Make sure you know the capabilities of your artist.
I was planning a different topic for this blog but in light of recent events I decided this is more relevant.
In Australia Tattoo Studios are required to be registered with the Health Department. But anyone can get an Infection Control Certificate and then legally claim to be a Tattoo Artist. This is beginning to change in some states of Australia, who now require tattooists to be registered.
Infection Control – I’ll begin with this because it leads in to what I want to say.
Studios are required to comply with a number of regulations including having floors which can be bleached and walls which can be scrubbed.
Contaminated floors and equipment must be cleansed with specialized solution following a tattoo session. Tattooists should wear gloves. Their tattoo machines and tubing must be covered with plastic sleeves.
All blood spills are to be cleaned with bleach.
All contaminated waste is to be placed in specialized contaminated waste disposal bins.
Contaminated waste can only be removed by approved professionals. A Tattoo Studio must be registered with the Health Department in order to use this service.
There are many other requirements which are all designed to protect the tattooist, the studio and the public.
Backyarders – these are people who operate illegally in their own or other peoples’ homes. Some of them are talented but most are people trying to learn to tattoo outside a studio and are not getting the training they should. They do not have registration, therefore their contaminated waste is put straight into the normal rubbish collection.
If that doesn’t set off your alarm bells it should. HIV and Aids are still present in society along with Hepatitis and a number of other nasty diseases. This sort of behaviour endangers everyone.
Backyarders are the second most cause of people requiring cover-ups, the first being failed relationships!
Fraudsters - these people download images of tattoos from the internet then pass them off as their own work. They acquire tags or false names and set themselves up as established artists and ask for ridiculous fees. Warning. Just because someone charges huge fees does not make them an expert!
The increased prevalence of these people have been caused by two things.
Old time tattooists in the past have taken on very few apprentices in order to keep people coming into the industry down to minimum numbers. The small pool of tattooists meant they could not only charge huge fees but also keep a monopoly.
And, let’s face it. An undoubted criminal element connected to the industry have been unwilling to let newcomers into their dealings. It increases their risk of exposure.
The tattoo industry has had enormous boost from TV shows like Miami INK. Where once tattooing was seen to be a deviant behaviour, it is now much more accepted.
It is also becoming a glamour industry with proficient artists acquiring celebrity status with rumours of huge payoffs.
Predictably the industry has been flooded with people wanting to learn the craft. But, in Australia at least, they encountered a brick wall in the form of old time studios who didn’t want a bar of it.
A long time artist once said to me that he had spent years learning his craft to the point where he could command good money. He felt he was justifiably angry at what he thought were people moving into his territory, especially when he was being undercut by backyarders and newcomers.
I can understand his frustration but he is ruled by the same laws of supply and demand as anything else. This is a market society.
The legitimate tattoo industry cannot absorb the amount of people who want to learn the craft. But it could do more to help and it has its own self to blame for forcing a large number of people underground. It is now reaping the rewards for past behaviour.
What to do - It is up to you if you want to use a backyarder. Please keep in mind that you get what you pay for and that a tattoo is on you for life. That the “studio” probably does not meet current standards and the equipment might be contaminated, it has no insurance and the tattoo might be substandard.
Before you order a tattoo from anyone, check their credentials. Ask for references, preferably not from the tattooist’s sister.
If the artist is claiming a number of images as his/her work, download them and do a Google search. This is not difficult. Go to the Google search bar where you will see an image of a camera. Upload the image you want to check, then search. The results will bring up the original image and who it belongs to.
Beware people who charge ridiculous amounts for their work. If you are going to pay out a significant amount of money then the artist should be well known, with an established folio.
Tattoos can be beautiful but they take a little planning and forethought. Do your homework!