Ariana Scarcello: ‘You Are Welcome In Our Studio’

After 20 years in the tattoo industry, Ariana Scarcello discusses setting up a studio, overcoming adversity and the power in doing something for nothing.

Though she’s spent two decades working in the tattoo industry, Ariana Scarcello’s education and background are in law. It was a profession she was good at, graduating in the top five per cent of her class. Despite that, it’s tattoos that made their mark. “I love the passion, the art, the flexibility of being my own boss,” she shares. “I’m also an extrovert, so I love to interact with people and learn about them. What greater gift and compliment than someone who wants to wear my artwork on their body for the rest of their lives.”

Scarcello’s unafraid to share how her time working in the tattoo industry has sent her through both highs and lows. She talks about how she started in an era when women tattoo artists were a rarity, experiencing sexism, harassment and lack of representation. Over time, she moved from studio to studio until, in 2012, she purchased the one at which she was working and officially rebranded it to what it’s known as today: Flesh Tattoos.

Because of these experiences, she’s committed to ensuring Flesh Tattoos is nothing but welcoming. As well as the quality of the finished pieces, it’s the common denominator when it comes to client feedback and reviews. “That’s really the climate we’ve tried to create,” she says. “I don’t care about your race, creed, religion. I don’t care where you come from in life. You are welcome in our studio.”

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It’s a feeling that’s resonated so much that the studio has won a number of awards. As well as winning the Top Choice Award for two years running, Scarcello was the only woman finalist in last year’s Vaughan Chamber of Commerce Young Entrepreneur Under 40 category, and Flesh Tattoos just won the Readers’ Choice Award in Vaughan Citizen’s Best Tattoo/Piercing Studio category.

Today, the studio is home to two senior tattoo artists, two junior tattoo artists and a piercer. All have a distinct style, which Scarcello likes to celebrate. “Everybody has their own technique and type of artwork they prefer,” she says. “If someone messages me and says, ‘I want this rad Japanese piece with you,’ I’ll send them to another artist because I don’t do that well. I’ll send you to the person who will offer the best possible result.”

“What does it cost me? A bit of my time and some materials, but that could change someone’s life”

Head to the homepage of Flesh Tattoos and you’ll see the tagline “Tattoos tell your story. They build us up, capture memories, encompass loss and love.” It’s a tagline that speaks to an important part of being a tattoo artist and highlights some of the personal stories Scarcello has had to deal with.

“We get messages from clients who will literally give me a piece of their life. They’ll say, ‘I want this design to represent this’ and it becomes the artist’s job to decipher what this means to the person,” she continues. “So, you’re really getting to know the human being and almost having to empathize and experience some of the struggle, love, triumph or whatever those feelings entail to be able to breathe that into the artwork. That might be the way it’s placed on the body, the actual physical elements or the meaning it has to the person.”

It’s this understanding and empathy that are key drivers for Scarcello. Though she’s been providing this service for many years, she gave it the Do Something for Nothing name publicly in 2017. It’s a movement originally created and inspired by U.K. hair stylist Joshua Coombes and was born from the idea that each of us is able to do something for someone for nothing.

“Sometimes life is complicated, and situations arise that can cause immense human suffering,” Scarcello continues. “I love the story and the initiative. What does it cost me? A bit of my time and some materials, but that could change someone’s life. We’re talking about doing areola tattoos for someone who’s had both breasts removed after surviving cancer. We’re talking about someone who has self-harm scars, but they’re leading a healthier lifestyle and don’t want their body to reflect who they were as a person anymore.”

Though Flesh Tattoos is currently closed because of COVID-19, the studio has taken impressive care and consideration when it comes to safety and isn’t just ready and prepared to reopen, but also is actively fighting to show that tattooing is more than a luxury. “We’re fighting to let the public know that it isn’t about vanity,” Scarcello says. “There’s so much more about tattooing from a mental health perspective. It’s about continual advocacy for our industry.”

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