With a lifelong desire to be artists, Nikki Smith and Janelle Reithmeier jumped at the opportunity to create a stylized, preference-focused tattoo parlour they both had in mind, opening Electric Odyssey almost 5 years ago.
The parlour aims for a variety of styles in each of their artists, so each customer can choose whose style they connect with the most to design their own unique tattoo.
Smith and Reithmeier’s goal was not to have their customers come in with a design they want tattooed, but to come in with an idea to build off of, so they could create individual designs from scratch for each of their clients.
After meeting at a tattoo parlour in Inglewood and instantly becoming close friends, Smith and Reithmeier realized they both had a similar vision of what they wanted for their careers once they realized their current positions weren’t the right fit for them.
“We wanted a lot smaller and customer-focused [tattoo parlour],” Smith says. “We didn’t want to do every style or every tattoo that’s out there. We really wanted to focus on our own art and developing our own style.”
Originating out of a small building on the outskirts of Forest Lawn, then expanding to their current location on 9th Avenue, the artists were most excited about working together and building that preference-focused business with their customers.
However, the two found the details of opening their own business to be a shock.
“There were so many things that I’m sure every new business owner learns about,” Smith says. “It is quite a learning curve when you’re like ‘I have this idea’ and then making that idea a reality. There’s so many steps from A to Q that you need to learn and then execute.”
After finding the other three artists to complete their shop, they found the ideal balance between friendship and work.
“All the artists we seem to get along with that we have here have always just predominantly been female. Not that we didn’t get along with the male ones, it’s just that we jive a lot better with the ones that we have,” Reithmeier says.
Each of the five artists at Electric Odyssey have their own unique style, as a way to give an opportunity to create different pieces.
Sophia Brown mixes surrealism with ornamental, with a love for realistic portraits, Smith says. Steph Love specializes in hand-poke style tattoos, focusing on magical, simplistic designs, which is a less common style found in Calgary. Alexandra Propplewell, their newest artist, does a combination of dotwork, watercolour and neo-traditional designs.
“I do kind of a sketchy kind of thing. I like my tattoos to look a little bit more like drawings rather than classic tattoos,” Smith says.
One of the two owners, Reithmeier, likes the dark, black work and dotwork focused style.
“I like to mix the idea of East LA with dark occult kind of look,” Reithmeier says.
Each of their styles adds to the overall aesthetic and name of their business.
“As the years go by with tattooing, there are just more and more different styles, so everyone does their own thing,” Reithmeier says.
With this, they have found that their clientele becomes more unique to their own art.
“It’s not like buying a sweater - it’s something that you’re going to wear for the rest of your life and it should be personal and unique to you,” says Smith.
“You don’t go into a shop with an image you want to get tattooed right now,” Smith says. “People kind of choose a tattoo artist. They choose somebody whose style they like, and they collaborate to make a piece for them.”
By combining their unique art and little desire to expand from their small business, Smith and Reithmeier continue to keep the relaxed vibe they feel in their store.
“When you get to work with your best friend, and do art that you’re passionate about, it’s just the best job in the world.”
They use their Instagram, @electricodysseytattoo, as a way to broadcast their work, styles and collaboration arts.
- By Shannon Oxley