KITCHENER — The friendship between Ines Silva and Genevieve Bethley is palpable.
Gauntlet Tattoo, 150 King St. W. opened in January 2011 by two women who wanted to offer a unique experience for those wanting tattoos.
“We wanted to change the game a little bit,” said Bethley.
“When you walk in, it’s not the loud heavy music, it’s not a bunch of beefy dudes who are really intimidating. We wanted to just provide a different atmosphere.”
The shop is filled with soft music and open spaces that are neutral in colour. This creates a feeling of tranquility.
Bethley described Gauntlet Tattoo’s atmosphere as “spa-like,” which was important for the two in trying to make people feel comfortable when getting a tattoo. It’s a scary experience for some.
“It’s a pretty nerve-racking experience to get a tattoo, especially if it’s your first time,” said Bethley.
Another goal was to create a sense of community and make connections in the tattoo world, by offering short “guest spots” at the shop for other tattoo artists, who take appointments for about a week.
“That was a big goal for us too, to be able to have that space for other people from all over to be able to come and guest with us so we can learn from them, and they can learn from us,” said Silva, who will be going to Montreal next to guest spot at another shop.
The guest spot creates an atmosphere of camaraderie and understanding between individuals from various places.
They say that opening in the middle for the pandemic was a challenge.
“We were making no money at the time because we were in complete lockdown. We were just scraping as much as we could to just make money for our own personal bills and food,” said Bethley.
The couple met in an earlier time, after they had worked for four years together at a different tattoo shop.
“It was one of those friendships that you make at work, so we knew we could be friends and still work together,” said Bethley.
A friend suggested that they lend money to support their dream of owning a shop.
“This (was) a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Bethley.
Their money enabled them to get out of a toxic workplace.
Silva and Bethley opened their business, and received lots of interest from people wanting ink, as well as clients.
“I’m very lucky and very grateful to be able to come into work everyday and work with my best friend,” said Silva.
These are the women behind Gauntlet tattoo:
Silva immigrated to Cambridge six years ago from Lisbon. Silva was previously in Portugal where she studied fine arts, with a focus on sculpture.
There were her first tattoos. She worked for about one year in a tattoo shop before she moved to Canada.
“It was definitely helpful because it was right at a time where I didn’t know which direction to go. I know I didn’t want to follow sculpture as a full-time thing,” said Silva.
Silva moved to Cambridge and switched from the tattoo shop where he was employed to Bethley’s.
Silva’s favourite part of tattooing is creating art, and the sense of community and freedom that comes from taking people’s ideas and making them her own.
Now, she has been tattooing for seven year.
Art was always part of Bethley’s life.
Her family was a diverse group of professional painters growing up in Cambridge. She was raised by her grandmother, grandma, and two uncles.
“The first present I remember getting was a paint set and an easel,” said Bethley.
Bethley was an apprentice and mentored in a Cambridge shop called Black Works.
She soon found her passion in tattooing. Bethley said she’s met most of her closest friends through tattooing, including some who started as clients.
She loves the idea of creating tattoos that people will wear.
She’s now been tattooing for 10 years.