the shit, Andrew seems to have a very solid vision for his shop. I get the sense he's naturally got all the components of successful entrepreneurship in a relatively small city: He's friendly and light-hearted with clients and friends, humble and supportive within the community, and steadfast in his approach to artistry and business-ownership.
I wish him well and will be looking out for his work in the future.
As I depart, Andrew cuddles his adorable French Bulldog named West (check out her Insta account)
Now I leave you with the photographs.