Meet Joey Ramona — a Toronto based punk rock tattooer and visual artist with a heart of gold
PICTURED ABOVE: Joey Ramona sitting by some of the flash art on display at Corner Pocket Tattoo in Bloordale Village, Toronto — wearing the Andreas Overshirt, and Brixton Montauk Skimmer Tee in White.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Joey Ramona (they/them) — I'm a tattooer and visual artist.
I grew up in Toronto and drew my first artistic influences from the local punk community I spent most of my teenage years. I used to paint all my friends' leather jackets, draw show flyers and design band logos. I was also in a couple of punk bands and was very into playing music, but when it came time to apply for post-secondary schools, I chose art as a potential career path and got accepted to OCAD.
I adopted the moniker 'Joey Ramona' kind of by accident — I thought that to join Instagram, you had to pick a cute and fun name, so being a huge Ramones fan, I thought Joey Ramona was clever and used that. It ended up sticking!
Currently, I live in Toronto's west end with my dog Frida, who is my canine soul mate.
What got you interested in being a tattooer?
I first became interested in tattooing when I got a job as a receptionist at a tattoo shop — I was 18, in my first year of art school, unsure of how I would be able to make a career for myself in the arts. I quickly fell in love with becoming a tattooer, although it took me nearly two years of trying to impress the boss to get him to teach me!
I did my first tattoo in 2007, and I've been dedicated to tattooing ever since.
Where do you find inspiration?
It took me many years to figure out who I am as a tattooer and an artist; it wasn't until the past few years that I began exploring my Jewish and queer identities through art and tattooing. It's been a huge blessing to find community through this work as someone who grew up without many Jewish friends.
My biggest inspirations are people; my grandmother, my comrades, and my ancestors. My family's Judaica has also been a huge source of inspiration. The floral patterns on a Seder plate, matzo cover, or kiddish cup really jumped out at me as images that are easily tattooable.
Do you have any other creative practice outside of being a tattooer?
I graduated from OCAD in 2010 with a degree in fine arts, and I maintain a drawing and painting practice on top of tattooing. Apart from that, I also have a deep appreciation for the artistry of ceramics and textiles, practices that have previously been under-appreciated due to patriarchal notions of what is or is not considered art.
Can you tell us all about your work with Community Fridges Toronto?
I first noticed a community fridge and pantry in my neighbourhood while out walking my dog one day during the first few weeks of the pandemic. At first, I started popping by to drop off a few groceries here and there, but I noticed that the fridge was usually empty whenever I came by.
Since I had all this extra time on my hands, I started fundraising for weekly grocery shops through Instagram. I'd ask folks if they wanted to e-transfer a few bucks, and I would use all the money to fill up the fridge near my apartment with food and pantry items (I'd post the receipts for transparency). I did this every week for months, and eventually, I signed up to do some cleaning shifts here and there — wiping down the fridge with cleaner, tossing expired or opened food, etc.
After about six months of organizing the weekly shops and doing cleaning shifts, the organizing team of CFTO (Community Fridges Toronto) asked me to join them and take on some administrative roles. I am currently working on their social media team and still doing the occasional fundraiser and grocery shops for the fridges.
Are you involved with any other community projects?
Over the years, I have been involved with a few groups — primarily taking it upon myself to do fundraising through my social media or volunteering to design logos. I recently did designs for Toronto Prisoner's Rights Project and Independent Jewish Voices. I've also done fundraising for Street Health OPS, Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction, Native Women's Resource Centre, and Sistering.
When it comes to getting involved with the community, I'm often just responding to calls for resources that I see online and try to rally other folks because supporting these mutual aid groups are important to me.
Currently, I'm still working with CFTO (Community Fridges Toronto), and I encourage folks to check out their Instagram to find ways to support or get involved. I would also like to encourage folks to support local mutual aid groups like Toronto Prisoner's Rights Project, Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction, and This Way Up Collective – all of these groups can be found via Instagram.
Interview and photography by Alyssa Katherine Faoro.
Friends of Philistine is an interview series with people who are doing neat things. If you are working on a new project or have something exciting in the works we'd love to hear from you! Please reach out to email@example.com and tell us about why you'd love to be featured with a community profile.