Inked AU/NZ – Authentink Article – May 2013
by Kian ‘Horisumi’ Forreal
So it seems we are at a crossroads, and when I say ‘we’ I mean those of us that are involved in and in love with the tattoo world and tattoo art. There is a massive clamp down being planned and perpetrated on our culture that is now coming to fruition by the powers that be. The first phase is the NSW tattoo parlour act of 2012… the criminalization and regulation of individual tattoo artists and the studios they work at and own, the job that we do to make a living and feed our families is under attack. An art that is now being regulated by the police and treats every single practitioner as a possible suspect for an unspecified crime, so much so that all practitioners of this art, and I mean ART.. we tattoo artists work hard long hours, we study different styles of drawing and painting, we travel to learn, we sacrifice time lost with the ones we love and in the end we try to draw beautiful pictures on peoples skin, period. Hardly a crime worthy of fingerprinting, palm printing, mugshots, intense background and criminal character checks and interviews on every single practitioner of this art. I understand that there is an element of the tattoo world that operates outside the law, I would venture an educated guess that there are zero to .01% actual tattoo artists that are directly involved in OMC activities. You see, when you are a tattoo artist, you don’t have time to do anything else but tattoo, the people that operate on the fringes of society do so because they have nothing better to do and are limited in their ways to make a living. Why would a working tattooer be involved in such risky activities when he already has a way to make a living? If its money laundering through tattoo shops that are the issue.. then regulate and audit tattoo shops, leave the working man and woman out of it. Getting a tattoo license costs over a $1000 per artist every 3 years on top of all the other expenses we have. Go figure… so anyways… now that we are licensed, catalogued, photographed and fingerprinted and pigeonholed.. the next step is to make it harder for us to do our jobs of course.
I’ve been having online discussions with Josh Roelink over at the Australian Tattooists Guild, and although we don’t see eye to eye on everything we both agree that we need to be pro-active in regulating ourselves before the hammer fully comes down on us from above. There has been talk about regulating the importation and possession of tattoo equipment which I personally find quite distasteful. These bloody ebay kits and the morons that are tattooing their friends in the kitchen are seriously making us all look bad. If you are one of these morons… stop it. You are killing tattooing with your actions. And not because you’re taking away our business, you’re not, if anything you’re creating more for people to cover up your crap, but what you are doing is getting your antics lumped in with professional tattoo artists and studios and people who are already paranoid enough about disease spreading tattoo parties are now being given good reason to be.
And where are the bloody parents in this? Don’t blame ebay or tattoing.. blame yourself if your child has come home with a crappy backyard tattoo, you raised him, he made a bad decision.. deal with it. If your son or daughter bought tattoo gear online and is doing garage tattooing on the weekends, that’s on you. Again, regulate your children, don’t scream for the government to regulate tattooing or online purchases. And if you as a tattoo artist are losing business to backyard scratchers with ebay kits.. seriously, you are doing something wrong. Look at yourself and your shop and your skills and your marketing, don’t scream for the government to step in and regulate tattoo gear to prevent someone from stealing your stupid customers away, deal with it. I mean really, if you have a nice shop, reasonable skills and decent prices.. why would someone risk everything to get tattooed in a kitchen? Maybe because they don’t know any better? Yes. So what Josh and I are talking about is an industry generated and promoted public awareness campaign about the perils of home tattooing from both the client and artists perspective that will make your clients know better, the risks involved and the damage it does to the industry when unsanitary amateur tattooing is practiced. You think tattoos are expensive now? Haha.. wait til everything is completely regulated and materials are only available from medical supply companies and you need a permit to buy a needle. We need to regulate ourselves and educate the public, it starts now with all of you. Spread the word that tattooing from home with ebay gear is not cool, getting tattooed by a friend in a kitchen is not cool, in fact its pretty stupid on every level. Not only is it unclean you’re going to have an ugly souvenir to remind you of your foolishness. We need to get that point across before its too late. The government is already talking about having the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) regulate tattoo equipment.
From a public health perspective do we think that making tattoo needles harder to get and replace and ink harder to get and replace, that this will make our young people safer or more likely to a get disease from an amateur reusing his needles and ink? The government gives free needles to junkies for this very reason and drugs are 100% illegal. Scratchers aren’t going to let something like this get in the way, they’ll just ‘boil’ they’re needles to clean them, if we’re lucky, at least now… at the very least… sterile cheap needles and disposable tubes are available to the idiots that want to play ‘tv tattooer’ at home,so yes, heaps of shitty tattoos.. but no hep C epidemic. If we remove the availability of clean tools and we might have both. And I don’t agree with amateur home tattooing, but from a public health perspective… things could be a lot worse. As we’ve already said… a public awareness campaign is the best tool at the moment. Something constructive that we could do is lobby ALL the tattoo magazines to run public service ads that educate the public on the risks and pitfalls of home tattooing. That kind of thing will make a difference. Not regulation. Take my word for it the last thing we want is the federal government TGA regulating the possession, importation and trade of any tattoo equipment… that is the very last thing we want as a group. it will not work out to our favor. The problem is an awareness issue among young people wanting to get quick cheap tattoos… not an issue with the tools. Spread the word.
Horisumi – Kian Forreal is a professional tattoo artist with 20 years international tattoo experience and specializes in traditional Japanese tattoo work and script lettering. He has worked all over the world and has studied under some of the leading tattoo artists of today. He was given a Japanese tattoo title in 2013 by Horiyoshi III in Japan and is based out of Sydney, Australia. His website is www.kianforreal.com