Wesley Canada approaches commissions the same way any artist would. First, she asks questions: “What do you want? How big? Which colors?” Then, she spends hours sketching a design. Finally, she reveals her artwork to the client. However, this is where the process takes a different turn. Canada is a tattoo artist. Her art installations last forever.
While getting inked may give some the jitters, others jump at the opportunity; Canada is booked solid through next spring. The owner of Sacred Soul Collective—the largest studio of its kind in Oklahoma—tells us about her business and this unexpected realm of the art world.
In school, they teach you how to make things out of anything—glass, ceramics, painting, sculpture, all of it. I was like, “Well, this is just one more medium; it can’t be that different.” Once I did my first tattoo, some light went on inside of me. It was like a spark that I hadn’t felt in a really long time, so I knew this is what I wanted to do. I think it’s really cool, too, that our bodies have curves and motion. It’s not like a flat piece of paper.
You are skilled in drawing nature-inspired images. Why is that?
If I could just do that forever and never try anything else, I would be happy. I love being in nature. That’s my happy place. I like the mountains. I like the forest. I like to hike. It just comes out of me—thoughtless, almost, and meditative—if I’m doing nature artwork.
Is it challenging to be creative while also navigating a client’s desires?
Honestly, as an artist, I’ve always struggled with conceptualizing what to draw. If I’m stuck by myself, alone in a room with no inspiration, I have a hard time creating things. But if I have a little bit of input, then [boom], it explodes.
What is different about Sacred Soul Collective, compared to other shops?
Our particular industry, tattoos, can be very male-dominated and rough around the edges. It’s an intimidating process, and a lot of shops are intimidating, as well. You walk in, and it’s screamo music, all black and red, and harsh. I tried to make this space as opposite as I could—soft, inviting, and feminine, like us.
Your tattoos tell your stories. One is how you became sober 10 years ago, the same time you began tattooing. Are these life events connected?
My life kind of started 10 years ago, like from nothing. So many opportunities fell into place at the right time, which made me feel like I was doing what I was meant to be doing. It kept me on track, and things kept building and building. I looked around and thought, “I just have too much to lose; I’m never going to go back to that.” It was a really hard thing to go through … but I feel like I had to go through that to learn how to become the person I am today.