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© 2017 Haley Ritchie

Whistler tattoo artist inks tiny trees to raise money for wildfire relief

Kelsey Bareham and Whistler Tattoo Company team raise $4,000 for the Red Cross.

Wildfires move fast, but so does Whistler Village tattoo artist Kelsey Bareham. Wanting to help friends in the interior affected by the recent destructive wildfires, the artist is tattooing tiny trees to raise money for the Red Cross.

On July 16 Bareham came up with 12 small tree designs, and announced an emergency fundraiser taking place at her shop, Whistler Tattoo Company. She said the trees would be available for donation, with money going towards wildfire relief.

She woke up the next morning with hundreds of messages and 10 people waiting outside before she opened. On the first day, Bareham did 19 tree tattoos by herself, working a 10-hour day.

Since then her co-worker Ryan Patrick and their apprentice have also started tattooing the trees. Together, the trio has tattooed a veritable forest on the residents of Whistler over the past week.

Bareham said she was inspired to start a fundraiser because so many of her friends have been affected by the fire and forced to evacuate.

“I have a lot of friends living in the interior, and they’ve had to evacuate,” said Bareham. “I’m happy that they’re safe and they’re alive, but I imagine all the stress that they must be going through.”

She said one friend lost a family cabin in the fires, while another, who lives in 100 Mile House, is still evacuated and waiting to hear what has happened to his home and businesses.

“He’s worked his whole life, building his life there, and now it’s all on hold. He doesn’t even know if there’s anything to come back to,” she said.

Bareham said 75 per cent of the proceeds go towards the Red Cross to help with fire relief. The other 25 per cent goes towards paying for supplies. The tattoos are by donation, but the shop has set a minimum of $60 and a suggested donation of $100.

So far, Bareham estimates she’s raised well over $4,000.

The tiny trees have found homes on wrists and ankles, and tucked behind ears and on hips.

“The wonderful thing about trees, and part of the reason I chose it to be an icon of this movement, is because each one is slightly different. It’s not possible to do the exact same tree over and over again. They’re all unique,” she said.

On Sunday afternoon a small group of people were still waiting outside the shop to get their own little trees, including a group of three friends travelling south from D’Arcy.

Bareham’s number two design, a small cedar tree, was a first tattoo for Graham Wong, who said fighting wildfires is personal for his family. His father was a forest firefighter in Pemberton for 25 years.

“I know what he went through, so there’s some inspiration there,” said Wong. “And I have friends affected by the fire.”

“I like that all the proceeds go towards helping out with the wildfires, because it’s a bad situation. And I like getting tattoos, so why not? You can’t go wrong with a tree,” said his friend, Kimberly Larochelle, who was visiting from Vancouver and had a matching tattoo done on Sunday.

Bareham said many people visiting the shop during the year want to commemorate a trip to Whistler, and she’s drawn many trees and many mountains during her three years tattooing in Whistler.

“I knew it would be popular, and I genuinely want to raise as much money for the people I care about as possible,” she said. “I feel like I got the right one.”