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Railbender Studio: The crowdfunded art gallery and tattoo parlour

By Karen Diepeveen on February 12, 2014

Ottawa’s got its fair share of tattoo parlours and art galleries – and tattoo parlour art galleries. The latest addition to this mix is Railbender Studio, set to open Feb. 15 down in Hintonburg.

There’s a twist, though, that makes this new studio unique. In order to launch the studio/gallery, owners Alex Néron and Marta Jarzabek looked to the community for support. Through a Kickstarter campaign, they raised enough to get the business off the ground, getting support from more than 100 backers and reaching their 10,000 goal in one month.

We had Alex answer a few questions about the studio, their campaign, and where the name Railbender came from.

Apartment613: Tell us about your project!

Alex Néron: Railbender Studio, opened by myself and my girlfriend and co-owner Marta Jarzabek, is set to be Hintonburg’s newest tattoo studio and art gallery located in Hintonburg (3 Hamilton Avenue North). The tattoo studio will feature myself as the resident tattoo artist and we are currently scouting for a second experienced tattoo artist. The art gallery will feature/showcase the works of local artists, and/or artists with local (Ottawa) roots: for example, Juan Carlos Noria, featured in our opening show, who now resides in Barcelona. We have chosen Hintonburg because it is one of Ottawa’s most creative and welcoming neighbourhoods. We are really excited to become a part of the community and hope to add to its growing scene.

What inspired you to come up with this idea?

It’s always been a dream of mine to work creatively full time, to work as a full-time artist, but realizing it seemed somehow unattainable for many years and for many reasons. This past Fall, despite the fact that it most definitely was not the best “timing” by most people’s standards to open a business for either of us (personal job / financial stability, etc.), and despite the fact that in many ways we really had no idea what we were doing, haha, we decided to go for it. Inspired and encouraged by Marta to pursue what I love most, making art, I made the decision to put all my energy towards what I enjoy doing most: towards creating a successful business and not settling for anything else.

What is important about the crowdfunding aspect of the project?

Although a small and humble space, our “new” studio needed A LOT of work, a complete overhaul. Like with anything worth pursuing in life, opening Railbender Studio had its share of obstacles and most of them had to do with the renovations required prior to opening – we had to gut the place and couldn’t fund the renovations ourselves.

Earlier in the year, Marta backed another local Ottawa project on Kickstarter and so we decided to give it a shot. We launched a 30 day Kickstarter campaign a week before Christmas and thanks to the overwhelming support from our community we raised just over $10, 000 from more than 115 backers! It was pretty insane. The crowdfunding aspect was very important for many reasons. First, it is the ONLY reason we were able to complete many of the renovations, haha, but it also helped tremendously with network building, advertising & promotion for the studio and just connecting with residents of the community. We have nothing but positive things to say about our crowdfunding experience – the entire experience far exceeded our expectations.

What kind of response did you get from the community?

The response from the community has been amazing, and tremendously overwhelming, We’ve been fortunate enough to have the support of our family and friends, but we’ve been overwhelmed with the tremendous support from Ottawa, and in particular, from the Hintonburg community: people we’ve never met, expressing feelings of genuine interest in our project, offering encouragement for our progress, wishing us success, and offering their help be it financially, their services… The list goes on and on.

When are you hoping to open? Anything else you’d like to add? 

Our grand opening is set for February 15th, 2014. A note on our name: after doing some research on the history of the area, we discovered many of the area’s residents worked for the Pacific Rail in the early days, and so, after a bit of searching, we came across the term, Railbender. It was a perfect fit, reflective of the type of art we hope to promote through our studio and gallery.

More information about Railbender Studio can be found on their website or Kickstarter page. They’re also on Facebook, and can be found IRL at 3 Hamilton Avenue North in Hintonburg.  Railbender is currently looking to hire an experienced tattoo artist to work in the shop. Those interested should contact Alex Néron at 613-324-8804 or