Oh, no! Here it comes again. I’m sure from the nature of the title you can all clearly see that this just might be another rant of EPIC proportions. Well, my little pincushions, you’ve certainly got that right!
Hello, and welcome to another thrilling installment of the Trinity Art Collective blog! My deep-ish apologies for the tardiness of this newest chapter. It would seem that the universe is not without a cruel streak, and certain too-real world situations have kept yours truly fairly incapacitated in terms of sideline time. Yet and still, here we go with something near and dear to the heart of any professional tattoo artist with a good portfolio and a solid reputation.
Like Marlin Perkins from Wild Kingdom, I find myself now playing tour-guide through a dangerous safari to spot rare and potentially lethal animals…the Kitchen Magicians.
There are dozens of names for them…most are insulting. Scratchers. Kitchen Magicians. Scar Vendors. Scab Slingers. The list keeps going, and only becomes more angry and spiteful. If one were to pay attention, they might notice these are the “my homie/cousin/ex-cellmate” villains that star in almost every horrible tattoo story. You know, that guy your buddy goes to that “will do it WAY cheaper, and he’ll come to your house.” It’s not to say that every solo privateer artist falls into these categories, but I can say with relative confidence there are EXTREMELY FEW exceptions to this douchebag rule-of-thumb. A hint? If you hear the words ‘tat-gun,’ run like Hell itself is chasing you.
I understand, believe me. Tattoos are expensive these days. Let me say, from the artist’s viewpoint, great tattoos are expensive to do! The costs of a purpose-built (I’ll get to that later) facility, top-notch equipment and the undivided time with an artist who has dedicated their entire life to honing this particular craft are jarringly high, and to stay viable, one must cover their costs. If you don’t think an artist should get paid for their expertise, skill, creativity and professionalism, you should probably just not get tattooed…it’s likely you will be the ass-hat that tries to haggle. You want to haggle prices with someone claiming to be a tattoo artist? There are swap-meets all through the country that have a few prime specimens to choose from. Take y’ass there, and enjoy your new scar, buddy.
I’m not exactly sure how it came to be accepted as a de facto credential to have a prison record. It seems a ton of people have a homie or a cousin who is fresh out of the lockup, and they suddenly believe that this counts as practical experience as a tattoo artist! Listen, people…I’ve been railing against exactly this sort of crap for 15 years, and I am not about to stop. There is, simply, no acceptable excuse for someone to be wrecking people’s skin in a kitchen or living room near you. Unless of course, your last name is White, you live in West Virginia, and you are married to your half-sister that was born with Down’s Syndrome. Then, I think you get a pass, as long as it is on camera for the world to laugh at what a hopeless piece of human failure you are as you spread hepatitis to your family…again.
A colleague and I had a discussion just a few days ago that helped me articulate my thoughts on this matter. The argument for regulation and controls in our industry in Arizona and other rogue-type states is a hot one. After all, if there were standards, all those homies,cousins and ex-cons might *gasp* have to do something other than fail miserably at tattooing from the comfort of a jizz-stained couch or filthy kitchen table. Seriously. We live in a state where the only requirement for a shop is a business license, and THAT is too much trouble to go through? Let me break down what a purpose-built tattoo studio, be it a room or a full shop, is.
People get hoodwinked, and often, by the term ‘Private Studio.’ That is, more often than not, someone trying to make working from their house, apartment, or refrigerator box sound like a professional choice. Do not be fooled. A professional would NOT do these things. If there is even a single thread of carpet on the floor (excluding a welcome mat), it is not, and never will be, a clean place to work. There is so much vile shit caked into carpet fibers after just a few days of being out of the plastic that every step throws clouds of bacteria-laden dust and fibrous particles into the air, to be distributed wherever, and on whomever, they might land. Got a wood table? A cloth couch? Any and every porous material that might get touched by contaminated equipment or any other part of the INVASIVE process tattooing cleanup is not anywhere close to clean…nor can it ever become so. Only sealed, non-porous surfaces can be decontaminated to the degree that will keep a client healthy and safe. For those things that can’t withstand the harsh decontamination, there are medically designed barrier products that prevent contamination…sorry, Basement Bashers, towels and sheets don’t count, here.
Here’s another consideration. Someone is tattooing out of their house or whatever…isn’t that where they live? Why in BLUE HELL would you usher a long line of complete strangers into the place where you sleep, eat, shit and shave? Have you lost your mind? Some of these would-be tattooers have wives and children and animals living in that very same space! Now, I’m not a perfect human, but I can tell you that my clients, by and large, have NO idea where I live…nor will they. In my not so humble opinion, being an artist who has been licensed in multiple states and having worked under a few different forms of regulation, a ‘Private Studio’ is a purpose-built facility that is in NO WAY attached, and sharing NO atmosphere, HVAC or plumbing with a residence of any type. Period. If it fails that test, it ain’t a studio, buddy. Sorry. Yes, when you work in a shop that charges a percentage of your daily intake, it can certainly feel like you’re lining the pockets of a shop owner who does LITERALLY nothing to earn the enormous amount of cash you hand them. If this is not ideal, consider paying a flat rent fee for your space…then you’re only ever paying someone a certain amount that will not equal half of your gross income. The point here is that working out of your house or apartment or whatever other cringe-worthy arrangement might be on the plate for that next ‘sick tat’ is something that any professional tattoo artist would not tolerate. It’s just flat-out disgusting. I might lose some friends over this issue, but facts are facts.
So I suppose, to wrap this up, it’s up to you people out there in Interweb land to make an educated decision. We professionals look forward to the 65% of you who will actually show some brain-power and make a good choice about who tattoos them and under what conditions. We also look forward to the rest of you coming to us eventually to pay hundreds of dollars to fix or cover up the horrible crap your homie or cousin did for 40 bucks because a pro tattoo would have been ‘too expensive.’ Think about that.