Inked! The Indelible Art of Tattooing

If you’ve ever thought of getting a tattoo, but are sitting on the fence, it’s worth spending a bit of time in local Yukon tattoo shops and chatting with the artists. They’re probably some of the most kind and community-minded folks you’ll find. And if you’re like me, you might walk out wondering why the heck you don’t have any ink.

Dan Bushnell Tattos a client at Molotov and Bricks Tattot in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada

Molotov and Bricks Tattoo — The Dynamic Trio

Not having spent a lot of time in tattoo shops, I’m feeling a bit intimidated when I arrive at Molotov and Bricks Tattoo. But when I walk through the door, I’m warmly welcomed by one of the resident tattoo artists, Kirsty Wells, who is busy with a client. Not long after, Dan Bushnell appears and immediately makes me feel at home. Wells’ sweet dog, Daisy, also totters up to say hello.

Bushnell and his wife, Sarah Gallagher, opened Molotov and Bricks in the same Wood Street location in 2012. Wells joined the shop permanently about five years ago. Together, the trio runs the shop. All three have equal voice in decision making, and they stand behind the others when they have an idea. For example, Wells recently designed and sold T-shirts to support a COVID-19 fund for Canadian nurses.

“Any time you work with somebody and you get to lift them, is really great, really beautiful,” Bushnell said. “I have a lot of gratitude that we’ve been able to support so many people, because I’m fascinated to see what people do.”

While he’s pretty well-established now, Bushnell’s beginnings as a tattoo artist were a bit rocky. He was working in a youth arts and activism centre in Vancouver, which assisted young people in getting training. One way to do this was through mentorships. When a young woman wanted to learn to tattoo, Bushnell set her up with a shop run by women. But there was a catch—he had to learn, too.

Up until then, Bushnell had worked on large art installations for cities. He was pretty proficient at it. But tattooing was a different story.

“I got a little full of myself in that whatever medium I studied, I picked up,” he said. “But then, when it came to tattooing, I didn’t have it. I wasn’t good at it. I had to learn to draw differently. I kind of sucked, at first, which made me have to do it.”

Bushnell’s background in community art projects (which involved a lot of collaborating with the locals) lent itself well to tattooing, which is a similar process on a smaller scale.

“You get really, really engaged with the community, in a really visceral way, where we see people in [the] super-dynamic moments of their lives. We see them when they’re celebrating, and we see them when they’ve had a loss. And we’re asked to step in and be a part of that, with strangers, and it’s very powerful.”

Yukon tattoo artist
Kirsty Wells creates her latest piece at molotov and Bricks Tattoo

Wells also emphasizes their relationships with clients.

“You get to connect with people in a really safe and controlled setting. That can be as frivolous or as intentional or as emotional or as goofy as you want it to be. Sometimes it’s really fun and sometimes it’s really meaningful, and that changes daily.

“Regardless of why someone’s there, it’s a moment I get to be a part of.”

Wells’ journey to being a tattoo artist was more linear than Bushnell’s. The first time she saw a heavily tattooed person, she was a little kid. “I ran to my mom, yanked on her dress and said, ‘Oh my god, Mom! Look at that person! That’s what people have to look like.’ But I don’t remember that; I was too young.”

By the time she was 18, Wells was seriously pursuing becoming a tattoo artist. She worked in Germany for several years, and when she returned to Whitehorse to visit, she’d often be a guest artist at Molotov and Bricks, where she and Bushnell “got along like a house on fire.”

When it came time for Bushnell to find another artist to work permanently in the busy shop, Gallagher asked him who he’d like that person to be, if he could choose anyone. He said that person would be Wells. Coincidentally, Bushnell ran into Wells’ mom the very next day. She said that Wells was returning from Germany permanently and would be reaching out to him to work in the shop.

“It was kismet,” Bushnell said. “That was a lovely moment.”

“Be careful what you wish for!” Wells piped in from the next room.

For Bushnell, Wells makes him want to come to work each day.

“Kirsty and I really support one another,” said Bushnell. “We really lift each other up, and I know that if I’m feeling really bad and I really don’t want to drag myself in … I know that if I do, Kirsty will do something to take the edge off for me or to make it easier.”

Wells echoed that sentiment. “I think I heard Dan mention that you can come into the shop in whatever mood you’re in—be it good or bad—regardless of how you come in, you leave a little different, more often than not on a more-positive note. That’s been a huge anchor in tattooing for me.

“I leave the shop, every day, a little bit better than when I came in.”

Those good vibes rub off on others, and that’s where the sense of community comes in. Molotov and Bricks is known as a place to meet, gather and sometimes to organize. And it’s always done in a spirit of joy, Bushnell said.

“Kirsty and I do a lot of things that are ridiculous, that make people pause, but we do it so joyously that you just can’t help but get involved.”

“A lot of people really find a stride with engaging in creativity when they come in here,” Wells said. “And that creates a huge sense of community.

“You come for the tattoos, you stay for the community.”


Instagram: @molotovandbricks Facebook: @molotovandbricks


Jamie Law tattoos a client at Triple J’s Collective in Whitehorse, Yukon

Triple J’s Collective — Spreading the gospel of tattoo

On the same day I visit Molotov and Bricks, I head down Wood Street to Triple J’s Collective, the Yukon’s longest-running tattoo shop. Their chief executive officer, Jordi Mikeli-Jones, first opened Triple J’s as a music shop on Fourth Avenue in Whitehorse.

Mikeli-Jones said she was drawn to tattoos in her “formative years” when they were still taboo. She got her first tattoo, at age 15, by an apprentice artist. Growing up in Whitehorse, she realized early on that there were no reputable, high-calibre artists in town. So, soon after she opened her music business, she brought up the first guest tattoo artist, in 2005.

“I never took a commission and really just wanted to spread the gospel of tattoo in the Yukon,” Mikeli-Jones said.

Since then, Triple J’s has expanded into other ventures, such as cannabis and skin care, and has also moved a few times. The tattoo shop continues to feature guest artists who Mikeli-Jones said are curated much like the “artists” in an art show.

“We look at what is currently being offered in Whitehorse, and finding specialty artists whose genres are not currently represented,” she explained. “They must have a large portfolio and many years in the industry.  Most importantly, they must have a good attitude, be friendly and passionate about visiting the Great White North.”

That’s where Jamie Law comes in. Triple J’s initially brought him to Whitehorse from Edmonton, as a guest artist who specialized in script work. He’s now the sole resident artist.

“He very organically manifested into our next resident artist because he was here so often and was versatile in many different styles,” Mikeli-Jones said. “He also loves people. When he made the decision to pursue a relationship with the Yukon, we made the decision to bring him on full-time.  He has a very colourful personality, which jived well with our team.”

And it’s true. When I met Law, I was struck by the funny, friendly person behind the mask. He sums up in a few words his love affair with the Yukon and why he has made it his home.

“You fall in love with the place, fall in love with a girl,” Law said, referring to his wife, Kenedi Thompson, who is currently studying laser tattoo removal.

He describes himself as being like “the cat who came back”—he just kept returning to Triple J’s until Mikeli-Jones brought him on permanently.

But being a tattoo artist in the Yukon was not originally in his plans. After high school, he took the blue-collar path, working in a plywood factory for eight years. It was around 2004 or 2005 that his best friend, who was dating a tattoo artist, suggested that Law consider apprenticing. That’s how he got his start, almost by accident.

“I’d always been artistic but never thought of art as a viable career,” Law said. “It’s always being made fun of in sitcoms, you know … but the creature I am always seemed compelled to create.”

Along with his creative abilities, Law brings a lot of people skills to his work. He said he has a good “bedside manner” with his clients.

“It’s a very unique skill set. I don’t recommend it for most people because a lot of people think Oh, it’s just drawing. It’s not just drawing. You have to be compassionate, you have to be mindful, you have to be empathetic—it’s a very intimate procedure, so you have to be able to deal with people.”

Law is best known for his script work, but he is proficient in many styles. For things he’s not so good at, like “portraits of mom,” he’s happy to refer clients to Kirsty Wells at Molotov and Bricks.

“When you start out as a tattoo artist, you’re full of ego and bluster and your id is on full-out Oh, I’m awesome … this is great, even though in your first five years, you’re producing your worst work. As you mature, you start to realize that other tattoo artists are not your competition; they’re your colleagues, they’re your friends, and they do different things than you. And that’s okay.”

Ultimately, Law hopes to open a family shop, with his wife and his sons, and to name it Vixen’s Den Tattoo and Removal. He also dreams of having a seasonal shop, in Dawson, called Outlaw’s Haven. He would like to visit smaller communities, such as Old Crow, rather than clients in those places always having to travel to Whitehorse.

Law is proud of the impact he has in people’s lives, and proud when his sons see people cross the street to greet him and to thank him.

“The love that I put in, I get back.

“You’re a positive part of the community, and people look forward to seeing you. That’s a cool job.”


Instagram: @triplejscollective Facebook: @triplejscollective

Instagram: @thejamielaw


Czarina Athron and Levee Gehmair of Serotonin Tattoos
Czarina Athron and Levee Gehmair of Serotonin Tattoos

Serotonin Tattoo — New shop on the block

The latest shop to open in Whitehorse is Serotonin Tattoo, located upstairs on Second Avenue and Main Street. Czarina Athron offers cosmetic tattooing, and Levee “Gee” Gehmair is a body tattoo artist. The couple opened the shop in August and are already balancing a busy business with raising a baby at home.

Gehmair was born in Whitehorse and had many different jobs before apprenticing in his friend’s tattoo shop in Vancouver. He’s always liked to draw and saw tattooing as a way to make a living using his artistic skills.

He said that the more he learned about the art of tattoo, the more he appreciated it. He calls it “the top of art.”

“It’s so hard,” he said. “It’s so hard to do. It’s so ancient, too. It’s so old.”

Athron decided to become a cosmetic tattoo artist when the shop Gehmair was working in was looking for someone with that skill set.

“I blew my money and I took the schooling, and he started out as the junior artist down there,” she said.

The couple moved back to Whitehorse once COVID-19 hit. Athron worked out of a home studio, at first, and they both worked for Highways and Public Works for a period of time. Now that Serotonin is open, they’re still in the process of setting up shop while juggling parental duties.

Athron’s work involves the intimidating process of tattooing a client’s face. She uses semi-permanent and vegan inks to create freckles, powdering and lip colour. She shows me freckles she’s tattooed on her face—they are subtle and look natural.

In defining Gehmair’s style, Athron said that he does lots of “dark” tattoos, as well as Japanese-inspired designs and said that, between Gehmair and the other tattoo artists in town, people have a variety of options to choose from. She added that they would like to expand one day and have even more tattoo artists in town.

“Offering more styles is just better for what you want to do for your body art-wise,” Athron said. “Instead of getting the same style over and over, you can switch it up and get a bunch of different styles.”

The shop name, Serotonin Tattoos, stems from a desire to create “a happy environment to go to, to get away from what’s happening everywhere else,” Athron explained.

She added that getting a tattoo is a positive experience, addictive even though it’s painful, and both Athron and Gehmair recommend that everyone give it a shot.

“People come in and get a tattoo and feel like themselves,” Athron said. “It’s something they’ve thought about [for] a long time.

“They’re creating a self-image for themselves.”

While Athron acknowledges that Gehmair’s body tattooing may require more artistic ability and complicated machines, she said that their motivations are similar, and so is the impact on their clients. “It’s a passion. It’s something we love doing. It changes lives. For me, people come to me and they’re very self-conscious about something and I get to literally change their lives.

“I’ve had people cry happy tears … They are just so grateful. Those are the days I’m the happiest.”

“I enjoy it, it’s a passion,” Gehmair confirmed. “I learn something new every day, I get better and better every day.”


Instagram: @serotonintattoos Facebook: @serotonintattoos


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