Clément Demers (1916-1977), nicknamed “Professor Clément”, was a pioneer in the field of tattooing in Quebec and Montreal. After years of practice in the Ottawa area, he and his family travelled through Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick in his trailer-studio during the second half of the 1950s.
The Demers settled in Montreal in 1958 in the back room of a studio on the Main, at 1011 St. Laurent Boulevard, corner of La Gauchetière. Clément Demers’ growing reputation earned him recognition as a tattoo specialist in the media: he gave interviews and took part in several documentaries.
Having been exposed to tattooing since early childhood, four of the five Demers sons went on to become tattoo artists: Clément Jr., Normand, Serge and Denis apprenticed with their father in the 1970s and then pursued the same career.
Clément Demers retired in 1976 at the age of 60, after 30 years in the business. He moved to a country house in Alcove, on the banks of the Gatineau River. There, he focused on oil painting and exhibited his own work, but nevertheless kept a small tattoo parlour.
Soldier of the 22nd Regiment of the Canadian Army during the Second World War, Clément Demers was deployed in England, Italy, Sicily and on the continent. It was in Portsmouth, England, that he discovered tattooing.
Clément Demers met Marie Marthe Monette in June 1945. They married in 1946 and moved into their first apartment at 85 York Street in Ottawa, where their first three children, Serge (1947), Denis (1951) and Normand (1953), were born. It was in this apartment that Clément Demers opened his first tattoo parlour in 1947.
In 1952, Clément Demers, his wife Marie Marthe and their first three children, Serge, Denis and Normand, moved into a Jeep-drawn trailer that served as their home and tattoo parlour. For five years, the Demers family travelled from military base to military base, from Quebec to New Brunswick. Two more children, Clément Jr. and Gabriel, were born during this period.
With the departure of pioneer tattoo artists Ted Liberty, Sailor Joe Simmons and Joe Lavoie, Clément Demers was for a time the only tattoo artist in Montreal.
His customer base, initially made up of sailors and merchants flocking to the Port of Montreal, became more diverse in the mid 1960s. Bikers now regularly came through the studio doors, opting for Clément Demers’ American Old School style, with its solid contours and vivid colours. The number of female clients also grew.
Clément Demers’ tattoo studio storefront was well known to St. Laurent Boulevard pedestrians. For a while, an 8-foot boa constrictor lived in an aquarium set up at the window. A lover of exotic animals, Clément Demers also relied on a leopard, a chimpanzee and a mina bird to attract customers.
Exposed to tattooing since early childhood, four of the Demers sons decided to become tattoo artists themselves: Clément Jr., Normand, Serge and Denis became their father’s apprentices and pursued the same career in the 1970s. The youngest, Gabriel, chose photography instead.
In 1971, on his 16th birthday, Clément Jr. became his father’s tattoo artist apprentice. With a career spanning nearly 50 years, he now works to preserve the memory of tattooing.
In the 1980s, Clément Demers Jr. moved into an old bus that served as a summer home and tattoo parlour, just like his father before him.