When Alex Neron and Marta Jarzabek first stumbled upon the vacant space at 3 Hamilton Avenue last fall during the Hintonburg Beer Run at Beyond The Pale, they knew almost instantly that this would be the location for the combination tattoo studio and art gallery that had been living in their dreams for some time – Railbender Studio.
“We came back the same night to scope it out,” said Neron. “The next day we met the landlord and snatched it up, that was November 1.”
Neron is a tattoo artist, an illustrator and an Ottawa native who’s been a professional artist for over 10 years. Coming originally from the East end of town, he is new to the neighbourhood. While planning the opening of his first studio, his sights were set on a Hintonburg location, and when this one fell into place everything was set to go.
“We were looking at different locations for the business – Hintonburg was definitely our first choice on where to get established,” said Neron.After enlisting the help of his brother, Yves, the two men set about gutting the dilapidated, hole-in-wall space. While peeling back the first layers it became apparent to the brothers that this would be no small task – floors, walls, ceiling – everything had to be torn out and rebuilt. A planned December opening fell back to January and then back even further.
“We were at a point in the renovations where we bit off more than we could chew, we needed to invest more to get this place up and running,” explained Neron.
Neron and Jarzabek turned to the web to share their story and reach out to the community for support. They launched a fundraising campaign on the website, Kickstarter, and started documenting the construction process on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Scrolling through Railbender’s feeds, one can watch the studio emerge from rubble.
In the two months since the campaign launched, the community has shown unwavering support for their project. Neron and Jarzabek started with a goal of $5,000 and ended the Kickstarter campaign with a total of $9,225.
101 backers contributed donations ranging from $7, which included a gift of a pin back button, up to a donation of $500 with rewards ranging from a free tattoo to a commissioned portrait drawn and delivered to your front door by Neron himself.
The Hintonburg business community has embraced Railbender, receiving online shout outs from notable tweeps like @BTPBrewing, @love_ottawa and @FlyingBanzini.
“We weren’t expecting this kind of response; it’s overwhelming, especially in the community here,” says Neron.
With funding in place, the studio is nearing completion with stained glass windows, a hand-made wooden front desk, and deep red accents all around. Neron and company are gearing up for a grand opening on February 15 that will feature a collection of art from over 15 local and national artists and the first buzzing of Neron’s tattoo needle filling his new work space. The show will run until March 12.
Some of the local artists that will adorn the gallery walls for the opening include Marc Adernato, Daniel Martelock, Mat Dube and Stephen Frew. Neron says that the gallery will be an important aspect of the business and he plans to support as many local artists as possible with new work going up every month, and highlighted in a variety of private shows and events.
With the studio nearly ready to launch, Railbender is currently on the hunt for a second tattoo artist to compliment Neron’s work. He has invited established tattoo artists looking to bring their style to Hintonburg to send in their application to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The time has finally come for those in Kitchissippi who choose to wear their art on their skin. Residents no longer have to leave the comfort of the neighbourhood to fuel the ink addiction. Neron is excited to start building relationships with is new neighbours.
“Out here is kinda cool, it’s a very eclectic, artistic community,” says Neron. “I like the style, you can really feel it in this area.”