The girls of Sister Salvation can’t save your soul but they can definitely put a kick-ass spot of ink on it.

Opened just last summer, the women-run tattoo shop at 322 Bloor St. W. has so far defied the odds in a male-dominated market to serve an increasing clientele of both sexes.

For co-owner Karen Stewart, getting Sister Salvation off the ground is as much about empowerment as it is about business.

“I always felt like women weren’t as represented in the tattoo industry — it’s always been somewhat of a boys club. We want to change that,” Stewart said.

Stewart and co-owner Allison Lawson, 26, met at a tattoo parlour in Barrie, Ont., about five years ago and since then had dreamed of creating a tattoo parlour run completely by women. With the growing mainstream success of female tattoo artists like Kat Von D and her television show L.A. Ink, Stewart and Lawson felt the time was finally right to open the shop in June 2008.

For Lawson, running Sister Salvation is a chance to spread her wings creatively and do work that bends the boundaries of tattooing as an art form.

“Tattooing has been heading more towards fine art and less towards the standard choices. For me, the challenge is taking it to that fine art level — the skin is just another canvas,” Lawson said.

Tattoo artists Michelle Sansano and Evie Bacopulos who already work at Sister Salvation will step up as two more co-owners in the new location, making the tattoo shop one of only a handful in North America completely staffed and owned by women.

Stewart says the shop had a lot of naysayers when it first opened but good business savvy has pulled them through.

“We were the first shop that took advertising out on Facebook — it generated a lot of business for us,” Stewart said.

The girls will put ink on anyone; in fact their clientele is mostly men and older women, often ones getting their first tattoo. The shop specializes in custom work and prides itself on its customer service — instead of charging per hour, the shop charges per tattoo, allowing clients the time to express what they want and work with tattoo artists to design the perfect tattoo.

Stewart says tattoos are an emotional journey that good artists help navigate.

“Some people get tattoos for emotional reasons or to mark a change in their lives, but not everyone can express themselves with words. It’s our challenge to express what they want and make it come alive,” she said.

Call 416-927-7700 to contact Sister Salvation or 416-588-4526 after April 17 to reach them at their new location at 384 Harbord St.

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