Opinions & Features Workshop (Oct 26th)

Photo by Rachneet Randhawa

Calgary Tattoo and Arts Festival 2021: Skull and Lotus Tattoo

By Rachneet Randhawa, November 12 2021—

The annual Calgary Tattoo and Arts Festival 2021 is the biggest show of its kind in Canada. Over 200 of the best local artists come together to showcase their work alongside contests, retail exhibits and tattooing sessions all weekend long. This year we’ve done a countdown to our top artists and best tattoo shops in Calgary. The Gauntlet sat down for an interview with a handful of ink masters, one of whom was Carsten Mendoza from Skull and Lotus Tattoo, to learn more. 

Mendoza’s definition of a tattoo is something individualized, unique to each person. 

“Some people just want random things,” says Mendoza. “Some people are minimalistic, when some people want full details with stories and meaning to them. It really, in my opinion, caters to each individual but it’s up to them what they want on their body.” 

The biggest challenge thus far has been navigating through the pandemic. 

“With the ever-changing restrictions and stuff like that, it’s hard to try to please everybody,” says Mendoza. “Sometimes you’ll get some pushback. But then with the pushback, there’s still a lot of supportive support of a client of ours.” 

Due to restrictions, space was limited in their shop most of the time which didn’t allow them the maximum amount of people at times. For those that are indecisive about committing to getting permanently inked, Mendoza advises to dive in and do your research especially from the perspective of a cross-cultural context. 

“If you want to travel, think about cultures,” he says. For example, there are certain parts of the world like Japan that don’t allow those who have tattoos into bath houses. Do research on the history of tattoos and don’t just get a tattoo on a whim. Depending on what kind of field you want to work in as well, I know a lot of people do worry about exposed tattoos, like in trying to find office jobs and stuff like that.” 

As for how large-scale conventions like this shape the culture of the city, Mendoza says that it introduces people to tattoo culture and makes them realize that it’s not as taboo as it used to be.

He recommends taking your time to witness what each artist has to offer, including a different style and different strengths and weaknesses. Based on what you want to get done, find the right artist for you by introducing yourself and being genuine about sharing what you want to work with. 

As for the creative process, there is no exact method to the madness but rather it’s a diverse palette. 

“Some artists gravitate to a certain style. And then they just run with it,” he says. “Some artists do try to expand their their skill sets and dabble into new styles — realism, traditional or Japanese style.”

Mendoza also mentioned Skull and Lotus Tattoo are relocating to a larger shop and are looking to take on more artists and apprentices. 


Skull and Lotus is accepting new clients and plans to move to a new and bigger location in March 2022. Be sure to check out their website and social medias @skullandlotustattoo for your first tattoo and beyond.


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