Artist Stories

Elisa is focusing In

Elisa Selina manifested a career as a tattoo artist—now nothing’s getting in her way.

“It's very cliche,” begins Elisa, “but I've loved tattoos since I was a kid.”

Born and raised in Toronto by creative parents, Elisa’s eventual career in the arts was a given. She attended an arts high school and followed that path into university where she studied photography. Although she graduated and picked up work doing film set design and music videos, it wasn’t truly fulfilling her. 

“Even when I was in university, I knew that I didn't really want to do photography,” Elisa says. “I wanted to do tattoos.”

Elisa’s leap into the real world coincided with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, giving her more time to consider her future. “I bought a tattoo machine,” she says. “I practiced on fake skin and did a tiny little tattoo on myself.” But when she experimented with hand poking, that’s when it clicked for her. “It felt like it matched how I drew.”

Elisa took to hand poking for another reason: it was the easiest way to grasp the fundamentals while learning solo. “I wanted guidance with the machine and I didn't have that,” she says. “I get kind of shaky and nervous, too, so it was nice to slow down and take my time with something.”


With this newfound confidence, Elisa decided to take the craft to the next level, teaching herself every step of the way. “I'd get tips from people but I never had an apprenticeship or conventional way of learning,” she says. She built her early experience through trial and error and tapping in her friends as her first clients.

“I was living at my mom's house and I had a little space in the basement,” Elisa says. Soon, her clientele of friends became friends of friends before her work started garnering interest from strangers. “It made me a bit uncomfortable having people come to my house,” she says. A year ago, she reached out to a studio and moved her practice out of her mom’s and into a studio.

For her part, Elisa’s mom has been supportive of her daughter’s path. “She saw it coming,” says Elisa. “I've always been obsessed with tattoos and body modification.”

“I prefer customs because people give me inspiration. It's more work but it feels less transactional.”

One thing that tattoo artists often find surprising when entering the industry is the level of human connection required to be successful. Elisa takes this aspect of her job seriously. “I really want to make my clients feel very comfortable and at home,” she says. “I don't ever want someone to feel like I'm pushing them.” In building this trust, Elisa finds it common to build bonds with people. “I want my client to love the whole process.”

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It’s the client experience that really stands out to Elisa as one of the best parts of her job. “I feel I help people love their bodies,” she says. Designing something meaningful and personal for a client moves her. 

For this reason, Elisa finds herself gravitating towards custom work over flash. With flash, she relies on herself for inspiration. “I prefer customs because people give me inspiration,” she says. “It's more work but it feels less transactional.” This process helps her build a better bond with her clients who are also more connected to the experience. 


Throughout her time working with clients, one of the most challenging aspects of tattooing for Elisa has been overcoming her own perfectionism. “I'm very self critical,” she says. “Sometimes I'm tattooing someone, and midway through, I'm like, ‘Holy shit, this is permanent.’” Time and experience have helped to shift her mindset and remind herself that she’s only human.

Elisa has thought about travelling in the future, possibly seeking guest spots in studios abroad. She’s also considering expanding her skill set to attempt larger pieces and even learn on a machine. These days though, she’s content with the status quo. “I'm at a point now where I just want to focus,” she says about the career she’s been manifesting since she was a kid. “All my energy is in my art.”

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