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Speakeasy Tattoo

Posted by Ryan Bolton / Posted on May 10, 2011

Speakeasy Tattoos TorontoSpeakeasy Tattoo puts you at ease when you enter. No pretense -- just art, a fluffy Pomeranian named Wilma and traditional-style tattoos. And as I make myself comfortable in the street-level front room, Lizzie Renaud, Speakeasy's head honcho, comes in with a coffee in hand.

Speakeasy Tattoos TorontoAfter some pleasantries and a brief photo op with Wilma, Lizzie mentions: "Jay saved me from tattooing out of my kitchen." She's talking about one of the city's most revered tattooers (Jay Decator) from one of the city's most revered tattoo shops (Passage Tattoo Parlour). "He wrote me an e-mail one day and said I could come work at his shop. It was probably the most thrilling thing that ever happened to me."

Speakeasy Tattoos TorontoThis was back in early 2004, following an apprenticeship with another well-known tat joint, the Queen St. behemoth, New Tribe. After putting in six years at Passage, building a steady clientele, ideas started to float around Lizzie's head about what a tattoo shop would be like if she was running the show. Two years ago this June, it became a reality and Speakeasy opened its doors to its Little Italy-slash-Koreatown environ.

Speakeasy Tattoos TorontoSpeakeasy is built on the traditions of tattooing and the respect inherent in the culture. They didn't put a "tattoo sign" on the storefront for a year because Lizzie felt they needed to earn their spot in the city's tattoo culture. To pay their dues, in effect. With four artists (two Jens, Adrian who tackles a lot of walk-ins, and Lizzie) the shop can handle a diverse set of styles and techniques. A diverse set of styles for just as diverse a customer base, such as, 18-year-olds getting traditional back pieces to 70-year-olds getting that tattoo they never got.

Speakeasy Tattoos TorontoThe shop also likes to carve out its clientele by being open, both figuratively and literally. The shop doesn't close until 10pm from Monday to Saturday, open till 6pm on Sundays. That's late for tattoo shops. But that's the point at Speakeasy: "We will do anything for anybody at anytime," Lizzie remarks. And she means it.

Speakeasy Tattoos TorontoLizzie has built her shop, and the shop's traditional culture, based on what she has taken in from her various guest stints around the world. She's tattooed in England, Belgium, France, Holland, New York, Chicago, California, Alberta, Washington inter alia. She traveled to these places because she wanted to learn, and learn she did. "I needed to get better at tattooing," she says, humbly. "And the help was out there."

Speakeasy Tattoos TorontoHaving seen the world of tattooing, Lizzie is proud of Toronto's tattoo scene and its bundle of eclectic and skilled artists. She does recall, though, being shocked that Toronto wasn't well known on the world map of tattooing. "I love a lot of the tattooing that goes on in Toronto and it doesn't make sense that it hasn't had more of a worldwide mark yet."

Speakeasy Tattoos TorontoSpeakeasy Tattoos TorontoWriting by Ryan Bolton / Photos by Dennis Marciniak

Discussion

50 Comments

Josh / May 10, 2011 at 10:15 am
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The best shop in Toronto.
Rizie / May 10, 2011 at 12:08 pm
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Love these guys! I have been seeing Lizzie for about 5 years now & have gotten some other work done by Jen & Adrian. It's always a pleasure when I visit. Big ups to Hayden!
J.J. / May 10, 2011 at 02:23 pm
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WILMA!!

i too have been seeing lizzie for many years.....i love her tattooing style and she's great fun to sit with for those LONG tattooing sessions.

GO TEAM SPEAKEASY!! : )
keven / May 10, 2011 at 02:58 pm
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A dog that sheds in a sterile enviro? No thank you.
mrs potato / May 10, 2011 at 04:50 pm
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dog in the studio?

i love dogs, but that's completely unacceptable in a 'sterile' environment. I'm actually kind of shocked & disgusted.

I wonder if they'd pass an unexpected Health Canada inspection.

Grace / May 10, 2011 at 04:52 pm
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Love love lovce this place! Just got my tattoo done by Jenn yesterday. Very easy going shop; accepted me as a walk in and got exactly what I wanted. Jenn was very understanding, didn't start until I liked the placement and what not (it took 4 stencils lol). Will definitly come back to this place in the near future. Was first drawn to this place when Lizzie tatto'd me back when I was 18 at Passage, loved her work and personality from there on. Best shop; better believe it!!!!
alfred / May 10, 2011 at 06:08 pm
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Good to see some people chiming in on this article...even if some of them are uneducated.
The shop has passed Health Canada requirements upon every visit, and has in fact received exemplary passes, even when the dog was present. Following the guidelines of Health Canada, there are no more risks for cross contamination with a dog in the building than there is if someone walked in with muddy feet.
bridget / May 10, 2011 at 07:58 pm
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who's tattoo is being drawn up on the trace paper? bc i lurrrrv it!
Princey / May 10, 2011 at 09:43 pm
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Yeah, seriously people, a dog has nothing to do with needles and equipment
Etz / May 11, 2011 at 03:47 am
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Lizzie owns. That is all.
Keven replying to a comment from Princey / May 11, 2011 at 07:37 am
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No but it does have something to do with sterility. There is a reason why you won't see a pet dog in a doctor's office and I expect a tattoo parlour to be just as clean.

To whom made the comparison of muddy shoes: my shoes don't collect bacteria and then shed it all over the place, my shoes don't lick their privates and my shoes don't crap and then lick themselves. My shoes also don't stick their noses in everything.

I love dogs, I have one. I wouldn't go back to a doctor who had one near a surgery room & tattoo parlours should be held to the same standards.
They passed a health inspection? LOL, so did The Dumpling House on Spadina, for several years and are still open, even after the rat fiasco. Health inspections are a joke.

Alfred / May 11, 2011 at 11:06 am
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Shoes and clothing don't collect bacteria? That's odd. I would have thought that walking all over dirty sidewalks and stepping in god knows what, would attract some sort of bacteria on the soles of shoes.
The dog doesn't do the tattooing, and therefore never comes in contact with surfaces involved in tattooing. Comparing surgery rooms to tattoo parlours is a pretty naive statement. No one has ever been tattooed in a vacuum like environment such as a surgery room.
keven replying to a comment from Alfred / May 11, 2011 at 12:19 pm
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A sterile environment is a sterile environment. Period.
My shoes don't have hair that floats around a "sterile environment"

Anyways, enjoy your infections and/or Hep-C. I guess I just have higher standards than you do for all the work I've had done myself over the years.
Alfred / May 11, 2011 at 12:46 pm
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I don't think you understand what sterile means. "period"
Do you wear autoclaved clothing, bonnets, aprons, shoe covers etc, as you would in a surgical setting in a hospital when you set foot in a tattoo shop? Then you you've just contaminated a "sterile" environment. You're comparing apples and oranges. Maybe I can consult with you about health code regulations since you seem to know more than hundreds if other tattoo shops and government expertise on air borne pathogens? Id appreciate it.
Why am I even arguing with someone on a blog and who puts an s on the end of the word "anyway"
Hahahahahahahaha.
Daniel Reed / May 11, 2011 at 12:57 pm
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I found this place last summer because i was planning on making a trip to DC to get tattooed by Nikki Balls and just before i spent a ton of money to travel out of our city to get tattooed, i was told that Nikki was coming to Toronto! I was late on getting in but told she would be back and low and behold this summer Speakeasy Tattoos has SO MANY international artists coming to visit. community, respect, appreciation for good tattoos and the application of such is what you get. the end.

the above comments were disheartening, and not really worth replying to but i gota say;,

for anybody to imply that i as a client have lower standards for getting tattooed at speakeasy, what a joke! i've been tattooed all over the states and europe and never expected to find a new shop in the GTA that would be bringing the same plays to our tired toronto tattoo game. anybody that even questions the professionalism, cleanliness or high sterile standards of the shop i laugh at you. go see for yourself. My mom, an RN, recently got tattooed at speakeasy (and she was terrified) and was walked through the entire set up and had her questions answered making her feel totally at home. if you haven't gotten tattooed by one of the awesome artists at speakeasy or one of their many guest artists, you're making a mistake, enjoy your boring busted ass tattoos!
Porky / May 11, 2011 at 12:59 pm
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Came here as a walk-in last year for my first tattoo and was disappointed with the service. The first sketch they did was too big so I told them I wanted it smaller. The second sketch was still a little too big but they said it was better to go bigger since it was my first tattoo. Somehow I was convinced. In hindsight I think they just wanted it bigger because it was easier for them to tattoo. When the tattoo was done they just wrapped it up and sent me on my way. Didn't say anything about how I should take care of it considering it was my first. Yes I could have asked but at that point it felt like they just wanted me out of there. The overall impression I got was that because it was my first tattoo and it was a pretty simple one they just wanted to get it over and done with as quickly as possible. Needless to say I will be going elsewhere for my second tattoo.
keven replying to a comment from Alfred / May 11, 2011 at 01:33 pm
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I can't believe I'm arguing with someone that sees the harm in human contacted pathogens, but has no problems with a dog being in the shop.

To each their own I s'pose.
keven replying to a comment from Daniel Reed / May 11, 2011 at 01:34 pm
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I take it your a friend. In fact most of the commentors in this thread are. A little bias are we?
Tattoo queen / May 11, 2011 at 06:43 pm
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I am a surgeon in the GTA. I have a full back piece doneby Lizzie. Her shop is clean and well managed. The artistic quality is second to none. No, I not a friend keven (or whatever name you use to create your keyboard courage) however to be a client of Speakeasy means becoming a trusted friend. Bar being a complaining, not sure what you want until you decide what you don't want fool.
Mister G / May 11, 2011 at 06:55 pm
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@Porky Go big or go home!
keven replying to a comment from Tattoo queen / May 12, 2011 at 07:13 am
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A surgeon that can't string a coherent sentence together? Yeeaaa riiiight. Nice try though.
Shay / May 12, 2011 at 10:18 am
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Is there a minimum price on a tattoo? I was looking to get a 4 letter word on my foot, but can't bring myself to pay the somewhat outrageous $85minimum that people have... whatever happened to $50 tattoos?? I got a bunch of em!
Van / May 12, 2011 at 02:15 pm
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There are some wicked tattoo shops in the city but Speakeasy is definitely number one. Aside from producing amazing work, the shop itself (and environment) is awesome. All of the people there are kind and accommodating - I can't help but recommend this to any person I know who wants a tattoo! Great service and even greater results.
And I can't help but comment on the whole 'sterile environment' issue - I don't think it really has much to do with being 'bias' as it does with being truthful. From my experience the shop takes cleanliness very seriously.
jay / May 13, 2011 at 01:26 am
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I've been to Speakeasy a few times this year and everytime I have been blown away by how amazing the work is.
Consuela / May 15, 2011 at 01:28 pm
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Keven - there is only one i in the word right. Maybe you should just go deliver your PennySavers now.
Kaye / May 17, 2011 at 02:35 am
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Wilma is a sweetheart, and Lizzie is an artist. My experience with Speakeasy was nothing but great. It was the first time I planned a larger piece, and Lizzie took the time to create something amazing for me. When I had the tattoo done, she spent a long time arranging the tattoo on my calf, talking to me about the size, etc., and knew which size would be best in order to display the tattoo on my calf most effectively. Everyone in the shop was always very kind, and I felt really comfortable. I can't wait to have another piece done by Lizzie. The shop is nothing but clean and professional. Again, Lizzie is beyond talented! Amazing!
Alex / May 19, 2011 at 12:17 pm
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I have gotten three tattoos done at Speakeasy (by Jen M.) and I just want to say that everyone there is fantastic and incredibly talented.
Jeremy / May 26, 2011 at 05:46 pm
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I've had the pleasure of having two of my tattoos done at Speakeasy (both fairly large) The first one on my back was by Lizzie and the other on my side by Jen. I will continue to return based largely on the atmosphere of the shop and the quality of the work. Anytime I've been in there they have been accommodating and mindful of how my comfort level is. Ignore the haters and do yourself a favour!
Speakeasy Fan / June 1, 2011 at 03:33 pm
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I too have had a fair amount of work done by Lizzie at Speakeasy (and when she was at Passage as well). I have absolutely nothing to complain about, feel completely safe from infection and always enjoy the experience. In fact, on the last piece I fell asleep while she was working on me! I will go to no one other than Lizzie and Speakeasy. (I also happen to work in a hospital and know the difference between a "sterile" environment (the OR) and one that is clean and opened to the public but using sterile equipment. Yes, the comparison is apples to oranges.)
Pat replying to a comment from Keven / January 13, 2012 at 11:51 pm
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That's completely stupid. You walk around Toronto all day - do you have any idea how much bacteria and God only knows what, is on the bottom of your shoes? People spitting all over the sidewalk, you stepping in it, and you think your shoes are clean? You're joking.
Pat replying to a comment from Keven / January 13, 2012 at 11:52 pm
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That was a reply to Keven.
johnny javason / February 24, 2012 at 11:03 am
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Depression is something I hope to never have to confront again, however I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience it once.
Hoss / March 28, 2012 at 05:37 pm
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this place is garbage and i dont recommend it at all!!!! the people in there have no idea whats going on, i whent in for a quote took my shirt off the artist traced everything, and i told him everything i wanted and was quoted 5 to 6 hours MAX! to do everything i wanted so i was pleased with the quote i was ready to book and get it done, then get an email couple
days later from the artist saying that he miss quoted and it would be an extra 10 to 11 hours on top of what he told me, plus it would also be another 4 hours for shading,so thats an extra 15 hours total!! on top of what he told me, wtf how in the hell do you miss quote something so badly like that, and they're suppose to be a pros and experts.... complete garbage you want a tattoo and no bs go to a different shop this one is trash!!!
NORE / April 2, 2012 at 12:16 pm
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I ALSO GOT A BAD VIBE FROM THIS PLACE... I ENDED UP GOING TO NEWTRIBE MUCH BETTER PLACE IMO
Gee / April 3, 2012 at 08:03 pm
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Agreed with above. Did not get a great vibe from the place. Artists were not willing to show me what they would do for me at all until I paid a deposit. Was glad to eventually get out of there.
El Wonger / April 17, 2012 at 01:47 pm
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Sounds like a lot of mis-representation here with falseified gripes. Speakeasy is too professional to give out mis-quotes. They've been doing far too long and are too concerned about their reputation to make green mistakes like this. i will concede that at one point, there was a mis-fire in terms of staff, but they quickly corrected it. Kudos for Speakeasy for not even bothering to respond. This is one of the most unpretentious and professional shops in the city, with NO tattooing clique-ishness or rudeness given to the un-initated or inexperienced. It passes and surpasses health inspection as well as maintaining exemplary standards. For those wanting to get tattooed in an absolutely sterile LOOKING environment, you're free find one, but be aware that looks don't guarantee either cleanliness or even proper equipment maintenance - not to mention NO guarantee of tattooing ability. You obviously have no idea of what's what in the industry, because if your gripes are genuine, you also probably would not want to get tattooed at Horiyoshi III or Filip Leu's studio in Yokohama and Lausanne (respectively).

@ keven: You're a troll. And from what I can gather from your comments, most likely a young and un-tattooed one, to boot.
Lara / June 19, 2012 at 12:25 pm
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I got a tattoo done here by a guest artist I believe his name was Jimmy. It is my favorite of the 6 I have so far. Super clean lines I basically came to him with an outline and let him have free range with it. I originally went to this place because I really liked the style of Lizzie's tattoos in her portfolio but when I walked in I was referred to Jimmy and I have to say I am thrilled with how it went. If Jimmy comes back I plan on getting more done by him!
P / June 21, 2012 at 08:51 pm
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I was reading reviews for some of the tattoo parlours in Toronto (as I am looking to get one) and stumbled into this review. One should never mention sterility when talking about a public place. The only sterile thing in a tattoo shop in the needles but once they're unwrapped they cease to be sterile. They may be aseptic when opened but only until they touch the skin or ink. The "surgeon" who posted should have picked up on that. Also, an operating room is not sterile, it is also aseptic.

No room is aseptic or sterile if the front door opens to the street or if the area outside of it is filled with sick people with various infections.

My post above has little to do with tattooing but I will be going there to see for myself and look at their work, if I like what I see I may just get inked there.

To the person who commented on the "surgeon's" sentence structure, who ever said Dr.s could write well? they can operate and treat patients but English grammar is only taught in primary school.
P / June 21, 2012 at 09:08 pm
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Yeah, and about the dog, not a good place to have one. yes dogs and shoes are equally dirty but shoes don't shake around or thrash their head or body around sending hair into the air.
Jen / June 26, 2012 at 11:31 pm
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I got my first tattoo just yesterday by Emma, one of the artists there. She's really nice and very down to earth but, the work they did on me wasn't as great as what I've expected from reading blogs. My tattoo was a little messy, i could see lining where there shouldn't be.
Noreen / August 16, 2012 at 09:29 am
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Just a comment about dogs not being in doctors offices. FYI dogs are allowed in hospitals I work in one and see many. Again they are no where near sterile environments like the OR, even humans aren't allowed there. And they may like themselves but they dont carry infections that are transferable to humans. I am appalled by some people's comments
Victoria / September 4, 2012 at 02:19 pm
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I have a couple of tattoos, and had the pleasure of trying this shop for the first time last week. Joey the receptionist is super friendly, and I got tattooed by Emma. I wanted some ancient scripture on my spine, and she took the time (and did not charge me!) for over an hour's worth of resizing and hand drawing each symbol. Despite the long wait, she was friendly and gave her honest opinion about the sizing of my tattoo. I love it! Will definitely go there again; the shop was nice, and not at all pretentious.
Tooks replying to a comment from Noreen / September 14, 2012 at 01:26 am
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Well said!!! Exactly what I was thinking! I was in hospital a few years ago, for an extended stay (a dump truck tried it get the best of me...it failed miserably), and my family dog came to visit me as well as friends and their dogs! At this time, I was PTA and seizing, which means they left my trach in for a while just in case. I also had a severe degloving laceration on my arm (meaning large chunks of muscle and tissue were torn away, preventing stitching; this wound has to be packed). Despite all of these things, my UN-sterile but beloved dog and dog friends were able to visit me in the hospital. I now visit a nursing home with my dog, where many residents have trachs, GI tubs, you name it.

Just as an FYI, shoes can be very unsanitary (or unsterile, or un-whatever). Years ago when I was flying from AUS to NZ, I was made to take off my shoes and wash them right there in customs! They take that shit very seriously down there and if there's ANY potential for carrying and type of disease thst might harm their flora, you better watch out! I had been to a farm months beforehand and had played rugby in a field by our house. They stopped me because I had grass stains on my shoes. Soo, yeah, shoes definitely carry more shit than your dog does.
Rob / December 25, 2012 at 07:43 pm
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I love this shop I can't wait to spend all my christmas money there!
Eva replying to a comment from Keven / March 7, 2013 at 10:51 am
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you realize that a dogs mouth is cleaner than humans, and most definitely yours.
mike / May 28, 2013 at 11:40 pm
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Can anyone tell me how the pricing is here? i was planning on getting 2 swallows done can anyone guestimate for me? Also, do they ID here?
Sabrina / August 9, 2013 at 03:50 pm
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I emailed the shop at 11pm the night before I had wanted my tattoo, informing and apologizing them for the last minute email. When they got back to me the following day at around noon, they regretted to inform me that the artist I had requested was unavailable, but another one was, and for the time I had originally asked for too. So I said yes and sent over the requested image of what I was looking at getting. Just as I was getting ready to leave my house to make it for my appointment (probably a good 45 min, but I allotted an hour to be safe) I got an email telling me that because the artist I was set to see - which was confirmed by email - had decided to take a walk-in I wouldn't be having my appointment that day. I am so beyond frustrated at this unprofessional behaviour. If they didn't want to accept my last minute inquiry in favour of a possible walk-in, they shouldn't have offered me the spot in the first place - plain and simple. So disappointed. Definitely not getting my business.
Tanaika / August 17, 2013 at 07:42 am
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I'm also looking for pricing please and thank you!

Oh and as much as I love dogs and wouldn't care if one was present while getting a tat done,you guys didn't even mention that there's always a chance the dog could knock something and screw up the tattoo not just be unsterile (which if the dog was a problem to the sterility of the shop it wouldn't be there people) and I'm pretty sure if anyone had a real issue with the dog all they would need to do is vocalize it and the dog would probably be moved.
Maya replying to a comment from Sabrina / December 16, 2013 at 09:47 pm
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Wah.
clare / April 2, 2014 at 07:57 am
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I have been tattooed from NY to London, with some of the best internationally known artists (Sarah Schor, Duke Riley etc). both the Speak Easy artists i have worked with were on par artistically with these international super stars. On all occasions in which i attended, the shop was spotless, the staff were informative and kind, and the artist was talented and professional.

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