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Embracing Transformation & Accessibility: Two Years in Gastown

Embracing Transformation & Accessibility: Two Years in Gastown

Greetings! And welcome to the new Arcane Body Arts blog!

I'm Michelle, I’ve spent more than a decade owning and operating the studio we know and love. I am so thrilled to be sharing more about the studio with you in this new space! As we approach summer we will be celebrating both 11 years in business and two years since moving to our new, current space in Gastown. It has been an incredibly exciting (and exhausting, tbh) transition from our wonderful community on Commercial Drive, where we had nurtured a beautiful studio for nine full years. Join me as I reflect on the changes, growth, and our unwavering commitment to quality jewellery and accessibility within our studio and the wider body art industry.

The first dreams for the studio were to always have a space that was elevated and unique, in that we wanted to create a space unlike any other available in our region. We wanted to offer only quality body jewelry, and a relaxing environment that allowed our clients to be able to enjoy their time in our space. We wanted to build place that we would enjoy being in and holding space for every single client. Our first location was hard fought and trying to secure the first space was met with many refusals whenever I said the word piercing or tattoo When inquiring about spaces. I had to convince our future landlords to have coffee and listen to my business plan that I had spent a year working on. But I never envisioned that space as the only space, just the beginning. After nine years and so much growth, we finally needed more piercing rooms and fresh new space. When we started selling gold body jewellery it was a dream to be where we are now, with all of you. You’ve trusted us and shared so much of yourselves with us over the years - relationships, weddings, children, grief, love, funny stories and vulnerabilities, big plans and small victories. You’ve taught me that something I initially wanted to build so that I could have a sustainable career, as I faced uncertainty of my future with an unpredictable form of muscular dystrophy, would also allow me to create something I love and that has given me so much joy. Not to say there haven’t been some of the most intense struggles of my existence and more than a few heart breaks along the way. I’ve learned a lot and I’m not finished yet, for that I am immensely grateful. Now 2020 was a wild year and hashly reminded me that nothing can be predicted but neither is anything guaranteed. Our lease term was coming to an end in 2021 and it was time to make a decision. I decided to have faith in our growth and everything we had built.

When we first stepped into our what would be our new studio space, it was a blank slate - a largely empty unit just brimming with potential. It was both exhilarating and entirely daunting to start building a new location. We took the time to find a space that was both accessible, beautiful and would meet our needs, to create an environment that truly feels like our home away from home while still be bold and modern. There were several reasons for our move in addition to everything I’ve already mentioned- including wanting to elevate our space as our jewellery focus shifted to more fine jewellery from BVLA and, of course, accessibility (also air conditioning). Over the past two and a half years we have continued to meticulously transform this space into a sanctuary that reflects our values (including health and safety) and resonates with our artists and clients alike.

Leaving behind our thriving community on Commercial Drive was a bittersweet decision, and one I sometimes still question. However, despite the change of neighborhood, the essence and spirit of our studio have remained intact. Our vibrant community, cultivated over eleven incredible years, continues to flourish and grow. We have done countless fundraisers for our communities, had so many beautiful conversations and connected with so many people these last eleven years. It fills me with immense joy to witness familiar faces and new friends coming together, united by their love for self expression, connection and body art (and of course, beautiful jewellery). Although we shifted focus to body piercing and cosmetic tattooing, and away from traditional tattooing, we will occasionally host tattooer friends and love seeing our former artists/colleagues when they drop by. Our commitment to fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment remains unwavering, ensuring that our studio feels like a second home for all who enter. Transformative spaces are so special and we always want you to feel it too.

Throughout my journey of entrepreneurship, one thing has become increasingly important to me: accessibility. As a full-time wheelchair user and an unashamedly disabled person, I am passionate about making accessibility more than an afterthought within our industry (and the larger business community). Too often, individuals with disabilities have been overlooked, unheard or forgotten. It's time for a change, a shift in perspective that reverberates throughout our communities. If being a disabled person has taught me anything, it’s largely that the greater world does not understand the needs of people with disabilities and that insight is something I am very passionate about providing.

With the opportunity to build our new studio from scratch, I made it my mission to prioritize accessibility in every aspect. From entryways and maneuverable spaces to accommodating equipment and amenities, we have made intentional choices to ensure that our studio is truly accessible to all. I looked at several spaces in the neighbourhood before all the boxes were ticked - barrier free entrances, ample space, accessible washroom, nearby transit etc. We now have three private service rooms that are all large enough for most mobility aids, that are equipped with hydraulic massage tables that have an easily adjustable height, are extremely stable and wider than average. More information regarding the physical aspects of the studio can be found on our accessibility page (click here). It is my hope that by leading by example, we can inspire others in our industry to embrace accessibility as an essential aspect of their own spaces. Together, we can reshape the body art landscape and create a more inclusive environment.

As we celebrate this significant milestone, I want to express my deepest gratitude to our remarkable community, our dedicated artists, and our passionate team. To anyone who has ever worked with us, supported us or recommended us. Without their unwavering support, none of this would have been possible. As we move forward, we are excited for the years ahead - years of evolution, creativity, and advocacy for accessibility in the body art industry.

Thank you for joining me on this journey and being a part of the Arcane Body Arts story. Stay tuned to our blog, where we will share captivating stories, insightful perspectives (I’ll try my best), and exciting updates from our studio and our community. Let us embark on this adventure together, as we pave the way for a more inclusive, accessible and beautiful future for all.

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