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Old meets new

Dion Kaszas draws inspiration from ancient tattooing techniques


MONDAY, March 27 — To innovate his tattoo work, artist Dion Kaszas looked to the past.

In 2012, while pursuing a degree in indigenous studies at the University of British Columbia Okanagan in Kelowna, British Columbia, Kaszas, whose heritage includes indigenous Canadians, was awarded research funds to indigenous tattooing. While researching his ancestors’ tattooing methods, he discovered hand poke and skin stitching methods. Hand poking pushes ink underneath the skin one dot at a time to create delicate designs. In skin stitching, the needle runs through the top layer of skin like a sewing needle. Both methods predate the electric tattoo machine that Kaszas first learned the craft on.

“I get bored easily, so the variety of the three styles help keep me stimulated,” Kaszas said. “All three present different results. In skin stitching, you have much less control and never know how the ink reacts underneath the skin, and tattooing by hand takes a lot of time.”

Kaszas, 39, has been tattooing professionally since 2009. He works at Vertigo Tattoos and Body Piercing in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, where he was mentored by Carla Gosgnach, the owner of the shop since 1998. Kaszas will present a lecture tonight at MSU’s Lookout! Art Gallery, and will demonstrate his techniques tomorrow.

When Kaszas first started using indigenous tattooing techniques, he could only find about three people using the skin stitching method.

“I hear people saying that I am one of the leaders of indigenous tattooing,” Kaszas said.

Last year, Kaszas taught indigenous tattooing at the University of British Columbia Okanagan.

“Four students came for a month long residency,” he said. “I taught the different techniques and about health.”

Later this year, Kaszas will travel to several tattoo conventions and cultural events. He will also return to the University of British Columbia Okanagan for another month-long teaching residency. His use of indigenous techniques, he explained, goes beyond artistic concerns.

“The revival of indigenous tattooing is about remembering who we are as indigenous people while embodying the tattooing of our ancestors,” he said. “It’s a process of remembering who we are as indigenous people, a process of remembering our ancestral communities and a process of healing individuals and revitalizing our cultures.”

Dion Kaszas


7 p.m. Monday, March 27



6 p.m. Tuesday, March 28


Lookout! Art Gallery

Snyder-Phillips Hall

362 Bogue St., East Lansing


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