Cornwall Ontario — Loni Dilaj is a tattoo artist of seven years. She grew up in Mascouche Quebec, and moved to Long Sault thirteen year years ago, and has lived in Cornwall for the past three years. She works at The Skin Within Tattoo and Piercing Shop in Cornwall Ontario.
Loni Dilaj answers five questions for the Seeker. This interview was conducted by Jason Setnyk.
1. Tell us about the first tattoo you ever did. Have you noticed a change in the types of images people have asked for over the years since you’ve started tattooing?
My first tattoo was a Chinese symbol that I did on the owner of the shop I was trained at, The Skin Within. John who is a tattoo artist of 20 years also trained me from scratch on how to tattoo. I never had tried tattooing on my own nor would I had ever if I had not been trained by a professional.
Like fashion, tattoos do seem to go through trends. I don’t really do any Taz or Bugs Bunny tattoos which were popular some years ago, but some styles do seem to stick around like Chinese symbols, butterflies, and tribal. Some of the tattoos jobs I’ve been getting lately seem to be more towards the realistic and surrealism, traditional and new school. Areas on the body vary as well. I seem to be doing less of the lower back and more of the ribs lately, but areas like upper arm, wrist, ankles and feet are still quite popular.
2. Has tattooing become fully accepted as an art form or is it still considered taboo? What did your family and friends think about you getting into the tattoo business?
Tattooing is definitely not as taboo as it used to be. Its not just bikers and gang members anymore. We get nurses, doctors, police officers, school teachers, stay at home moms, and entire families including grandma getting inked. My oldest client getting his first tattoo was 77 years old! At first my parents weren’t sure about my career choice but when they saw that it wasn’t what they thought it was they warmed up to it and even want tattoos of their own now.
3. Tell us about your creative process and what or whom influences you. Are there any famous artists, tattooists or not, that have influenced your career?
There are many artists that influence me and I am not talking about the popular ones you see on TV. Nikko Hurtado, although he was on Miami Ink a few times, is my inspiration. His amazing realism and talent with his portraits blows my mind. I have his educational DVD, and I strive to make my work like his. I have taken his seminar in Toronto and even got to speak with him afterwards. A few other artists I look up to are Paul Acker, Jeff Gogue, Greg Simkins, Cecil Porter, Juan Salgado, Mike Devries, and Bob Tyrrell. I also took Tyrrell’s portrait seminar in Toronto. I encourage anyone interested in tattoos to look these people up, their work is incredible!
4. How important is professionalism in the tattoo industry, and do unprofessional “hackers and scratchers” reflect badly on the whole business? What can new customers do to ensure they are going to get a quality tattoo from a professional? What advice do you have for newbies?
Like I mentioned before, if I had not been trained by a professional I probably never would have tried tattooing on my own. There are very important health factors, cross-contamination awareness, proper sterilization and protocol involved with tattooing. Every year I take a course in Toronto: “Blood borne pathogens and infection control for the Body Modification Industry”. I think the tattoo industry gets a bad rep sometimes from basement scratchers and people who pick up a machine and think they are a pro without having any training. And there is no shortage of people who don’t care how bad their work looks. Then again there are plastic surgeons who work out of their house and people wanting to save a buck will put themselves at risk. Just because you “saw” him take a needle out of a package does not mean that needle was properly sterilized and his set up is clean. My advice for newbies wanting a tattoo is to take your time, look around, if someone has a nice tattoo ask where they got it, and if they have a crappy tattoo ask where they got it. There are many amazing artists out there who follow proper protocol. Also looking at a portfolio of their previous tattoo work will help you decide if they are the right artist for you. Research your artist!
5. What have you learned about the tattooing profession that you did not know as an apprentice starting out?
What I have learned from being in the tattoo industry is that cheap work isn’t good and good work isn’t cheap! Tattoos mean wearing your heart on your sleeve so why not put the best pieces of art work you can find on your body.
The Seeker would like to wish Loni Dilaj the best of success, thank you for your time!
If you are interested in getting a tattoo or piercing, you can visit The Skin Within Tattoo & Piercing located at 156 Pitt Street in downtown Cornwall Ontario. You can also view Loni’s portfolio online here: