Chilliwack tattoo artist helps restore identities through ink

From restoring nipples after surgery to helping hide surgical scars, medical tattooing changes lives

When tattoo artist Robyn Marshall was just a little girl, she had a very clear career goal.

But it wasn’t a common one — and it wasn’t tattooing.

In her studio in Chilliwack, she leans back and smiles, recalling her early passion for the arts. And her fascination with hearts, lungs and other organs. The perfect job for her, was to illustrate medical textbooks.

“I wanted to do that when I was six years old,” she says, laughing. And as clients and fans of the artist already know, she’s a master in that realm. There are ink and pen images of hearts and other organs on the wall of her studio, on her Instagram page, and even on some of her clients’ skin.

Marshall’s always been fascinated with art and the human form. But what she’s been up to over the last few years has really brought her career “full circle” to what that little girl wanted to be when she grew up.

Marshall has delved into medical tattooing, combining her love of art and biology. The service she provides people also fills her innate desire to help others, and recently earned her an Arty Award in Abbotsford.

Medical tattooing involves adding details to the skin where it’s been surgically removed or altered. That includes adding areola colouring and nipples to the chests of breast cancer survivors who have had surgery, as well as providing realistic details to the penises of transgender men and non-binary people, known as phalloplasty tattooing.

It’s the latter that is most common, Marshall says, and people come from all over the country to meet with her and have her work on them.

Marshall says it’s an honour and privilege to be a part of people’s journeys, and often the final chapter in either closing the book on cancer, or the final stage in transitioning to male.

“Knowing that I was just a small part somebody’s journey to healing,” is what motivates her. As a Christian, she has been able to connect with those who are hurting, or suffering from body dysmorphia issues.

“It is an emotional process,” she says. “I need a day to recoup after.”

Phalloplasty tattooing is also used to reconstruct the penis in cases of trauma, cancer, or congenital defect. It involves colour correction, detail work and scar camouflage.

Marshall limits how many medical tattoos she performs, only taking in one or two such clients in a month. After about four years of regular tattoo work, she decided to bring this service to her clients. She heard about medical tattooing and decided to get the training.

She says the training has “forever changed the projection of my career.”

Areola restorative tattoo is the most advanced tattooing available, and needs to be done by someone like Marshall who is professionally trained. Those who have had radiation treatments already have damaged skin that can be paper-thin, she says.

Her website, www.medicaltattoos.ca, offers fine details of the services available, her training history and detailed photos of her work. She hopes to spread the word that this type of service is available right here in the Fraser Valley.

While she has been working in Chilliwack at the Beautique Beauty Lounge, she is moving shop to Mememto Mori Studios in Abbotsford in January.

To learn more about Robyn Marshall and her work, visit her online at artistrobynmarshall.wordpress.com, or on her Instagram and Facebook pages.

@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

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Robyn Marshall has a special skill set as a tattoo artist, helping cover scarring, recreating nipples, and adding details to skin as a medical tattoo artist. (Kaila Wren photo)

(Katelynn Cavelle photo)

(Katelynn Cavelle photo)

(Katelynn Cavelle photo)

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