Tattoos: Advice Extremes
Across Asia the popularity of tattooing is growing. In line with the staggered uptake of Western trends, increasingly affluent portions of society have begun participating in a variety of previously exclusive pursuits. According to some survey’s it is estimated that approximately 18% of all Americans now sport some kind of ink with as high as 50% later regretting their choice. China and Hong Kong have a long way to go before matching these statistics – although it may be years not decades before they catch up.
Perhaps tattooing in Asia can take the best from the West without reproducing such high rates of regret? In what is currently a largely ungoverned industry we sought the extreme examples of bad advice and worrying statements being floated. We then asked the experts for their take. Tattoo Temple is the foremost tattoo art and design studio as well as the recognized global leader in multiple tattooing techniques. We were able to sit down with a few of their artists and management to get some of the worst statements they’ve had conveyed to them by clients who had visited other studios. They then followed these with genuine advice for those thinking of getting tattooed. In quotations are the sentences you never want to hear from a tattooist:
“Don’t worry about it not looking good when you’re old because you won’t look good when you’re old anyway!”
By this logic you should eat junk food because you going to put on weight anyway. The anticipation of your body looking bad is the quintessential self-fulfilling prophecy. If you plan on it happening then you will most likely make that vision a reality through a low standard of self care. If you hear a tattooist guiding your decision based on this rationale then you’re dealing with a junk food mentality. Get something quick, cheap and don’t worry about the quality. If you want to be proud of your body art then avoid people who propose this thinking like the plague.
“Japanese or Chinese – it doesn’t make a difference. No one will notice.”
No one will notice; apart from those that know what they’re talking about. Your choice of tattoo art should be a decision that is given the same weight as the effect of the procedure itself. A tattoo is a permanent alteration. If someone doesn’t care about the details of the piece then how can they be expected to care about your skin?
“Portfolio? Why? Everyone knows I’m the best.”
With the exception of a mere handful – how many celebrity tattoos could be considered to be really great? Just because the person has tattooed celebrities or is well known it is no indication of the quality of their work. One must individually judge an artist on their portfolio, their willingness to answer questions about the procedure and their attitude. Mike Tyson is extremely famous but is not considered to be a leading art critic. Trust your own judgment. If you don’t see a portfolio that you’re impressed with – don’t bother.
“I worked a nine to five and got bored with my job so I started tattooing!”
Have people changed careers and become respected tattoo artists? Yes. Does this mean that every ex-office worker or ex-designer has the potential to be a tattoo artist? No. Some of the best artists in the world have worked in a range of fields and professions before tattooing. Eclectic experience can be a huge source of inspiration and expertise. However there is a big difference between someone who followed their passion to become a tattoo artist and someone who just learned to tattoo. Anyone can trace a picture but only a select few can create. The difference is most easily noted in the style of work produced. Tattooists that rely heavily on prefabricated designs or flash sheets are those that can trace. Generally, those producing works unique unto themselves are artists.
“Most of our customers are tourists.”
So you’re saying that locals feel the price isn’t justified, you do quick flash work and those people you do tattoo aren’t around long enough for the piece to even heal? Got it.
“We don’t need an autoclave for sterilization.”
You do. A professional grade autoclave is absolutely required. Unless every single part of the tattoo machine is disposable the artist will need to clean sections of the machine between clients. UV sterilization is so that additional bacteria does not grow. Ultrasonic cleaners are for removing relatively large bits of dirt, cleaning between colors and a few other procedures. But ultrasonic cleaners themselves cannot be said to sterilize the equipment. An autoclave is a very large and reasonably expensive piece of equipment. Not having one can contribute to many tattooists offering you a ‘great deal’.
Through popular culture tattooing has recently been brought into the limelight. Shows like ‘LA Ink’ in conjunction with local Asian celebrities getting tattooed afforded the art a new found respect. From a once underground practice reserved for societies’ fringe elements – tattooing in Asia has today become a much more celebrated pursuit. With a wide choice of fine artists from Mainland China and from studio’s like Tattoo Temple in Hong Kong – let us hope that the Asian tattoo industry doesn’t need to repeat the Western learning curve of what’s considered to be genuine tattoo art.