Wednesday, January 20, 2010

3 steps to a better tattoo community

So today at the shop we had a nice talk about the state of tattooing. More specifically, we discussed the fact that the whole trade seems to be going into the shitter. Yeah I know that is sort of a wide range statement so I’ll try to specify as much as possible without getting too down on everything. Honestly it was a pretty upsetting conversation.

The whole lovely conversation started when Joy pointed out a statement “Inked” magazine had made in their recent issue. Apparently they plan to open 400 tattoo studios in malls across America. Now I would have figured that statement alone would be enough to strike fear into the hearts of every tattooer. It seems I was wrong. I tried to find more info online and found a bunch of people in a forum trying to defend the move. Many of those arguments were from either folks that worked in malls already, or defended the decision as a brilliant business move. It all actually made me sick to my stomach. Talking about that bit started an afternoon’s conversation that covered all, but not only the rant below…

One of the main things that got me interested in tattooing in the first place was the idea that it was still a craft and not a business. It is steeped in tradition and a sense of integrity that gets lost in mainstream art. It has done that by staying, as a business, extremely small. Amazing really, considering it has been around for as long as it has. That small size has kept it manageable and able to be policed by the few individuals that paid their dues to the craft. It was inevitable that tattooing would grow to the gross proportions it has today. Within that growth there has been progress undoubtedly… but I fear it has grown too far past its ability to self govern. There are magazines that publish darn near anything sent their way (or so it seems… id hate to see what they turn down), there are conventions that seem to only have a criteria of affording the booth fee, and there are shops being opened left and right as “business ventures” where the owner has never even held a tattoo machine or if they do indeed tattoo they are green as hell (can you say blind leading the blind). It seems every time you turn around mediocrity is being rewarded and recognized as greatness. If you add that to the overblown sense of entitlement that has swept the nation, you’ve got a perfect storm of bullsh*t.

I don’t think its possible to ever get the good old days back, but if we are going to still have a hand in our own industry we need to take some steps to keep it ours. Simply complaining isn’t worth the time to write, so here are a few ways to start getting a grip on the industry we have built:

As tattooers we need to take responsibility for our trade, our art, and the service we provide.
1. If you are new to the trade, it is important for you to keep yourself in check. Unfortunately as pointed out, you will be told how awesome you are by magazines, show promoters, and customers. Don’t be fooled. You still shouldn’t be attempting that color portrait as a tattoo. If you cant draw it, you cant tattoo it. Self govern.

2. If you HAVE been tattooing for years, HAVE paid your dues, and can tattoo better than everyone on your block… good for you. Now accept the responsibility for your work. Stop with the how to videos, the online step by step tutorials, and for all our sake stop trying to ride this wave till it crashes. You are killing your own industry. Self govern.
lastly (for now)

3. If you don’t tattoo at all… stay the fu*k out of my business. I have worked too hard to watch you run my passion into the ground. You have no right owning a tattoo shop just because you have the money to open one. (let alone 400) I cannot stress enough the damage done by you and your kind. Leach.

I do apologize for the complaining, I usually try to keep this blog positive. Next time will be more pictures and good feelings I promise. Now I gotta get some sleep so I can get up early and draw my ass off. Long day tomorrow.