Tattoo Blog

Art that adorns the flesh…

State of the Art?

November 7th, 2008 by

Robert Johnson had been saving up all year for his new tattoo. Like most enthusiasts he worked hard for his money, and was looking forward to getting his first piece of body art. Having recently moved to a new town he needed an artist, most specifically one within his budget. On the advice of a acquaintance he went to a new shop that had just opened in the strip mall down town.

The artist had several photographs of work he had done, and seemed competent enough. So with great excitement he laid his money down sat down in the chair. Several months later he began to feel a little off, as if he had the flu. His symptoms grew worse as the days passed. Finally he went to the doctor and received some news that shocked him. He had contracted Hepatitis C, a contagious viral disease that leads to serious, permanent liver damage, and in many cases, death.

It seemed the tattoo artist had not only given him his first tattoo, but something Ajax wouldn’t take off as well. It turns out that the supposed artist was unlicensed. Something that can be done in several states where licensing of the artist themselves is not required, and even in some states where it is. Sound far fetched? Consider the following.

As recent as June of this year two teens were treated for infections they received from an unlicensed scratcher. Yes, I refuse to call them artists. If they really were artists with a love of the art instead of money they would take the time and expense to be properly trained in sterile procedures. This is even worse when the scratcher is untrained in how to properly tattoo. Tattoo machines don’t come with erasers. In many ways those kids were lucky Instead of just an infection and some bad tattooing, they could have walked away with any number of diseases, including HIV.

Another illegal tattoo shop in Des Moines just last year may have exposed any number of tattoo enthusiasts to several diseases.

While it is true that scratchers will probably always be the bane of the tattoo art world, there should be no reason to make it easy for them to practice our art and make it so health threatening for collectors who just want good art, something they can be proud of.

Perhaps it is high time that tattoo equipment suppliers were as regulated as licensed artists. After all, just any old Joe Blow off the street can not purchase most hospital supplies without proof of their right to have access to them. While I realize that suppliers should be able to make a living too. There is no sane reason that access to professional tattoo equipment should be available to anyone who happens to have the cash. It should be a requirement that the purchaser has at least some proof that they have been properly trained as a tattoo artist.

If the art form we love is to keep it’s current, hard won, acceptance and grow to be even more accepted as the art form that it is. Then access to the tools of the trade must become limited to the trained and licensed artists.

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