Toronto is getting its first-ever tattoo bus this summer
In a city where it seems like there's a tattoo shop on every corner, innovation is hard to come by.
Todd Santos and his tattoo bus are standing alone.
Since 2009, Santos has been innovating with a pair of luxury tattoo studios, Bamboo Tattoo and Bali Tattoo. His shops grew in popularity as he injected new techniques and borderline-insane ideas into his brand.
His latest crazy idea? A 40-foot tour bus.
The bus has been gutted, stripped of its original interior, and transformed into a fully-functional tattoo studio and event space.
While this might seem like a bit much for some, those around Santos know he has a taste for daring new ideas.
Santos' first shop was opened with the concept of exposing Toronto to a different method of tattooing.
First, it was the Tebori style, which is when the artist uses a bamboo stick with needles the produce the tattoo on the skin.
His next accomplishment was bringing artists from across the world to tattoo at his shops. They weren't just guest spots, however.
He helped talented up-and-coming artists come to Toronto in order to expose them to an audience who would appreciate and pay them what they were worth.
Santos currently has a roster of around 25 artists, spread between emerging local talent, solidified veterans, and overseas superstars.
His two shops offer clients a luxury experience with swanky furniture, dark details, and a $500,000 skull crafted out of Swarovski crystals.
This same vibe has been translated into the new Tattour bus.
At about 40 feet in length, it's a sight to behold. It's been wrapped in matte black and finished with a mural on each side. The left side is set to be completed in the following weeks by Sumartist.
When you enter from the right side, you walk past velvet ropes, onto a red carpet, and through the door (which makes you feel like a rockstar). Santos explains that building something like this without any previous examples was a huge challenge, but the hard work paid off.
There's room for about three artists to set up with full-size chairs, all while watching TV and listening to music.
Better yet, artists have the chance to make music on the bus.
"Just last week, Smiley was here to shoot his most recent music video," said Santos. "Drake pulled up in the OVO Maybach, the whole street was like a party. This is what I want the bus to turn into."
In its rawest form, the Tattour bus is a space for people to come together.
The team brought the bus to La Paloma, a gelato store in Woodbridge which is infamous for its late-night car meet-ups. The team at Bamboo told me that they tattooed eight people that night, three of which were getting their first pieces.
"I want this bus everywhere," says Santos. "It's already going to be in the CNE and at Pride. We're planning on renting it out to celebrities, rappers, letting them use it as a party spot. The possibilities are endless."
When not on the road, the Tattour bus spends its time outside of the Bamboo Tattoo on The Queensway or Bali Tattoo in Woodbridge.
This summer is expected to be monumental for Santos as he plans to bang out about 50 tattoos at the events he's scheduled to roll up at.
Who knows, your first tattoo might be on Toronto's first-ever tattoo bus.
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