Canmore Flaneur Find: Electric Grizzly Tattoo Parlour?

I have no desire for a tattoo. I never have. But I am still fascinated with them as works of art and as identity statements. Over the years, I have seen friends, who I never thought would get them and their teenage children get them. I don’t get the attraction, but obviously some – in fact many – do.

About ten years ago I was introduced to yoga and by the nature of yoga apparel, I was also introduced to people of all ages and body types having tattoos. Tattoos of all sizes and in all places – some entire backs, arms and legs, some very subtle. Some have spiritual words and phrases tattoos; others are beautiful images from nature (trees and flowers) and some I don’t understand at all. I am still surprise by some of the young women who have significant body tattoos –guess I am old school.

Award winning tattoos by Derek Turcotte.

Recently, after a day of flaneuring in Canmore – thrift store, Main Street, disc golf course and abandoned golf course, we headed with friends to Red Rock Pizza for dinner.  We chose an outside picnic table, which happened to provide not only a great view the Three Sisters Mountains, but also tattoo parlour next door.  One “eagle eye” in our group noticed there was a guy on the bed getting a tattoo. We also noticed a cougar pelt on the wall, making the space even more intriguing and authentic given it was Cougar Creek Drive after all! 

We got chatting about tattoos and why would people get one (none of us have one). Our world traveller friend said that in his opinion Canadians have more tattoos any other place he as visited. I said I would try and check it Canada is in fact the tattoo capital of the world.

Curiosity didn't kill this cat?

Smiling cougar pelt on the wall of Electric Grizzly Tattoo Parlour.

Just as we were leaving (the Mango Tango pizza is very good by the way) the guy getting the tattoo, his girl friend and the tattoo artist came out to get some fresh air and take a break from the ordeal (my word not his). My curiosity getting the better of me, I struck up a conversation asking questions like “Is this your first tattoo? How did you decide on the image? How much does it cost? How long does it take?”

They were all more than willing to answer my questions (and the others’) and share their story.  Turns out the guy getting the tattoo and his girlfriend had travelled from Fort McMurray to Canmore to get his tattoo.  And it also this wasn’t their first trip to get tattoos by Canmore tattoo artist, Derek Turcotte.  And turns out this wasn’t his first tattoo as he rolled up his other pant leg showing me an entire leg tattooed.  His theme is super heroes and Turcotte is a master when it comes to the super hero, science fiction and surrealism. Turns out Derek is in demand across Alberta – there’s at least one other regular who lives in Lloydminster. 

Close up of leg tattoo of client who was getting his other leg done. 

Who knew people travelled so far to get a tattoo? And they aren’t cheap; a full body tattoo can cost $100,000.  The one we saw being done - about 16 inches high by 5 inches wide was estimated to cost about $1,500 and takes 10 to 15 hours to do.   They had started the tattoo at 2 pm and they were still working on it at 9 pm.  And although the tattoo customer said it didn’t hurt much then, he said it would really hurt in a day or two.

I asked if it is true that Canada is the tattoo capital of the world. They said they didn’t know if that was true but Derek said Calgary has 100+ tattoo parlours while Edmonton has 130.

The operating table -oops tattoo table. 

Tiny ink jars used to create the rich deep colours of Turcotte's tattoos. 

Derek invited us inside (he’d just opened six days ago) and of course we jumped at the chance.  Inside, there was also a grizzly bear; appropriate given it was called the Electric Grizzly Tattoo Parlour.  The parlour’s decor not only includes the cougar and grizzly hides but numerous animal skulls and scary, surreal airbrush paintings by Derek. It is gallery, taxidermy and tattoo parlour all rolled into one – you gotta like that! 

Below air brush artworks by Turcotte.

About Derek Turcotte

Born in Ottawa, Turcotte move to Calgary about 11 years ago and to Canmore just a few years ago.  He trained under Cye Delaney and Blake McCully the latter being one of the most influential motorcycle artists.  In 2012, Derek won the “most realistic” and “best full sleeve” (full sleeve is a tattoo that covers an entire arm or leg) competition organized by the Perfect Image Tattoos  & Piercing Studio in Banff.

Turcotte is most intrigued by wildlife images, hence the hides and skulls. He loves the work of Robert Bateman and H.R. Giger.  Yet what he loves most about being a tattoo artist – “the great people you meet, develop a friendship with.  The relationship between a tattoo artist and their client is very special”.

Tattoo Capita of the World?

A quick google search found one site proclaiming Paris is the tattoo capital of the world as it was hosting a major tattoo convention.  The site also claimed a good tattoo artists in Paris can make 250 euros per hour.  Another site ranked USA cities based on the number of tattoo parlours per 100,000 people.  Austin has 7.5 parlours per 100,000 people, while Portland has 12 and Miami Beach was #1 with 24 parlours per 100,000 people. So I am not sure Canada is the tattoo capital of the world, but we in the running.

Last Word

It was a perfect ending to a perfect day of flaneuring. You never know what fun experiences you will happen upon if you keep your eyes, ears and mind open. And let your curiosity get the better of you! 

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