Hey, there, Ladies and Germs!  It’s the Five, coming at you with yet another riveting installment of our lovely little corner of blog-space!  It’s been a few days since our last installment, and I have to say that the feedback we’ve been receiving on the Artist Spotlight segments has been overwhelming!  If there is a better way to make an artist feel good about themselves, their accomplishments, and what they are doing, I have yet to hear of it!  So thank you, loyal reader!  Thank you for showing the love and supporting your locals!

I have to admit, kiddos, this blog might not be so widely popular.  You see, as a professional, sometimes it becomes necessary to air out the professional laundry and get the attention of the manufacturing and production people behind those fancy tools we spend so much of our hard-earned cash on in order to bring you the best in tattooing tech and aftercare.  If you’re at all like me, you’ll read this anyway, thirsty for any amount of knowledge about the subject you follow so feverishly.  If not, maybe I’ll be able to throw in a funny quip or comparison or two to keep my humor-seekers drawn in.  Worst case scenario, a few will talk about it, and a few will read it, and it just might reach some eyes that really need to absorb the beat-down I’m about to dish up.  That being said, let’s take these gloves off and bloody these knuckles up.

Consider this an open letter to tattoo supply manufacturers of every size, shape, and capacity.  With the number of options available out there for inks, needles, cartridges, machines, aftercare, barriers, power products, tattoo furniture, even shop software, it quickly becomes clear that our industry is BOOMING in an enormous way.  It seems that new companies crop up by the dozen every week or two, and evanesce just as rapidly.  I can testify that I, personally, have run through no less than four tattoo ink manufacturers in my 15 years, and easily twice that number of machine suppliers.  That’s to say nothing of the day-to-day general consumable suppliers we seem to rotate through every few years.  What’s the reason for such fickleness in supplier choices, you ask?  There are many answers to that question, and all are equally valid.  I won’t individualize, but as suppliers upgrade their offered products, or fail to, they fall in and out of popularity with the greater tattooing community.  Certainly, they understand that, right?  Like, they GET that we, the tattoo artists, must buy the products they sell in order for their business model to succeed, right?  Novel concept, that…but it would seem a few Sales Directors or CEOs out there might have a few extra chromosomes going on, or didn’t make it out of third-grade economic studies.

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Let’s talk about one of the most vitally important parts of the process…the tattoo needle.  I argue that it is the MOST important…the machines may vary, but if your needle is dog-poop, your tattoo will stink. (See what I did, there?)  There are any number of reasons artists will argue their favorite choices of needle manufacturers…taper length, texture, grouping sizes, availability, shipping speed, spring tension, ad nauseam.  Many of us, this century, use needle cartridges with direct-drive machines.  Almost overnight, dozens of cartridge producers have appeared, farming out samples of their wares to seed awareness of their “awesome” products.  Really, guys?  Most of these manufacturers rose up in response to the widespread use of the T-Tech cartridges.  T-Tech are a Chinese product that became popular due to the availability issues and price-gouging occurring with the originator of the technology, Cheyenne.

So, now, everyone has a “great, American made alternative” to the Chinese T-Tech.  Comparable in pricing, perhaps even easily available, but the pictures I’ve appended will tell you a story.  I’ve been using T-Tech cartridges for about 3 years, now.  Never…NOT ONCE, have I had a unit come apart before, during, or after procedure.  One out of every 30 or so might have a goofy needle group, but NEVER an explosive failure event.  Well, that cannot be said for our Made-in-the-USA alternatives.  To date, out of three manufacturers tested, three failed.  Hell, even Cheyenne has a higher failure rate than T-Tech.  Try explaining to your client why your tattoo needle just flew the hell apart in the middle of their tattoo!  If you’re in the cartridge biz, get your shit together, please.  This is simply UNSATISFACTORY.

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The crap-fest doesn’t stop with the needles, kids.  Machines are subject to the same lazy, half-assed engineering and assembly processes, apparently.  Pictured are three of my own personal machines, all rotaries of different styles and price points.  ALL of them failed miserably under the stress of a standard tattoo artist’s work-load.  The Switch rotary, $400, (black Direct Drive with brass hardware) seized its motor in 12 hours, was serviced BY THE ENGINEER, HIMSELF,(for another $160) and seized the motor and bearings again in another 2 hours of use, afterward.  That is what I call a waste of a LOT of money.  Speaking of wasting money, let’s talk about that sweet little Aquamarine Spektra Halo, there.  Beautiful machine for $500.  Breathtaking performance for about 60 hours of use, then the motor melted down, fusing the commutator to the magnets in the patented Motor-Bolt attachment.  After a few calls to the manufacturer and a conversation with the designer of this machine, I was informed that I could purchase a whole new Motor-Bolt system for another $400…their way of replacing a $70 Maxxon motor, I suppose. That other one?  At $99, the Stealth Rotary was my first rotary machine, and I got about 150 hours out of that one before the frame and vice broke.  The motor?  Still good.  Thing could probably jump start an F-15 Strike Eagle.  Do you smell a rat?  I do.  I know their names, too.

Even the most simple of things are plagued with problems brought on by corner-cutting profiteering in the supply side of our beloved industry.  See that busted RCA cord?  Costs about $16 to order a new one…takes about 3 hours to break one…if the one you get isn’t already jacked to begin with.  Funny thing is, I got a replacement from the local Radio Shack for $6 and it’s lighter, more flexible, and actually fits the female RCA connection better than the high-dollar “Pro-tattoo RCA cord” being foisted on the unsuspecting artists of the world.

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Yes, folks, from Power, to Thrust, to Ink, to Aftercare, there are variables.  The bad news?  Thanks to so many shoddy idiots trying to squeeze a buck out of our lifeblood, those variables now have variables of their own.  This is a direct result of people with absolutely NO experience in the field of tattooing  and all of its constituent parts jumping in to the equipment game.  So, this is the part where I call upon you, the readers of this blog, to lend a helping hand.  If you know someone involved in tattooing, tattoo supplies, tattoo supply manufacturing, advertising, promotion, sales, or any other aspect of these products reaching a market by which respectable artists might come into possession of them, please share this post with them.  Hell, share it with everyone, and often.

Who knows, maybe this blog will fall under the beady eyes of a bare-tailed cheese-eater and drive home the message that we, the people who pay HUGE sums of money for this supposedly “top-shelf” equipment are getting a bit chapped about being burned on all the corners.  You kill us on the purchase.  You excoriate us on service fees and replacement parts.  You send us shit that isn’t even fit to flush in a proper, respectable toilet.  I would advise you get your proverbial ducks in a row and start standing behind your products, because you are only ever one harsh blog away from fading into obscurity.  The power of the internet can be absolute if it is wielded correctly, so take note, manufacturers.  The lifestyles you buy with the money you scam from our industry are temporary…you actually have to WORK to keep it going.

Rant over.   -5

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