March 22nd, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 12
Inking at Captive Crow Tattoo Studio
Captive Crow Tattoo Studio, with tattoo artist Crystal Leach at the helm, is the only legally registered ink parlor in the Pass
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Anna Kroupina Photo
Tattoo artist Crystal Leach at the Artist Collective Studio.
Pass Herald Reporter
Tattoos ignite an emotional roller coaster of feelings. For some, excitement, anticipation, bravery; for others anxiety and dread.

Tattoo artist Crystal Leach has seen them all.

“I had a girl who was just amping herself up beforehand. When I did my first line, she screamed like out of a horror movie. Seriously, out of a horror movie. I’m a pretty patient human being, but I just stopped, I put my machine down, took my gloves off, and said, ‘You have to figure yourself out because that can’t happen.’”

Leach has almost a decade of tattooing experience, but this, she says, ranks at the top of the list for the most unusual things she has seen.

Going back to 2009 when she started, her very first tattoo was actually one she did on herself, a small rose on her ankle. That was back when she was apprenticing under tattoo artist Aarom Hemmersbach at Iron Lotus Body Art in Winnipeg. She has since inked hundreds of clients, honed her skills, and recently brought her quality work to the Pass with her new tattoo business, Captive Crow Tattoo Studio running out of the Artist Collective in Coleman.

Leach made a sacrifice in closing her tattoo studio in Winnipeg to move to Crowsnest Pass for her husband’s career in the wind industry. The move, however, has been a career growing opportunity for her, as well. For the past two years, she’s had stable work at Peppermint Hippo in Lethbridge, making the commute five days a week. After her son Gordon was born eight months ago, she decided she needed to spend more time at home, which led to the opening of Captive Crow at the beginning of February.
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Leach is the only legal tattoo artist currently operating in the Pass, regulated by the Alberta Health Services Board. She has a business license, follows Health Board regulations and is subject to inspections.

“I’ve been professionally apprenticed, so I’m a professional tattoo artist,” she says. “It’s not a hobby or something I’m trying out; it’s something I paid to learn and studied quite hard.”

The Pass has quickly welcomed Leach’s craft. She is booked a few weeks in advance, and so far, she’s been working on a lot of fix-ups, cover-ups and re-works.

Although Leach’s geeky persona and artwork style correlated well with tattoo, it was almost by accident that she found herself on this path.

“I was managing a restaurant and I started painting at night. That was when I found myself truly happy,” says the self-taught artist. “I would take a character from my favourite graphic novels and I would draw him large or paint him. That’s how I started. I was reproducing these characters that already existed that I really enjoyed.”

She continued practicing and eventually started creating original pieces and now, tattoos are not the only type of art she works on. She also paints and draws diverse subject matter using different mediums.

“It helps because the art makes my tattoos better and my tattoos make my art better,” she says.
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Leach currently works two days out of Peppermint Hippo, and three days out of Captive Crow. Her goal for the near future, she says, is to hit up various conventions across Canada to rub elbows with other tattoo artists, get her name out there and grow her network.

One such convention is Lethbridge’s Windy City Tattoo Weekend from September 15 to 17, which will feature several veteran artists like Joey Hamilton and Jime Litwalk. The weekend will also include a three-day competition where Leach and four other artists compete in three categories of a timed tattoo event. The three categories this year are color realism, watercolour and, the category that Crowsnest Pass resident Michel de Haitre will be participating in, trash polka.

de Haitre volunteered to be tattooed by Leach for the convention, a unique experience on its own. The catch is that since the piece is Leach’s entry for the competition, she has considerable control over what she tattoos and where she tattoos it. de Haitre says that while the mystery behind the tattoo requires a lot of trust, all he feels is a sense of anticipation.

“I’m not worried at all. I’m pretty confident. I’m looking forward to it,” he says.

Leach takes clients by appointment only. The Artist Collective is located at 7702 18th Avenue in Coleman. Visit for more information on Leach’s work and studio.
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March 22nd, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 12
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