ModBlog News of the Week: July 15th, 2011

By now the weekend will have started for many of us on the east coast, while the west is not far behind.  Granted in Australia it’s already the future so they’ve already got a head start.  This week’s news is fairly concise, with a couple of updates on past stories, as well as a look into the facial tattoos of Burma’s Chin province.

First up is more on TLC’s “Tattoo School”.  Last night the program aired, and news agencies all over have started to notice the overwhelming negative feedback coming from the tattoo community.  What surprised me the most is that every story I read is falling on the side of the tattoo artists, and joining in the condemnation of this show.  This first article from the Jamestown, NY Post-Journal where they talk to artists in the area around the school, as well as former students of a tattoo school.

Ryan Gillikin has been in the tattoo industry for more than 20 years.  Tattooing is a tradition, he says, and the only proper way to learn the skill – and to learn to administer the body art safely – is to be under the guiding hand of a master tattooist in an apprenticeship.  ”My apprenticeship was a year,” said Gillikin, owner of Almighty Studios Tattoo and Body Piercing in Jamestown. ”And when I apprentice (others), it’s a two-year  process.”  Gillikin said there are several such high-profile tattoo schools around the nation, and that each has the same motive – to scam people out of money and to make them believe they are talented tattoo artists when they are not.

A haircut from an untalented beautician will grow back, however. A tattoo from an untalented artist could land someone in the hospital with an infection or a disease, Gillikin said. And he fears that people who open shops based on what they learn in tattoo schools are coming out without knowing how to stop that from happening.  ”You can’t even learn the basics of sterile practices in two weeks,” Gillikin said. ”So when people take $5,000 from somebody and tell them they’re going to be professionals in two weeks, they’re just giving people a false idea that they know what they’re actually doing.”

Now over to The Examiner which takes a look at the what the community is doing to protest this show.

It’s completely impossible to be a professional tattooer in 14 days, at least not one who has been properly trained to produce quality work using safe sterile practices. Can an aspiring doctor become prepared for surgery in 2 weeks? Of course not.  Professional tattooers pride themselves in being knowledgeable about the prevention of disease transmission and giving their clients a clean tattoo in a clean environment. Photos on the Tattoo Learning Center’s website show students tattooing without using standard protocols such as wrapping their machines and clip cord with plastic wrap. This is an easy way for cross contamination of blood and body fluids to occur. A second photo shows a student tattooing someone on a wooden stool, material that can not be cleaned or disinfected properly. Definitely a health code violation.

Tattoo artists and enthusiasts are uniting online through Facebook pages, Artists and collectors against TLC’s “Tattoo School” and Boycott TLC’s Tattoo School Show. Both pages have a combined total of over 45,000 fans and the number is growing by the minute. The anger being shown regarding the upcoming show has nothing to with fear of new competition but everything to do with fear of one’s livelihood being disrupted. If the tattoo school fails to educate their students about safe tattooing; diseases and infections can be spread.

Finally, a group of protesters formed outside the San Diego branch of the “school”, where they learned some new information about how they run their business.

Local tattoo artists are protesting a new school in Pacific Beach that plans to teach people the art of tattooing in two weeks.  The group stood outside the Steady Flow Tattoo shop, also known as the Tattoo Learning Center, at Grand Avenue on Monday, protesting what they believe is an insult to their profession.  “These people are teaching people how to tattoo for a lump sum of $5000, and within two weeks, they are supposedly professional tattoo artists,” said Randy Janson, a tattoo artist. “It’s not really possible. It is more of a scam.”

One of the school’s students and two women interested in getting a tattoo at the shop watched the group with a bit of concern.   The student said he flew to San Diego from out of the country and was told when he arrived that his two-week class was canceled. The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the school told him to enjoy his free accommodations and that his tuition would be refunded. He said the shop owner told him to drive by the storefront to check it out and stumbled on the crowd growing outside the shop.

The student said he is already a tattoo artist in his home country, but he had hoped to come to the United States to become a licensed tattoo artist.  In San Diego, you only need to fill out an application and pay the appropriate fee to be able to practice tattooing within the county limits, according to the County of San Diego’s Department of Environmental Health’s website.

Two young women interested in getting tattooed were also standing outside the shop amidst the protesters. They said they spoke to someone at the shop earlier in the week and were told they don’t take appointments; rather, they should simply stop by. When the girls arrived, they found the shop closed.  After a second phone call to the shop, they learned Steady Flow would be closed for two weeks.

So not only does the school cancel classes at the last minute, it also doesn’t take appointments, which isn’t surprising as it seems to close on a whim when there aren’t students there to ruin someone’s skin.  Following the links above will get you information on how to contact TLC and let them know how dangerous this show is, as well as links to online petitions.  Some groups are encouraging people not to buy any products advertised on the show, as well as encouraging tattoo studios to contact suppliers and inform them that as long as their products are used on the show, they won’t be getting orders.  What this comes down to is money.  If TLC isn’t making any money off the show it will be cancelled.  Hopefully that happens sooner rather than later.

More news to come, so keep on reading.

This next story is from my hometown of Toronto, ON.  Two body piercing shops have been found not using proper infection controls, and Toronto Public Health is encouraging anyone who was pierced there to contact them.

The shops are NY NY Body Piercing, located at 1700 Wilson Ave., Unit 151, and New York New York (Accessories & Body Piercing), located at 423 Queen St. West.  Anyone who received a piercing from the stores between Nov. 6, 2010 and March 1, 2011 should visit a doctor and ask to be tested for hepatitis B and C and for HIV, the public health authority said.

New York, New York has four shops in Toronto. Only the two listed above were part of the Toronto Public Health investigation.  Piercing and tattoo equipment should be sterile and sterilizers should be tested every two weeks to ensure they are working properly, the public health authority said.  Toronto Public Health recommended piercing and tattoo clients always check to ensure employees wash their hands, change gloves, use an antiseptic on the skin, and open sterilized packages of equipment for every client.

In somewhat disturbing news, I was informed that the queen street location is still open for business.  Previously when a shop has been flagged by Public Health, they were forced to remain closed for the duration of the investigation.  As such I’d encourage anyone in the city to avoid these studios until they’re cleared by the health board.

While on the subject of possible infections, scares like this have caused a German football club to ban players from getting tattooed.

Werder’s decision to scratch their players from getting anymore tattoos is a result of the infection that forced Hamburg SV’s Eljero Elia into a lengthy and painful injury break in March 2010.  “It is a risk that we need to rule out,” the German club’s sports director Klaus Allofs told the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper. Several Werder players are fans of tattoos with Austrian Marko Arnautovic sporting several.

Moving away from tattoos for a moment, the Tel Aviv suscon was featured on China Daily.  Not necessarily the first place I’d look for suspension news from Israel, but with local suspensions starting to take place in China we may be hearing more news from them in the coming months.

A man is suspended on hooks pierced through his skin at a suspension convention in Tel Aviv July 9, 2011. Some 30 people attended the convention, which offered the chance to be suspended or just watch. Captain Howdy, who organised the event, said the origin of the practice comes from Native American cultures that used to perform body suspensions as a rite of passage. He said the practice has been revived by people prepared to test the limits of mind over matter.

Heading back into tattoo news, according to AOL’s finance section, tattoos seem to be a recession proof industry.

New’s experience is not unusual. According to Time magazine, roughly 16% of people with tattoos eventually elect to have them removed. And that number is growing. Which isn’t necessarily surprising. Sometimes, the love of our life, whose name we permanently inked across our bicep, turns out to be a fling. Or that image of the Tasmanian Devil that looked so cool after a night of drinking is a little less appealing in the sober light of day.

Additionally, in today’s challenging economy, when unemployment continues to hover near 9%, people are also choosing to remove tattoos to appeal to potential employers. At least, that’s half of the story. At the same time, others see the recession as an opportune moment to get inked, arguing that it’s not only a relatively cheap splurge, but that the unemployed no longer have to conform to an employer’s standards.

In either case, the end result is the same: The tattoo industry continues to thrive, seemingly recession-proof. To better understand this strange dynamic, I visited Tattoo Lou’s, a family-owned chain of Long Island tattoo parlors that also offers laser tattoo removal.

Well, it seems that one studio is doing well, can the same be said for the ones in your area?  Let us know in the comments below.

Now if you remember back to last year, there was a story about an Australian man who paid an acquaintance to tattoo him shortly after having a fight with him.  What was supposed to be a yin-yang turned out to be something quite different.

AN IPSWICH man is enduring a series of painful sessions to cover up a lewd image tattooed on his back by a backyard operator.  Matthew Francis Brady, 22, has admitted tattooing a 40cm-long image of a penis and a crude slogan on his former mate’s back.  The victim had wanted a Yin and Yang design with some dragons but was horrified with the end result.

Upon hearing about the case, Ipswich business Ultimate Image Tattoo offered to do the cover-up work for free.  The 26-year-old victim this week had his third appointment in a long series of visits to hide the offensive tattoo.  Brady pleading guilty in Ipswich Magistrates Court last month to assault occasioning bodily harm while armed and assault occasioning bodily harm.  He will be sentenced later this year.

After several more sessions the man will be able to proudly display a much more professional tattoo of a sword with a dragon wrapped around it.  The sessions last for up to an hour – or however long the man can stand the pain.  Tattoo artist Matty Tredgold said the final work would include a range of colours from blue, green, yellow and red and was inspired by one of the client’s favourite T-shirts.

I think my favorite part of the original story is the man who did the tattoo told him to keep it covered and not show anyone for 2 months.  Thankfully he got someone to take a look at it right away.

Today’s final story comes to us from The National Post, about the women of Burma’s Chin province.  While the custom of full facial tattoos on women is pretty much extinct, there are still some women who were born when the practice was being followed.  It’s a great read that takes a look into a cultural ritual that may become completely extinct in our lifetime.

To many of us here in the West, it would be pretty unheard of for a woman to tattoo her entire face. But these women have been doing it for hundreds of years. Why?
When I asked, I got varying responses. But the consensus seemed to be that a long time ago they were known for their beauty, and kings in Burma found out about these Chin women and teenagers. The kings would then come and basically pick out the women he wanted and take them away. In response to that, the village elders who were women started tattooing the girls as a measure against the king coming to take them away. It was almost to steal their beauty.

How did the practice become more commonplace?
Although it was once something to make them ugly, over time these women have become to view themselves as beautiful. It came to be a symbol of strength, of beauty, of toughness. Some of the women even said to me “If I didn’t have this tattoo, men wouldn’t want to marry me.” It’s definitely a rite of passage in these villages. And it’s really really painful.

That’s all the news we’ve got this week.  Have a great weekend, and as always, if you find a story you think should be included in the news round-up, just click here to send me the link, or simply send me an e-mail.

11 thoughts on “ModBlog News of the Week: July 15th, 2011

  1. Ugh, I walk by the Queen Street location of NY NY all the time, and warn anyone I see going in to not get pierced there. It’s notoriously sketchy.

  2. The show was very misleading due to them covering two weeks of class in under an hour, so all we got were the highlights and low points. Health department regulations vary a lot from county to county, so I’m not going go there.

    The apprentices on the previous “reality TV” tattoo shows all complained that the artist/s didn’t have time to teach them. Should we be targeting the two-week tattoo schools when the real risk to public health isn’t school/apprenticeship, it’s tattoo kits that include A FREE Studio certificate. Wouldn’t it benefit everyone if the people who offered such kits at least advised potential customers that the “FREE Studio certificate” (and tattoo kit) may not meet your local health department requirements, and to check local laws before purchase?

    The tattoo school show really wasn’t a way to learn how to tattoo/infect at home as some of us feared, so do we all now know the difference between Reality TV and YouTube? I think the real danger of learning from videos/YouTube is if you don’t understand universal precautions and sterility protocol you won’t recognize when it’s violated or left out of the instructions.

  3. Saw the show. Amazing low quality garbage made to appeal and entertain the un-educated masses. Quite clever marketing, “Tattoo Learning Center on the TLC channel”. I hadn’t considered how they would provide clients for the students. Apparently that area has an unending supply of people who are willing to let a beginner mark them for life. Show never mentions if clients/customers pay the artists. Considering some of the crap produced, maybe the student should pay the client the cost of laser removal for using their skin as a scratch pad.

  4. My gripe is not so much with the Tattoo School its self…. It is not the first of its kind and nor will it be the last. As long as there are stupid people (and we all know there will never be a shortage) there will be others out there to mark them up and take advantage of them. My problem is with TLC and others who are attempting to legitimize this “school”. As anyone who has ever graduated one of these Tattoo Schools and has subsequently tried to find work in a real studio knows, the tattoo community does not consider it any sort of education. Most people believe anything on tv and to put this bull*&%* on there for the masses as a legitimate learning process is misleading and harmful. My clients and overall business will likely never be effected just as it is unaffected by the myriad of skratchers in the area… but the show will allow this woman and many more like her to swindle more and more aspiring artists out of tons of money. im not worried about my business….Im worried about bad people being not just allowed but ENCOURAGED to continue taking advantage of an uneducated public.

  5. “will likely never be effected just as it is unaffected by the myriad of skratchers in the area”

    Awesome. Scratchers with a K and two different spellings, and therefore two different meanings, of

  6. Haa haa Jon P! Made even better since one thing they repeat is that everyone who is apposed to the show sends messages with awful grammar and spelling. Apparently none of us can produce a proper English sentence.

  7. Well Guilt of Eve….maybe people that “appose” the show but spell and articulate like a 4 year old should leave the OPPOSITION to the more educated (or at least those that know how to use spell-check and have enough pride to care if they sound like a moron.)?

  8. I have read a lot of negative stuff on the World’s Only Tattoo School in Shreveport, LA. And I am positive it is by those who have not been to it or just would rather that there are fewer in the field or prefer to have no-wage monkey in the shop for two years before they even get to tough a machine. Times have changed. This isn’t the days of Sailor Jerry. Information is everywhere and fine tattooists come out of prison as well as from private perserverance, dedication and study. I never studied at a formal art school – does that mean I cannot teach watercolors.
    Well. I can talk from experience. I have been to the World’s Only Tattoo School in Shreveport and it by no means gives students the license or permits to tattoo. That the student must pursue on their own. But in two weeks you feel you have worked for months. You do it all. From autoclave, to setup and breakdown, from history to health, machine breakdown, setup and refinement – to supervised work on real clients who are not mindless sheep but who know what they want and speak up if they are not getting it. Other students WERE actually already working in the field FOR YEARS – and you got their help and mentorship as well – and I can honestly say there were participants in the class who tattoo’d better than most in my area. And I mean BIG PIECES as well. AND I saw very very few clients who were not happy with what they asked for. All I am saying is that times change and you shouldn’t judge something if you haven’t experienced it. The days of having to be in the ‘in-crowd’ to even find an ink manufacturer that will sell to you are over. Most of the haters started out worse than going to a school – they have miles of skin-scratch in their past to get to where they are. If they tell you they didn’t they are simply lying. There is nothing wrong with WOTS. You work and study hard and it is not a scam in the least. My sympathies go out to those who feel that, woe is me, there are way too many tattooists out there these days. Get over it. Shut down all the schools and it will still go on with or without you. And here’s an idea: If you are established and don’t like scratchers or schools that prevent them, try offering a fair apprenticeship instead of using someone for two years to be your shop monkey.

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