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Inching beyond ink

The artists at Kelowna’s Pharaoh Tattoo Studio have been redefining body art for decades, but pushing the boundaries of ink on skin is no longer enough.

After more than two decades in the tattoo business, Warren Kirschner is ready to redefine what a tattoo studio even is.

Kirschner’s recently expanded shop is lavishly spacious and meticulously clean, two reasons it’s already high on the list of the nicest studios in the province.

But it’s what he is doing above and beyond tattoos and piercings that really sets him apart.

Step into Pharoah and your eyes drift to the roaring dragon’s head and alien-looking skull on display in the lobby. A hallway stretches behind the counter, adorned with eerily-lit skulls that peer down from the moulding.

Kirschner is responsible for most of the art, which are products of skills he honed during a decade working in the film industry, as a sculptor for special effects teams.

His pieces are just the first step in his eventual goal of turning Pharaoh into a kind of dark art studio, with work from across the world on display.

“When I opened the shop part of my goal was to end up having not just a tattoo studio, but a tattoo and dark art kind of gallery,” he explains.

He says he plans on tapping into the network of artists he met in the film industry and putting their work on display, not just for his customers to enjoy, but for the general public as well.

“So rather than just be a place where you come and get some ink, we want to become a place where you can come even just to look at artwork,” he says.

The plan fits nicely into Kirschner’s philosophy of making his art (both sculpted and inked onto skin) as accessible as possible.

Already, Pharaoh is one of the only shops in the Okanagan that allows kids to come in with their parents (they still have strict rules about giving tattoos to minors), and Kirschner has done everything he can to push back against the dingy tattoo studio image so many shops have.

Joshua Johnson, who’s been working with Kirschner for years, points out that everyone at the shop holds themselves to the highest standard of cleanliness and hygiene.

He jokes that he’s had nurses in his chair who left amazed at the time and energy he takes to sterilize and avoid cross-contamination.

“Now it’s at the point where I go to the hospital and I’m disgusted with their hygiene practices,” he jokes.

“They do things in the medical world we wouldn’t ever think of doing here,” Kirschner adds with a chuckle.

He adds that he, Johnson, Tara Lessoway (whose portraits are "some of the best" he's ever seen), and the rest of the staff are a well-rounded group of artists who can make just about any tattoo come to life.

“We’re very well rounded here. We can pretty much accomplish anything, between the group of us,” he says.

That’s certainly been true when it comes to tattoos, and Kirschner wants to make sure it stays true as Pharaoh Tattoo Studio transforms into someone far beyond a simple tattoo studio.

For more information on Pharaoh, or its artists work, check the studio out online.



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