August 6, 2021

BY KELSEY HEELEY

When someone is a piercer at a tattoo shop, other people might wonder why they chose that to be their career out of all the job choices there are. Sometimes, being a piercer just happens.

That’s how it was for Jesse Villemaire, owner of and piercer at Thrive Studios in Cambridge.

Villemaire was the business type; he even had a business partner at one time.

“I really love the business side of things; I had always wanted to open up my own business.”

When his best friend at the time received an offer to open up a tattoo shop, he wanted to have a piercer at the studio as well. However, Villemaire didn’t know much about piercing at the time.

“I only had one piercing in my ear, and I didn’t have much knowledge about it, but he was my best friend and I did not like the position I was in with my job,” said Villemaire. He also said as soon as his partner put the idea of being a piercer into his head, he couldn’t stop thinking about it. He was intrigued.

That was when he decided to look into enrolling in a school for piercing, but he soon discovered that one didn’t exist.

Despite being discouraged, he started looking for someone already in the industry who would take him on as an apprentice.

He managed to find a piercer who was ready to leave the industry.

“She had all the tools and knowledge and was willing to sell me the equipment and teach me how to pierce,” Villemaire said.

Although an apprenticeship is supposed to be roughly a year and a half – his was two weeks. After she sold him her equipment and got her money, she left him high and dry.

He said at that point he considered quitting, but felt that piercing was a missing link in his life.

Villemaire said, “I really liked piercing and helping people as well as the experience of working one on one with somebody and then making them happy afterwards. Everybody that left after I pierced them was excited. Even the jewelry made them feel good about themselves. That quick interaction within a half hour felt amazing.”

Determined to become a better piercer, Villemaire went on the Internet and found body piercers who had put their work up online and found ones close to him hoping he could learn from them. He went to each piercer close to him and got a piercing, all the while asking them questions. “I took little bits of information and made my own apprenticeship out of it.”

Now, decade later, Villemaire owns Thrive Studios, is still piercing and loving it.

Deacon Madison didn’t plan on being a piercer at Tora Tattoo when he was studying science and psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University. His original plan was to be a high school science teacher, but he was one year shy of his degree when he dropped out to pierce full time.

“I feel like piercing chooses individuals,” said Madison.

“Somewhere, someone just flipped a switch and then the train just kind of jumped the tracks a little bit and I started working counter at a tattoo shop in Owen Sound,” he added. He said while working there, the previous piercer decided to leave and he got offered an apprenticeship. “Literally at the right place, at the right time,” he said.

Madison still went to university Monday to Friday and did his apprenticeship in Owen Sound on Friday afternoons and evenings and all day Saturday. He’d go back to Waterloo on Sundays to do laundry and return to classes, repeating the cycle for the next two years.

After dropping out of university, he moved to Owen Sound to work full time, but ended up moving back to Waterloo a year later, in 2004, to work at Tora Tattoo.

“I didn’t know that 10 plus years ago that this would be the thing I ended up doing. It’s like someone saying, ‘Hey man, want to learn how to change a tire?’ Yes. Why wouldn’t you want to learn a new skill? The opportunity that you don’t take can be the one that you wonder about. Be a yes man and just jump on it,” Madison said.