DISCLAIMER: To write about Justin Ormiston is, in fact, a risk. As you can see, he is James Bond stealth and sometimes hides in bushes…just for the sake of hiding in bushes. He was born with a superpower ability to capture, with the palm of his hand, inconceivable forces of evil and wrestle beauty out of them onto the most skinful of creatures. They crawl and play off the curves of shoulders, slide down the slopes of spiny notches and into the sinewy valleys of forearms and veins. It is within these cutaneous gardens and playgrounds of dark and light, of what was and what is to be, the delightful and demonic, that he explores all aspects that make us human.
He sees through all acts of malice, passive aggressiveness and bullshit in 2.2 milliseconds while most of us take five. He’s incredibly private, polite, all-class and as top shelf of a friend you can get. Therefore, to respect his privacy, consider this a warning if you so choose to continue reading: I’ve paid WordPress an extra $1000 for the latest “Destructor” widget that will, in fact, blow up your computer. Its vapour will also hypnotize you to forget everything you just read and everything you are about to learn about this man.
NOTE A: Don’t worry, it’s chemical free, biodegradable and will leave your skin youthful and glowing.
NOTE B: If you’re lucky, you might be even the one in one thousandth percentile of people on the planet who eventually gets inked from this man one day. All the better to vaporize your pores as he is also a man of significant hygiene.
NOTE C: You know nothing. You say nothing. Agreed?
*Footnote to all of the above: Holding your breath will not work.
Please continue reading or leave this page immediately.
There is a process to everything in life. Some processes are harder than others. How to become an astronaut, for example, is indeed a rare and challenging process. It requires rigorous training, a tolerance for (barely) sleeping, floating toothbrushes and being okay with that fact that you will experience 16 sunrises in one day. Weird. Photosynthesis is another process, one of the many trillions that Mother Nature has up her 100% hemp, allergen-free, fair trade sleeves. Law School. Hard boiled eggs. Julliard. How about museums? To receive an invitation from the most prestigious of museums, you have to be dead first and if you are alive you’re not as interesting because artists bereft of life are much more mysterious. The Perfect Apple Crumble. The Oxford Fellowship Exam. The NFL. The Death Valley Marathon. The Navy Seals. How to whistle with two fingers. These are all incredibly gruelling feats, ones that require hard work, mental agility and deserve a respectful nod as there is a process to each of them, standards to reach and a deserved outcome.
This may be a dramatic drumroll of a paragraph to introduce the artistic integrity of Justin Ormiston but I have no choice. I can hear him now, easing me to slow down on the unnecessary lead up, “Careful now, McCabe. The ginger pit bull is a delicate one.” There is a reason he doesn’t advertise and my touting might not help this matter. But anyone who has actually made it past the drawing board with Justin, beneath the buzzing gun in his studio Electric Uprising, well, they know exactly what I’m talking about.
It is a six month wait list to actually get beneath the visionary eyes, hands, brain and spirited vision of Justin as well as his equally talented wife, Lacey Jean (Lacey deserves a whole one of these as well…give me time, I’ll get her one of these days…). The duo own Electric Uprising, a creative collective and tattoo design studio tucked into an unassuming space with no sign, other than a doorway, long flight of stairs and Justin’s large rubber boots outside the door. The two together are the Diego and Frieda of the Corridor although not as Mexican, crazy or hairy. Last time I checked, Lacey is mono-brow free. They are a vision of walking art themselves, head to toe with the designs of their life and life phases in ink. They complete each others weirdo-thoughts including one liners from Star Wars (true story, I’ve stood open-jawed in their hallway listening intently). They were my birthday date last year in head to toe 1950’s-esque dapper-don’t-see-a-single-piece o’ lint-attire. Sharp! The table across from us wanted to take Lacey and her stilettos home as their dessert. The Ginger Pit Bull, I believe, growled beneath his napkin.
Justin’s process is an honest and arduous one. It is easy at the start because of his honesty and only arduous near the end because, well, tattoos hurt like a sunuvabitch. Leading up to the actual piece, a great deal of consideration, deliberation and honesty are his main tenets that he encourages from all parties. Most of the time if he isn’t 100% attuned to a project he will refer you to others in the business that he respects. In fact, he refers probably nine out of ten people who come to see him to other artists.
I only know this because I was one of the nine out of ten people who got the old heave-ho from Ormiston. Poop! I had a phase last year where I finally considered inking my Snow White tattoo-less body. I was excited and keen to finally consolidate with him on an idea that I had in mind. I showed up in my usual way at their studio, laughing and spinning multiple times on his guest stool. But rather than shaking his head and cracking a funny, he had his serious glasses on and I realized I was officially meeting with Justin the Artist not Justin my Goofy Friend. Within ten minutes his style and my vision were not a match and he referred me across the hall to his lovely wife, who indeed, did see my vision with more enthusiasm and a feminine touch than he. I never did get a tatt. I took his advice, sat with it for a few months and came to the conclusion that my self-written Rumi’esque poem on my rib cage was perhaps a bit too much for a lifetime of swimsuits. However, I am very very lucky to be the recipient of a business logo (check it out, far left) that he channeled for me one day while I taught him on the mat. A few days later it auspiciously arrived (on my birthday without knowing) in a wrap of newspaper and saved onto a CD in several three-letter formats. Thanks Justin.
The moments of his process that make it all worth it, are the in-betweens (if you are the one-out-of-ten lucky ones). It is when you will NOT be able to find Justin Ormiston for an entire day because his door is locked and his phone is off. It is the time of the week where he catches thoughts from ether, pencil to point and brings make-believe onto paper. He marks this one-day-a-week ritual into his tidy i-calendar and dedicates it solely to the upcoming client of the week (insert name and blank canvas of skin). That day is entirely about them: bright lights, his drawing table, perhaps some classical music. He steps quietly behind the curtains of the real word and falls into the scratch and sorcery of the underworld. A deep enchantment that can’t be taught or explained. These sketches are what eventually make their way two or three drafts later onto the chosen client for the rest of their sweet ass life.
All of this process-stuff isn’t to suggest that Justin is a snob or doesn’t want to make time for everyone, it is simply because his process takes precedence over money or reputation. It is a divinely-gifted one that doesn’t really give him a choice. It is a process that requires each person who leaves his studio to walk with truth and vibrancy absorbed into their epidermis and, quite literally, to be a moving symbol, a piece of their life puzzle. He takes it very seriously, in between his quintessential quirks and verbal tongue ties and thank god he does! I wish he was around when my grade ten crush tattooed Wile E.Coyote onto his bicep? Even back then I cringed.
When I first met Justin back in 2009 I had just moved back from Hong Kong. He was in my 6a.m morning class religiously for a winter with four other people and asked me to come to breakfast probably eight times in a row before I figured him out to not be a creeper and did a background check. I finally said yes after the eighth time because I overheard him make a remark about eating an entire tub of ice cream, watching a movie marathon (prob Star Wars or something of the nerdy Sci-Fi kind) and then feeling sickly and low in self esteem about the entire transaction. It was hilarious, self-deprecating and trailed off with a riddle of his classic laugh that hits epic high and low notes.
Although I’ve made him out to be a sorcerer of sorts, he’s as human as all of us.
And like most friends, after the first real laugh, I am hooked for life.
Love ya J.