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Tattoo artists find artistic freedom in Amherst

Larry Kovacevic and Maxine Pye opened for Art of Rebellion Tattoo Studio in early January, and have had clients from both near and far, including from Halifax and Moncton. They live in Southampton with their two boys, Liam and Owen.
Larry Kovacevic and Maxine Pye opened for Art of Rebellion Tattoo Studio in early January, and have had clients from both near and far, including from Halifax and Moncton. They live in Southampton with their two boys, Liam and Owen. - Dave Mathieson

AMHERST, N.S. – For Larry Kovacevic and Maxine Pye, creating tattoos in a big city is much different than creating tattoos in Amherst.

“We come from a town where, if you specialize in certain kind of tattoos, then you don’t eat. You have to be flexible and do whatever you can do,” said Kovacevic.

The couple are owner/operators of Art of Rebellion Tattoo Studio in downtown Amherst on Havelock Street.

Before they moved to Amherst in October and opened Art of Rebellion in early January, Kovacevic and Pye, along with their two boys, lived in Orangeville, Ont., and commuted to their tattoo shop in downtown Brampton each day.

“It was about a 45-minute commute each way,” said Kovacevic.

He is 47-years-old with 25 years of tattooing experience, while Pye is 45-years-old and has been tattooing for about two years.

They both love to draw custom designs.

“Brampton was a busy place, so what happens is that it turns into a production line. It’s not as personal,” said Kovacevic. “I find people here are going for more custom stuff.”

Pye agrees.

“Our customers come in with big ideas and we get to draw from scratch. It’s so refreshing. It’s exactly what we wanted to do.”

Both artists are self-taught.

Pye grew up in Goose Bay, Nfld., and has been drawing since she was a young child.

Kovacevic grew up in Georgetown, Ont., which is close to Orangeville and Brampton.

“I went to school in Ontario to be an animator, which is what I was originally going to do, but I discovered the wonderful world of tattoos and, much to my parents dismay, I dropped out of college knowing I’ll never be my own boss in animation and I’ll never get to do my own thing there.”

He says tattooing is much more creative than animation.

“In animation you draw what they want, when they want, and how much they want. There’s no artistic freedom,” said Kovacevic. “Tattooing gives you artistic freedom. People throw their ideas at us and we come up with something based on what they requested.”

Kovacevic pulls out his portfolio and shows many examples of artistic freedom, including a tattoo he made for a woman who’s sister died suddenly.

“She said, ‘It was around Halloween, so my sister and I went out and got some pumpkins and she came back and we had a glass of wine and we carved some pumpkins and put them underneath the oak tree, and then she passed away the next day,’” said Kovacevic. “She said that when she was on the phone with somebody who was telling her that her sister had just passed away she was looking at the pumpkins and a little squirrel ran up onto the pumpkin, so she said she wanted the two jack-o-lanterns, oak leaves, and a little squirrel.”

They say people in Amherst, and their neighbors at their recently purchased house in Southampton, have been unbelievably kind.

Having grown up in Goose Bay, Pye says she’s not surprised by the friendliness of people in the Maritimes.

“I went to school in Nova Scotia and fell in love with Nova Scotia, and I always thought that one day I was going to live here,” said Pye.

Maritime hospitality was a bit of a shock for Kovacevic.

“Everybody is on each other’s side around here,” said Kovacevic. “Where we’re from it’s not like that. It’s dog-eat-dog in the city.”

Another draw to the Maritimes was the price of homes.

“We looked at the real estate listings, and I said, ‘Max, didn’t you say you went to school in Nova Scotia and wanted to move back there,’” said Kovacevic. “So, we looked at Nova Scotia and I was like, ‘look at these house prices. It can’t be right,’ and Max said ‘let’s’ go for a road trip. Let’s check it out.’”

They checked it out and ended up buying a five-acre property in Southampton.

“We weren’t sure how the boys would like to go from a school in the city with 1,500 kid to a school in Parrsboro with 140 kids, but they love it,” said Pye.

Liam is 14-years-old and Owen is 12.

“The river in back yard froze over and we shoveled it off and now they have a great big skating rink for hockey in the back yard,” said Pye. “Our backyard in Orangeville was like living in a chicken coop, and now we have all this freedom and all this beauty. You look out the window and you have trees and birds and nature. It’s so nice.”

Art of Rebellion Tattoo Studio is located at 8 Havelock Street.

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