Fourteen-year-old Jesse Brigden knew he caught the tattooing bug after inking a friend with homemade gear at his own kitchen table. Twenty years later he has found a place to call home at Victoria’s Incendiary Tattoos and says he’s never looked back.
Jesse grew up surrounded by people covered in ink which sparked his interest in the process. “My biological father had a bunch of silly old navy tattoos, a coke and rum over his nipples, a hula girl on his arm that he could make dance. For many years I wondered how it was done.”
Jesse started to explore his creative side as early as high school, “I was always an artist, making costumes and crafts, getting in trouble for drawing in math class, so it was only natural that I was drawn to tattooing.” Cartooning was his first artistic love, prompting him to try his hand at comic strips and animation but found that it didn’t motivate him. “It was only after the first bad homemade tattoo (of a spider web) I did on a buddy that I knew where I belonged.”
The road to becoming a professional tattooist isn’t easy. It took him eight years of searching and bettering his skills before he found a mentor in an old-school artist by the name of Lil’ Vic. “It was a very karate kid style apprenticeship. [He] re-molded my habits, smacked me when I did wrong and made me work hard for this honour.” Here, he found that tattooing is as much about learning to work in a real shop and paying your dues as it is about the art.
Jesse has seen a lot change in the industry over the past twenty years and not just in technological improvements. Despite reality TV shows making his craft look easy; he believes they have also allowed the masses to see that tattoos are beautiful and not just for criminals and gangsters. Acceptance is more common than ever, and Jesse has inked all types of people from every walk of life. “I’ve tattooed eighty plus-year-old ladies, bankers, cops, and priests in the past few years. It’s almost strange to think back to the 80’s and 90’s when people had to sort of hide their ink.”
Today, Jesse prides himself on building clientele that trust in his unique style and artistic license. And he would rather turn down a quick buck than let you leave with a bad tattoo. Inspired by his love of cartoons, he has developed a technique that he describes as bright, cute and nerdy pen and ink. He believes he owes his education to every shop he’s worked in and every artist that encouraged and critiqued him. “Every one of them taught me something in some way or another. Never stop learning and pushing yourself to improve in whatever you like to do.”
In addition to his work at Incendiary Tattoos, Jesse has also delved into machine building. In the future, he’d like to continue to expand his knowledge through travel and working with other artists and builders, but says Victoria will always be his home.