Sudbury tattoo artist hopes his newfound fame will shine a light on the industry

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SUDBURY — A local tattoo artist, competing for a magazine cover, hopes to shine a light on the industry as a whole.

Rose Cardinal, who owns ‘Studio Cardinal’ on Kingsway in Sudbury, is competing to be the next cover girl for ‘Inked’ magazine, a popular industry-wide publication.

“It’s really out of my comfort zone! I don’t really do that kind of stuff. But I got a lot of nudges from my clients, people who really care about me and tell me you know what you have to do, give it a try, give it a try.

The contest started earlier this month. Competitors are placed in groups of approximately 40 women. She says the support has been overwhelming.

“I’m a little blown away. It’s really cool to see how many people have stood behind me and are voting every day and have timers in their phones,” Cardinal said.

“My mom is at Tim Hortons telling everyone ‘hey, vote for my daughter, do this!’ I have people stopping by the store I’ve never met or seen before and say, “I voted for you!” I voted for you.”

With four more laps to go, Cardinal is focused on the big picture. She hopes to use the new spotlight to shed light on an industry she says has evolved, just as she works in it.

“When I went to apply for an apprenticeship, I was refused because I am a woman, in 2009,” she recalls. “They told me no, we’re not going to hire a woman because women are dramatic. So look elsewhere, so it took a while before I could move forward in tattooing, but it kind of helped added fuel to my fire to be honest,” Cardinal said.

Now as the owner of her own studio, Cardinal says she strives to create and foster a work culture that is welcoming and free from any kind of sexism. Cardinal says his most visible tattoos are on his sleeves. While she acknowledges that everyone has their own reasons, she says her tattoos should tell a story.

“I really care about the symbolism behind the tattoos, but I’ve cared about it in my artwork as well. For me, when I choose to decorate my body, I choose things that make sense. I really told the story of my life on my body.

Cardinal calls his studio a collective of tattoo artists, which means that all artists operate in an atmosphere of shared ideas. Joel Marin says that while he used to recognize a stigma attached to tattooing, he says that too has faded over time.

“We tattoo everyone,” Marin said. “We tattoo everyone from the criminal in jail to the judge who put him there, the cop who arrested him and everyone in between. All walks of life, people really see it more as an art form than a degenerate thing.

Cardinal didn’t see a future as a tattoo artist when she was younger. Initially, she enrolled in teachers’ college. After getting her first tattoo, she said she had something of an epiphany.

“Sitting with the artist, going through the process as a client and it just opened up something in my head and I was like ‘ok, why am I not doing this?'”

Luckily for her, she says she comes from a supportive family that has always pushed her to achieve her goals. She says these days she thinks it’s a big part of Sudbury’s atmosphere.

“Living in a blue-collar town, you have parents who want to push you to do things and be bigger all the time. My dad was a miner and my dad used to say that women are starting to come into this industry and there’s nothing wrong with that. You can do whatever you want to do,” Cardinal said.

Along with being the magazine’s next cover girl, the winner will also take home $25,000. While winning would be great, she says this process has been so much more for her. She hopes to raise awareness.

“I think it would be really cool to see a cover girl on Inked magazine who isn’t completely covered in makeup, who’s a bit more natural, who really shows off the tattoos and talks about the industry not only from the model’s perspective but from the tattoo’s perspective, from the business owner’s perspective,” Cardinal said.

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