/Local tattoo artists bring apprentice under their wings
From left to right, Samina Khokhar, Bronwin Ironside, and Gina Horswood pose in front of the storefront of their tattoo studios, located at 105 Bobcaygeon Road in Minden.

Local tattoo artists bring apprentice under their wings

by Thomas Smith

Bronwin Ironside and Samina Khokhar opened their dream custom electric tattoo studio in Minden in October of 2022. Both artists operate their businesses at the 105 Bobcaygeon Road location under the names B. Ironside Art and Latitude Tattoo.

“In 2008, I went to Thailand after dropping out of university. I found someone to mentor me in Thailand and I thought I wanted to travel and I also wanted to learn how to tattoo,” says Samina Khokhar. “That’s kinda where it all began.”

“I started in the tattoo industry when I was 18,” says Bronwin Ironside. “And I just turned 38, so this is my 20th year.”

“She’s older and I’m more experienced,” says Ironside, with a laugh.

After Khokhar worked in Toronto to hone their skills as a tattoo artist and Ironside started tattooing in Peterborough, the pair faithfully met six years ago at a tattoo studio in Bancroft.

“Usually people who pick flash are-”

“They’re enthusiasts,” says Khokhar

They’re collectors, we call them collectors,” explains Ironside. “Cause they are collecting images like how someone would collect paintings except your body is the walls.”

“I had a client and her sister come in the other day, I drew up some Halloween flash last year and these girls reached out to me in January and they’re like ‘we really want the horror themed stuff that you drew.”

“People who go for horror tattoos love the Halloween season anyway but they’re gonna get it no matter what.”

“It’s all artwork, it’s just how it translate into a different medium,” explains Ironside. “Tattooing in some respects can be looked at as just painting in ink with steel brushes.”

“That stab you really fast,” says Khokhar, with a laugh.

“It’s a commitment. Once you get your first one though, you’re like ‘I can do that again, and again, and again,” says Khokhar. “I was freaked out when I got my first tattoo.”

“I think everybody is to some degree whether or not they admit it,” says Ironside.

Choosing a tattoo is an extremely personal decision, says Ironside.

“When you do a really meaningful tattoo for someone that is connected to them on a deep emotional level, their reaction to the tattoo afterwards is so profound and they’re so appreciative that you were able to bring that to life for them,” says Khokhar. “That’s really special. Those stand out in my mind.

“When you finish a tattoo and they are just so blown away and they have so much gratitude and everybody cries,” says Khokhar.

“Life’s too short to take it too seriously,” says Ironside.

“We’re always thinking of flash to do,” explains Khokhar.

Ironside and Khokhar decided to work out of Minden after careful consideration.

“In the tattoo industry, it is important if you can manage it, not to step on other people’s toes, out of respect,” says Ironside.

“We’re feeling the need for a demographic. In leaving where we were, it’s still accessible for clients from the Bancroft area. We still regularly have clients coming from Barry’s Bay and stuff like that, but it’s still accessible for our Peterborough clients, Toronto clients, and people throughout the area.”

Clients have come from all over. On the day of the interview, clients were travelling from Guelph and Lindsay for a tattoo.

“Since we’ve been here, we have some regulars now in Minden,” explains Khokhar. “People have received us really well.”

“Genuinely, we just needed people to be kind for a hot minute,” says Ironside. “Minden has been really wonderful for that.”

“People have been very welcoming,” says Khokhar. “They come in and they say hi, just check in on us even if they’re not getting a tattoo.”

The only issues the artists have faced is a leaky roof and patriarchal norms of the male-dominated tattoo industry.

“We’ve established ourselves as artists in the community so people know who we are.

“Being a woman in the industry is hard,” says Khokhar. “Because it is a very male dominated industry.”

“I guess when you are used to being a woman in the tattoo industry and how hard that is and how that has been your reality for decades, you don’t really look at it anymore. It feels everyday.

“It feels normal. That I feel is the biggest struggle,” says Khokhar. “It’s hard to get exposure in the industry as a woman.”

“People take you less seriously, it’s like being a woman in music. It’s impossible a lot of the time. A lot of things are gatekept, but things are a lot better than they used to be.” says Ironside.

“In the tattoo industry, you always want to make payroll when the sun is shining,” explains Ironside. “You want to make your money in the summer so it can get you through the winter but that translates to anyone in the tattoo industry is like ‘winter always sucks’.”

Post-christmas, the tattoo industry is hit especially hard with a great lull, says Ironside.

“But that being said, we’re booked in advance so thankfully that isn’t necessarily an issue for us,” explains Ironside. “So, we’ve got some comfort in our experience that way because we always have a draw because of that.”

Summer is the busiest season overall for tattoos.

“As soon as you can start wearing t-shirts,” says Khokhar.

“Everybody sees other people’s tattoos and be like ‘Oh, I think I’d like to do that’. Everyone gets inspired that way,” says Ironside. “Best time to get tattooed though, is winter. Because you’re not swimming, you don’t have to deal with UV exposure.”

The COVID-19 pandemic was exceptionally difficult for those in the tattoo industry.

“COVID-19 really messed up our industry, period.” says Khokhar.

“We were the first ones to get shut down and the last ones to be allowed open.

“If there’s ever a pandemic like that again, it will be a struggle,” says Khokhar.

“Obviously, financially, that was really hard. But also, when you are busy all the time, because tattooing is your whole life,” explains Ironside.

“If I’m driving, Samina’s texting her clients and vice versa, we’re talking about what we’re doing, and then we get home and we draw for 2 or 3 hours,” explains Ironside. “When the pandemic hit and we were at home, that took all of it away. You just didn’t know what to do with ourselves at all. It gave us a bit of an identity crisis.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Khokhar became a hypnotherapist and Ironside began selling merchandise.

While Ironside and Khokhar have had apprentices throughout their careers, Gina Horswood is the first apprentice out of their new studio space in Minden. After Ironside and Khokhar opened in Minden, Horswood saw it as the perfect opportunity to begin an apprenticeship which began in July of last year.

After working as a musician and dabbling into the corporate world, Horswood returned to drawing during the pandemic.

“I drew a lot in high school. I did graphic design at university for a little while but I got out of art when I took up music,” explains Horswood.” “The pandemic hit and I had a little bit of time off and just started drawing again and kinda fell back in love with it.”

“I went and got a tattoo at the studio that these ladies were working at and just asked about how one would go about being apprenticed, ” explains Horswood. “That was about four years ago. It’s been a long time coming.”

Horswood moved to Canada in 2012, having grown up in Chinchilla, Queensland, Australia.

“It’s been great,” says Horswood. “It’s been amazing. I’ve learned a lot. I’m very fortunate in that I get to work with two female artists,” says Horswood. “It’s a constant learning process, which is very good for my brain.”

“You don’t often get this lucky on your first go,” says Horswood.

In addition to the tattoo artist apprenticeship, Horswood teaches music business at Canadore College, performs as a musician and balances a large variety of other jobs.

“It takes a while as an apprentice. I remember when I was apprenticing. I made like 6000 in my first year.

“That’s why you don’t make any money at first. It’s because you have to make sure that you are  capable of doing something permanent on someone’s skin,” explains Ironside. “When you’re working on somebody and you are giving them something that they’re gonna have for the rest of their life, you have to make sure you are not messing up.”

“You also have to establish yourself, you have to create a presence, people will have to get to know you.

“You are playing with someone’s blood, and their lives, and their appearance. You need to make sure that you can walk before you can run,” explains Ironside. “There’s always going to be somebody who wants to give you money and there’s gonna be somebody that wants to take it.

It is your responsibility to make sure that you are not doing them a disservice.”

As a luxury service, people often do not think that cancelling their appointments last minute will have an impact on their business.

“If somebody cancels you at the very last minute, you have to scramble.”

“As something that is an elective thing, people have a tendency to think of it as an elective income thing for us,” explains Ironside. “It’s not. This is how we feed our families and pay our bills.”

While a majority of their customers request custom designs, nothing excites them more than choosing one of their flash designs.

“The excitement when someone requests a flash piece. You push the red button on a tattooer. It

“It’s a good thing,” says Horswood.

“It gets us really excited and happy,” says Khokhar.

“A flash piece is your own idea that you came up with,” explains Khokhar. “It’s not a client asking you to draw something for them based on what they want. It’s something you conceptualised, you put the time in, and you created it out of your own artistic abilities and your creative mind.”

Modifications to flash pieces are welcome. In old school tattooing, you would choose your tattoo from racks and racks of flash, says Khokhar.

“People know me for the watercolour style that I do,” says Khokhar. “That’s kind of a unique style that isn’t really done a lot. Generally, we want to be versatile in many different styles. There’s a lot of people out there in the industry who specialize in one thing. We kind of steer away from that, we want something to walk through the door and say, ‘this is what I want’.”

Although they love doing watercolour tattoos, Khokhar currently desires to do more portrait work.

“We’re a safe space for everybody. Everybody’s welcome. All bodies, everybody.”

I don’t feel like we give off an intimidating vibe. I feel like we’re very welcoming,”

“I’ve been to many shops over the years and there are some that are very intimidating,” explains customer Carrie Wooldridge.

“Bronwin has super gentle, light hands. There are artists that are very, very heavy and it is a lot more painful.”

“You always want to make sure you know what your pressure is when you’re tattooing, what your needle depth is. That’s why when you’re an apprentice you’re encouraged to tattoo yourself so you can feel it,” says Khokhar.

“It’s nice to hear when a client says you’re the most gentle person that’s ever tattooed me,” says Khokhar

“You’re already hurting someone,” explains Ironside. “You don’t need to go above and beyond. That’s why we try to aim for our shop to be light and bright and welcoming. It’s already an aggressive thing that you’re going through. You don’t need it to be a more intimidating thing than it already is.”

Anything that is super inappropriate and insensitive won’t be welcomed at their tattoo studio.

“Anything that is racist, bigoted, homophobic or of that nature is not gonna fly and it’s not gonna happen at our shop,” says Ironside.