Tattoo Artist, Rosemont
It should be stated that prior to meeting, Los Angeles transplant, tattoo artist & Two Horses boss lady, Jessi Preston, we heard the legend of Jessi Preston. People oozed with universal praise for her and her artistic talents and the statement, “the coolest girl ever” was uttered more than once. One particular anecdote, had her casually walking down the street, oblivious to heads turning, donning a 10 gallon cowboy hat and bell bottoms. Sartorially speaking, the flesh-in-blood Jessi did not disappoint, greeting us in an electric 1960’s mini dress and coordinating knee high socks, although on this particular day it was -30 outside. We took this defiance of Mother Nature as a good sign and we were not wrong. Jessi Preston has her own way of doing things and that way includes a heavy dose of style and a dash of rebellion.
Swiftly and graciously Jessi settles us into the inviting lounge area within Two Horses, offering us coffee or perhaps a beer? It’s not yet noon but why the heck not. Thus far on the cool-o-meter Two Horses and Jessi are going strong. Jessi opened Two Horses just under two years ago with bestie, business partner and hair stylist Sara-Isobel Mulder. Located deep in Montreal’s Mile X neighborhood, Two Horses is discretely tucked away in the industrial Atlas building, which was a strategic choice.
“We didn’t want a street shop. I didn’t want to deal with people coming in off the street. I want people to really seek out the work that we do. They know what they’re getting into when they come here. It’s very straightforward, we just want people to ‘get it’. Here it feels like you’re in our house.”
Walking into Two Horses is a feast for the eyes. Your vision pinballs around the space, bursting with incredible details from bold black and white striping on the floors to needlepoint portraits of flamenco dancers and taxidermy owls adorning the walls through to a pair of swings, that anchor the path between the salon and Jessi’s tattoo studio. Tucked away in the back, a nook is designated to vintage clothing and a curated offering of products from other local artists, for waiting guests to do some light shopping. It seems no detail has been overlooked. And although the place oozes with style, and plays host to any equally stylish clientele, the feel of it is without pretension.
With little work in the way of PR, Two Horses has built a loyal following and a growing buzz the good ole fashioned way: word of mouth. Jessi, who specializes in the traditional American style, has been tattooing since 2008. After completing her BFA from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, Jessi decided to return to LA to pursue an apprenticeship. South of the border apprenticeships are hard won. For nearly two years, 12 hours a day 6 days a week, Jessi paid her dues cleaning the shop, setting up the artists’ stations and learning the ropes from mentor Sal Preciado, owner of El Clasico Tattoo in Echo Park.
“Tattoo artists don’t really give out information that easily which is sort of what I like about the industry; it’s really well insulated. It is self-governed by the artists themselves. You’re able to build relationships with people and maybe at that point they’re willing to give up some info or coach you along if you ask questions. You only get that far if you work hard and show that you’re invested in the trade. Then you reap those benefits from the other people in the shop. Where I was at, everyone was really really cool. I lucked out. I was surrounded by really talented artists that were generous with their knowledge. I’m super grateful for that.”
It was during her apprenticeship that Jessi, who surprisingly prior to picking up a tattoo machine was nearly covered in pieces, fell in love with the classic and true style.
“That was the process for me, recognizing that tattoos should look like tattoos, they should have a big bold outline, you should recognize them from across the street for what they are. Those are the ones that you’re going to be able to recognize fifty years down the line. Tattoos need to be able to last in the skin…My goal is to make them last and be as solid as possible for as long as possible. I think that’s really important.”
Jessi’s style is recognizable. Classic and true, yes, but still she brings a certain je ne sais quoi that’s distinctly her own. It’s hard to put your finger on it exactly but her color is exceptionally vivid and somewhere in the line work there is a character and degree of humor, like an old sad love song that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Jessi herself is a true original which makes her such a cool person to be around and get tattooed by. She reflects the inherent contradiction in most creative people, being both traditional and rebellious, deeply valuing the heritage and traditions of her craft while maintaining a refreshingly modern candor. Case in point: when asked how she feels about tattooing moving in the past couple decades, from a niche art form for people on the fringes of society to mainstream culture, she doesn’t skip a beat.
“Who gives a shit about why people get tattooed? I generally don’t care. I think people get tattoos for whatever reasons. Maybe they want to look cool, maybe they want to have a mark to remember a certain aspect of their life, a memorial tattoo or whatever. I didn’t get into this business to judge anybody…You should be in this industry because you love it and love your clientele.”
Not to be missed…
Jessi does Flash Friday’s every week from 12-7pm offering pre-drawn custom tattoo flash designed by her for anyone to choose to get tattooed. It’s best to arrive early as the spots fill up fast!
Visit her at the Expo Tattoo Laval, QC, April 17,18 & 19. There’s going to be an amazing line up of artists from around the world this year with a heavy emphasis on traditional tattooing. Definitely worth a visit: click here to purchase tickets.
Two Horses are an official sponsor of the Suicide Girls: Black Heart Burlesque show in Montreal on April 20th. They will be giving tickets away as the event gets closer on their IG page so follow: @twohorsesmtl or buy your tickets directly at blackheartburlesque.com
Check out Jessi Preston’s glorious collaboration with the designer Norwegian Wood.
Follow Jessi on IG @jessiprestontattoos and the Two Horses @twohorses_mtl