Shining a neon light on the history of ink

Tattoo Box Traditional’s storefront. Photo by Victoria Lewin.

At Tattoo Box Traditional, you’ll learn about more than just tattoo aftercare

Decked out in blown up portraits of World War I veterans and acetates dating back to the early 1900s, the walls of recently opened Tattoo Box Traditional tell a story. Artist Kate Middleton, living in France and working out of Montreal, began construction at Tattoo Box Traditional in August of last year. Originally meant to combat construction planned on Pine Ave. W., where her primary shop is located, she’s now hoping for the new location to double as a tattoo museum.

Artist Liam Lavoie tattoos his colleague on a quiet day at Tattoo Box Traditional. Photo by Victoria Lewin.

Collecting historical acetates and framed prints from artists she’s worked with over her career, Middleton has adorned the shop with bits and pieces of tattoo history. While the location only opened this summer, Owen Jensen, Sailor Jerry, Walter Torun, Zeke Owens and Jack Rudy are just a few noteworthy mentions who’s artwork can already be seen at Tattoo Box Traditional. Middleton said she’s only just getting started, “I have so much memorabilia that I have yet to get in there.”

Middleton holds up the sketchbook of renowned artist Zeke Owens, who tattooed service men and women during and pre-war. Photo by Victoria Lewin.

While residing in Avignon, France, Middleton also runs Livre and Let Die Books and Art Supplies on Pine Ave. E., as well as a small media studio out of California, her hometown. Ensuring the shop promotes a safe and open space for staff and clientele is one of Middleton’s top priorities. Being a female and lesbian tattoo artist, she said “misogyny is the biggest hurdle I’ve ever had to overcome, in myself and facing it from others. That needs to be ended before anyone or any gay woman can progress in their life.” Though the essence of Middleton’s vision is to showcase tattoo history, artwork that is traditionally misogynistic, racist, and otherwise offensive won’t make the cut in this tattoo museum.

An acetate from the early 1900s by famous American tattoo artist Paul Rogers. Photo by Victoria Lewin.
As a lesbian woman, Middleton works hard to ensure the shop maintains an open, safe space for all LGBTQ+ individuals. Photo by Victoria Lewin.