Whose House? Rich’s House.

Feeling visually overstimulated upon entering Kapala Tattoo is an understatement.

The walls are covered with artwork hung salon-style and glinting eyeballs gaze out from furry taxidermied bodies perched on top of shelves filled with elegant skulls, Tibetan daggers and ceramic kewpies. The awed sensation is akin to stepping into a cathedral. Or an oddities shop.

“Tattooing influences my space in every nook and cranny,” Rich Handford, tattooer and owner of Kapala Tattoo says. “Before becoming a father and a husband my life was pretty much consumed by tattooing. I think its fingerprints are everywhere.”

Kapala Tattoo has been a mecca for custom tattoos in Winnipeg for going on 10 years and currently plays host to Handford plus four other artists.

“My favourite part of the job is working with my co-workers to develop themes and concepts for tattoos before I even do a lick of tattooing,” Handford says. “Work ethic, talent and camaraderie are building blocks of the shop and I think that’s what sets us apart.”

Entering the workforce with a degree in graphic design, a young Handford’s longtime love of illustration lead him to work at a number of street shops, giving him the skills to open up his own shop where he was free to approach tattooing the way he wanted to.

“It’s a career that has allowed me to draw everyday and get paid for it. It’s a dream come true.”

1) The walls of the drawing room

“I think this is one of my favourite things. It’s a collection of ideas and concepts and I think it spurs creativity and sets a standard for what is expected of each of us here at the shop. It’s a testament to hard work and to what we do for a living.”

2) Prized fish

“It’s a 29.5 foot walleye. I caught that sucker on the Red River just past Breezy Point. It’s the largest walleye I’ve ever caught.”

3) Human skull

“This little lady is from Selkirk, Manitoba. Another tattooer I know bought her from a retiring physician. At one point this was used for anatomical and medical study and now I use it to design
your tattoos.”

4) Steve Moore painting

“This painting is by one of my favourite tattoo artists. It’s a representation of the goddess Kannon and was up for auction at a charity show to raise money for the tsunami in Japan. Steve Moore did my whole back piece too, shoulders to knees.”

5) Tattoo machines

“This is one of my collections, apart from art and books. It’s the tool of my trade! The majority of mine are handmade and my friend Jesse Young makes my favourite ones.”

6) Cobra Whiskey

“This was a tip from one of my old receptionists for tattooing her. It’s cobra whiskey from Laos. When I first got it we all toasted and had a shot. It’s much better than you’d think.”

Check out Rich Handford’s work at kapalatattoo.com or on Instagram @kapalatattoo

Published in Volume 69, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 19, 2014)

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