Dusk Till Dawn Ink Supports Local Mental Health Through Semi-Colon Project


A local tattoo shop raised $2,050 in support of CMHA Calgary Region through the semi-colon project.

Fundraising campaigns usually have a personal element – a connection which fuels the energy and passion for the campaign itself. For the owners and artists at Dusk Till Dawn Ink, the semi-colon project – a mental health support movement which has taken North American by storm in recent weeks – it is so personal that the entire staff either has received one of the tattoos or is planning theirs.

Although the project  began in the spring of 2013, when Project Semicolon Founder, Amy Bleuel wanted to honor her father whom she lost to suicide, it was really two years later when the movement took off and found global reach.  Through the semicolon symbol – used when a sentence could be ended but instead continues – many related to the struggle of depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide and the will to continue.

Calgarians are embracing the project, finding creative ways to incorporate this symbol into their body art, and this tattoo parlour has captured the passion behind the movement, while also finding a way to give back to the Canadian Mental Health Association – Calgary Region.

Karen Hehr, owner of the studio, said the idea originated when a client phoned and asked if they had heard about the project. The entire team got together to consider how they could make the statement of support and also use it as one of the many fundraising campaigns they do throughout the course of the year to support the Calgary community. They decided to run a campaign where a portion of proceeds from  Project Semicolon tattoos would be donated back to supporting mental health locally. They posted online on their Facebook account and a client connected them to Global Television.

The response was astounding. Karen shows the calendar the day the story aired and how full the studio has been since then.  “There were so many coming in and sharing their stories. One of the ones I remember the most was an older woman, and it was her first tattoo. And while she was here, she talked about her daughter and her daughter’s ongoing struggles, and that being her inspiration.”

Joy, one of the nine artists at Dusk Till Dawn, says in many ways the tattoo is an alternative to self-harm, where instead of a scar, the person has a beautiful piece of art that serves as the reminder of their personal journey.  She talks about the expression and the changing face of the client.

“People getting tattoos aren’t just bikers anymore, we are seeing moms.”

“And grannies,” echoes Karen.

Brianna, an apprentice at Dusk Till Dawn, was the first to get one of the tattoos. She has her own mental health story and in recent weeks lost a cousin to suicide. This, she says, is a meaningful and beautiful way to tell the story.

“When I lost my cousin, I didn’t grieve the same way as everyone else did. Because I understood what she was going through.”

Matt, co-owner of the shop, agrees wholeheartedly that the Semicolon Project has been powerful , in not just the volume, but even how it has generated traffic coming through the location they just recently moved to.

“Sometimes people come in just to talk. It’s opened up the conversation. And it’s easy to share, because everyone here as a story.”