In 2018, the Nimmo Bay team was introduced to Bart Willis, an internationally-renowned tattoo artist, who spends most of his time in Austin, Texas, but who can also be found not too far from us in the remote village of Alert Bay. Bart visited us at Nimmo Bay, he shared his story, we shared ours, and as it goes, a new-found friendship was instantly formed. He left behind a few new tattoos, as well!

About Bart Willis

Bart was raised in the farming community of Lethbridge, Alberta. In 1990, he moved to Austin, Texas, to play guitar in blues and country bands but was soon inspired to pursue his fascination with tattoos and embark on the journey of learning the art and all that it entails.

In 1999, in hopes of seeing killer whales, a lifelong dream, Bart followed his heart to Vancouver Island. He found himself in the remote village of Alert Bay, on Cormorant Island near Port McNeill, based on the recommendation of a Lonely Planet travel book. Here, he not only found whales but a place and a community that he wanted to return to. He was surprised to find that there were not many locals with tattoos and that the closest tattoo shop was hundreds of miles away. It was then that he decided to plan a second trip, this time with his tattoo gear.

The following year, Bart returned to Alert Bay and started to tattoo locals with both traditional and contemporary designs at the Lions Club, at the fire hall and in a hair salon. He continued to return each summer, making Alert Bay his home base. In 2003, he ventured further up the coast to Masset on Haida Gwaii, where he has visited every year since. Bart has also made numerous trips to the Heiltsuk community of Bella Bella.

Over the years, Bart has built strong and respectful relationships with the Kwakwaka’wakw people, the Haida people and the Heiltsuk people of coastal British Columbia. With help from Willis, many are recapturing their peoples’ long history of tattooing. “These communities are rich in their native arts and I am very fortunate to have been able to tattoo so much of and study it. I pride myself on having a good knowledge of and respect for many of the indigenous tattoo forms of the Pacific, from Polynesia to Japan.”

Bart has spent thirty years perfecting his craft with a variety of styles and a special interest in black tattooing. “My considerable experience with black tattooing has provided me with the opportunity to try my hand at many of these styles and I enjoy working with them all. What I like most though is the opportunity to combine them into a style of my own which I call Pacific Fusion.”

Although he is known for his Pacific Fusion style, Bart does not limit himself to this personal style alone. He takes pride in understanding each aspect of the art, emphasizing “the power that a well-crafted, well-placed, and well-executed design can have on a person’s life.”

Bart is co-owner of Southside Tattoos, which has been operating since 2001 and has the reputation as one of the best shops in Austin, Texas. Here, his vision to create an environment that celebrates art, creativity, and the human experience, has flourished.

Bart Willis and Nimmo Bay

We look forward to welcoming Bart back to Nimmo Bay this season, with more details to come. In the meantime, we would like to share these stunning photos captured by Adrien Mullin of our helicopter pilot, Clayton, with Bart at their 6,000-foot snowy pit stop, overlooking Queen Charlotte Strait at sunset – a tattoo with a view!

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