Also with the boom of the tattoo culture came the boom in people who want to be tattooers. The attraction to the industry in self explanatory. The possibility to create live art that lasts a lifetime and is a permanent reminder of that moment in time, or that unforgettable subject. It really is an amazing thing. Just the simple act of application of a tattoo and to be able to do it successfully and clean is self gratifying in itself to the tattooer.
I love this industry. I have learned so many new outlets for my artistic creations. I have met a bunch of motivated and motivational individuals. In the last six years, this industry has made me a very happy individual. Although I did not treat it as so for a while, got hung up in myself and made some bad decisions, I still love it, and will continue to redeem my negative decisions with proper decision and execution.
The hardest part about this industry right now is the fact that so many new doors have opened. I do not mean so many new outlet doors for myself. I mean so many new tattoo studios are popping up everywhere. In certain areas this is not a terrible thing. It creates a form of competition almost, a challenge to become a better artist and open up to become a better artistic community. But unfortunately this is not true in most scenes that I am witness too or have been currently reading about. These shops that are continually popping up out of nowhere are usually bad news.
I live in Luzurne County Pennsylvania. I have been here for almost four years now. In that time I have worked for three studios prior to the one I am in now. (As stated before, I made some terrible decisions causing most of the bouncing around. I have since manned up to my mistakes and sought help to fix em.) Since I started working in this area I would have to estimate there to be almost 9 new tattoo studios that have opened in that time. Out of them all I would seriously say maybe 2 of them are capable of putting out quality, long lasting, legit tattoos. The rest of them sad to say are not.
The tattoos coming from the majority of these studio in this area have been less than par. At least by the average consumer standards that I have been witness to over the last few years.
Another issues with so many studios at once, the experience factor. The majority of the shops in this county now are made up of half to less than half apprenticed tattooers. By this I mean, people that have gone to someone to get an apprenticeship, either quit or got released from the apprenticeship due to whatever, and then went out and got money somehow and opened up there own place because of the bad taste in there mouth from it. If not this scenario, it is a shop that is opened by someone who saw the success of tattooers somewhere, and decided it is something they can "do", bought a tattoo kit from somewhere online, got their business license and opened their own shop. Now how does this all relate to the customer?
Customers deserve quality, respect and good product.
What makes a good tattoo?
By my experience as a collector, and as a tattoo artist, I believe what makes a good tattoo goes not just into the tattoo itself, but the overall atmosphere and experience.
As a Collector: I expect a shop/studio to be clean, comfortable and professional. I expect the artists in the studio to be professional in a sense as well. Welcoming and relaxed is great, but lack of professionalism is a negative. I would also like to see a portfolio for all tattooing artists in the studio, and if available I would like to see some healed work in person as well. (Most tattooers usually work on one or more people in the studio they tattoo in.) I expect to be treated as an individual. I like my ideas for my tattoo to be respected and to be though about when creating the design. I expect the tattoo to be along the lines of the ideas that I gave to the artist to work with. If such design may not look proper or look proportionate, I would expect the artist to be professional and explain why this is. Then I would expect them to offer an idea that may work as well and still be consistent with the original idea in mind.
As a Tattoo Artist: I aim to give the customer the design they are looking for, or as much of it as they are looking for. The first thing I recommend is for them to look through my portfolio and to make sure I am the artist they would like to have. If not I can recommend them to someone else that may be more fitting for the task. If so we continue on. I do my best to keep a comfortable atmosphere that is both sterile like a doctor, but as comfortable as a living room. The customer gets to see the design before I finalize it, after I finalize it, as a stencil, and as it sits on there skin. All the while given plenty of opportunity to change the design, size or location of the tattoo itself. When executing the tattoo, I take the time to make sure all the line work is clean and consistand, the shading and/or color work is smooth and consistent as well as what the customer is asking for or suggests for their design. I make sure all the products I use are professional grade, and (by my preference) organic/vegan and bio friendly. When finished, I offer a proper covering for their new tattoo as well as aftercare that is tested and used myself on my own tattoos that is not only friendly to the skin but easily adaptable to each client. All the while keeping a lighthearted atmosphere and open/professional conversation and attitude.
There comes times where an artist has a bad day, or a bad state of mind, or is just in an off mood. This is buy no way the customers fault if they walk into it. It is the tattooers job to either snap out of it and be professional or call off the tattoo until they can regroup. If it is indeed a customer causing the stress to an artist, it is a matter of being open and explaining in a professional and apt manner to the customer at hand what it is that is causing this stress. If a solution can not come too, then they should be asked to leave or be recommended to someone else who may be better suited.
So why all the type about this?
I guess it is because I am seeing a trend for around the industry. Definitely in the County I currently work in, and from what I am seeing from surrounding areas as well. This industry is being high jacked by less that reputable shop owners and tattooers. They are putting out poor quality tattooing, and running the business as a money making profit scheme until the next big thing comes along. The area I live is swelled with pissed off apprentices made tattoo shop owners cutting the throats of those around them who have put their time in, and have worked for years to perfect the craft. Pricing tattoos so low that the Artists who have been working and making a living on the profession they do can not keep at it. Thsi is not completely the Tattooers fault. Some of the blame there in lies on the collector themselves. It seems to be a slow growing trend to have shyt tattoos for cheap prices. The cheaper the tattoo the better. With understanding, the economy is continuing to go downhill, there are still ways that you can get the quality tattoo that you deserve at a good price. The catch is, you have to work with the artist to establish this process. It will usually take time to get it. Multiple sessions even. But I believe that is the issue. People want things now, they want them how they want them, and they want it at their convenience.
A tattoo is to be treasure. No matter the size or the topic or the price. It is a permanent reminder of that moment in time. The experience you received. The love you get from it.
I have seen tattoos make people more confident. I have seen tattoos make people accept themselves better. I have seen tattoos make people more aware of themselves. I have seen tattoos make people fall in love with their body, their personality, their lives. I have seen tattoos draw relationships together. I have seen tattoos open up doors for conversation with people who may other wise never been talked with. I have seen tattoos used as a testament of Faith, and open doors for witnessing. I have seen tattoos bring about honor, courage, confidence and love.
As a collector, you deserve a quality tattoo that you will love for a lifetime. Every glance at that tattoo should make you smile and be happy that you got it. This all comes at a conscious decision on your part.
Look into the artist you are getting tattooed by.
Look into the shop they are working at or own.
Ask around town with multiple collectors who they recommend.
Do not just walk in and accept what they throw at you. If it sounds too good or bad, it is.
Look at portfolio, Look at healed tattoos if available.
Look for cleanliness, Look for sterile equipment, Look for art.
It will take some time but it will be worth it.
Good tattoos are not always cheap.
Cheap tattoos are not always good.
If you are a Tattooer/Artist,
Step up your game.
Stop cutting throats and hating on fellow artists for a dollar.
We are all in this business together. We are all professionals trying to build a career and support ourselves, our families, our business. It's not always a shop that you are destroying. It can be someones family, someones kid, someones life. Be conscious of whats around you, and work to make it better. Keep this industry moving forward. Keep this community alive and thriving.