Madame Tattoo


From São Paulo and with a degree in fashion, Marcella Rangel brings to Toronto her talent and love for tattoo.

By Nádia Nogueira

Marcella arrived in Canada for the first time more than 10 years ago and currently spends her time as a professional tattoo artist between Toronto and São Paulo. For her it was difficult to find her place in a market mostly explored by men.

Self-taught, Marcella learned techniques from a friend’s mother and practiced with friends. Soon she had friends lining up to have tattoos done and then Marcella realized that she needed a better structure to work and became a professional in 2006, working at her studio in São Paulo.

With a degree in fashion, Marcella is experienced with patterns and still works on it at times. For her, fashion became something of the masses, different from tattoo. “Tattoo is still something alternative. You don’t copy what someone else does,”  Marcella says.

Wave checked the artist’s work in Toronto. Read below the interview with Madame Tattoo.

 Do you think fashion and tattoo walk hand in hand?
Rangel: Tattoos are more personal as you “wear” what you are. It is on your body, you show it to everyone and you are not afraid of saying who you are.

 Tell us how the passion for tattoos started.
Rangel: Tattoos were always a passion as far back as I can remember. I drew and had little pens to draw on my friends. When I was 16 I visited Canada for the first time and it was a friend’s mother, who worked with permanent make-up, that taught me to assemble the equipment and I started practicing the drawings on pig skin and fruit. After some time, I started practicing on my friends.

 You have many tattoos on your body. Which one was your first, how many do you have and which one is your favorite?
Rangel: I had my first tattoo done on my 18th birthday. I have wings on my back. I went the day before to have it done but the tattoo artist said he could not do it because I was a minor, so I went back the following day. I lost count of how many I have. The last one is always my favorite.

“The person has to know how to draw and paint, be an artist above all. This is important before beginning at any tattoo school. You can’t be a tattoo artist and not have basic knowledge of colour composition and contrast.”

 How is your work here in Toronto? What is the difference between Brazilian and Canadian clients?
Rangel: In my opinion, Brazilians are very conservative and are not very creative. Brazilians like to have small tattoos that are seen on TV or on another person, like a tribal that has been seen a thousand times. In general they are not too open to new things. Canadians, Europeans or people from abroad are more open, say they like my work, say what they want, but I personalize the art.

 So your style is personalization?
Rangel: I do what they call “custom tattoo” or customized tattoo; the client tells me what he wants, brings some references and I make a special drawing for him, which means that he is the only one who will have that drawing, no one else will.  The person does not get the drawing from a magazine, for example. It’s a bit more work, we have to worry about the place chosen for the tattoo and how it’s going to fit on the body. So because of this, each person does what they do best. I don’t do portraits, oriental symbols, waves or fish. My style is illustration, something more vintage.

 Is there any difference between working with tattoos in Brazil and in Canada?
Rangel: The main difference is customization. When you begin tattooing, you do a bit of everything to learn various techniques, until you develop your own style. As I already have my own style, some people like what I do, but some people, especially in Brazil will say: “no, but I want this and not that”, so sometimes there are conflicts. Brazil has very good materials and wonderful tattoo artists. In Canada, in terms of material it is pretty much the same thing.

 Is there any type of drawing that you refuse to do?
Rangel: I don’t like to tattoo names of boyfriends, husband, and wife. Because I am not happy to do them, I prefer to refer to someone that likes doing these.

Do you think there’s still a lot of prejudice against people with tattoos?
Rangel: I think it is getting better, but there’s still prejudice when the sector is full of older people or sectors like medical, engineering or the corporate world. In the arts sector and more liberal professions, I think they don’t care. My brother for example, is an architect, has tattoos all over and has never suffered with prejudice. But I believe this will change and will be more open.

 In your opinion, do you think a course should be mandatory for someone who wants to become a tattoo artist?
Rangel: I would not say a course, but I think that an apprenticeship at a studio should be mandatory, as part of the learning process. What I did and what lots of people do, which is to learn by yourself is too difficult and it takes much longer. The person makes more mistakes, so the mistakes I made in three years, maybe I would not have made if I had been an apprentice. I would have started at a different level.

 How long does it take to make a name for yourself in the tattooing career?
Rangel: I have been doing this professionally for seven years and I think that now I am being recognized, but I think it takes about 10 years for you to be a recognized professional. It’s a lot of learning, and I am always learning and there is always something new happening.

 What is your favorite work and why?
Rangel: Nowadays I like to make beetles and moths. I also love to make things that resemble a story or a book.

 Who are your references and who inspires you when you are tattooing?
Rangel: My references are people with whom I have worked. Music inspires me. There’s always got to be music.

 Did your parents accept your choice of becoming a tattoo artist?
Rangel: My mom thought it was just a phase. My dad used to say, “no, you won’t be a tattoo artist!” I used to say that the more they talked about how they didn’t want me to be a tattoo artist, the more I wanted to be one. Now they support me and they are proud of my profession.

 Where do you work and what are the business hours?
Rangel:  In Toronto, I work at a studio called Adrenaline, at Queen St. and University Ave. There I work at different times, in general between 2 and 5 p.m. until midnight. I ask people to call in advance to check. It’s always good to schedule a time and if it is a custom tattoo they have to go before. When I am in Brazil,  I generally stay three months and have my own studio in Morumbi. But every time I travel I update my website and also visit other studios.

“I think tattoo is like a cover, and those who see it may find it cool or not.”

What advice would you give to someone that has had a bad experience with tattoo?
Rangel: I think that for anyone, even for someone who has had a bad experience, tattoos are done because of its artistic meaning rather than just to become an accessory or something that is in fashion; There are lots of $50 tattoos, but there aren’t many $300, and the difference is the tattoo artist. Before you look for price, look for the right artist for what you want to do. Research before you have your tattoo done.

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