Tattoo reality based TV shows have become a huge part of the tattoo industry, particularly its movement into the mainstream. Without a doubt, tattoos on TV have done wonders to bring body art culture into the homes of the average citizens and made tattoos one of the fastest growing industries around today, but these same shows also have a negative side to them.
One of the most common complaints from tattoo artists about shows like “Ink Master”, “Miami Ink” and “Tattoo Rescue” is that they give uninformed masses unrealistic expectations and showcase too much manufactured drama. Competition/elimination format makes tattooing appear to be a spectator sport and can appear rushed, “shop” shows make it looks like sleeves are done in a half hour. But one point of interest is “Tattoo Rescue”.
Cousin Sammy and Joey Tattoo
Hosted by Joey Tattoo, of Bella Arte Tattoo Co in Fairfield, NJ and a 20+ year tattoo artist and businessman, “Tattoo Rescue” is centered around tattoo shops that need help to remain running. Whether it’s a bad reputation, untrained artists, bad customer service, uncleanliness, or other general shop problems, Joey Tattoo whips them into shape and reinvigorates their business back to it’s once successful level. Of course, there is plenty of drama and fighting in every episode, but there is also a lot to learn. Here are some things that artists and tattoo shop employees can take away from Tattoo Rescue.
1. Cleanliness and Sterilization:
- First and foremost, the tattooing process should be done in a sterile environment. After all, tattooing is controlled skin trauma, and therefore runs the risk of infection if unclean, just like any open wound.
- Clip Cord Sleeves and Covers for All Supplies: Cords are not disposable, so sterile sleeves for all cords and machines avoid skin contamination are essential. If anything uncovered touches the tattoo, infection is inevitable.
- Gloves Every Step of the Way: Hands are a haven for bacteria; we touch everything and it’s not always clean. Aside from handwash/sanitizing stations, gloves are the best way to avoid the spreading of germs and infection. Anything the tattoo artists touch should be with gloves; machines, needles, inks, cords, and most importantly skin should never be touched with bare hands.
- No Cloth Seats, Arm Stands, etc: Vinyl or leather is the easiest material to wipe down. Blood, ink, sweat and other fluids can build up in cloth and are very difficult to disinfect and sterilize. Keep everything wrapped in plastic wrap or another sanitary cover and dispose of it as soon as the tattoo is done. You wouldn’t want somebody else’s bodily fluids on your body would you?
- SHOW your client that you are using clean supplies: Open all machines, needles, inks, tubes, in front of your clients to ease their mind about your sterile practices. This puts their mind at ease and your openness shows a transparency that leads to trust.
- No food, alcohol or extra people in the tattoo area: Not only does this take away from the intimacy and personal tattoo experience, but food increases the risk of contamination and does not belong at the tattoo station. Alcohol and tattoos don’t mix; an inebriated artist can botch a tattoo, just as a drunk client. Extra people just clutter the space and increase the risk of distraction.
- General Shop Cleanliness: build team morale and maintain shop reputation by showing up every morning before the shop opens and clean EVERYTHING. Mopping, cleaning vents, wiping down stations, making sure everything is fully equipped, etc..
Great example of using gloves and clip cord sleeves
2. Etiquette/Customer Service/Artist habits:
- ID everyone: tattooing a minor could cost you your business, so no matter how old anyone looks, always check to make sure.
- Walk Ins- If your business depends on walk in traffic to generate revenue, be ready and willing to answer all questions respectfully. Saying the wrong thing, being condescending, or having an attitude might turn off a potential long term client and give the shop a bad rap. Listen and make everybody comfortable; you can never judge a book by its cover.
- Punctuality: Be prepared to tattoo BEFORE your client arrives. Show up early, set up your station, have the design ready to go. Tardiness goes both ways; clients need to understand that they are paying for the artists time, and if they don’t show, the artist doesn’t get paid.
- Keep the clients busy and entertained: When not being tattooed or waiting in the lobby, provide reading material, high quality portfolios, TV’s, merch and artwork to look at and stay busy.
- Zero tolerance for sexual harassment: clients are just that, CLIENTS, and it is inappropriate to make any comments or actions that are sexually explicit or threatening to either females or males.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover: new clientele might be more knowledgeable than you think; no condescension. When dealing with first timers, be patient and answer all questions, even if they may sound dumb.
3. Equipment Functionality/shop essentials:
- All tattoo artists should know how to properly tune and calibrate tattoo machines in order to run efficiently and to their liking.
- Artists should practice on fake tattoo skin or the new “pound of flesh” product to hone their skills/develop areas where they are lacking.
- Ink variation: Find out for yourself which ink brands and colors work best for different styles/longevity.
- Essential Products: make sure to have plenty of the following in stock: gloves, paper towels, needles, tubes, aftercare, lubrication, and keep everything organized and easy to locate as well as clean up.
4. Advertising/Marketing: ways to gain exposure and keep business thriving.
- It is very important to stay active within the community through various outreach events. Art classes, charity events, fundraisers are all good ways to give back for worthy causes and will give your shop more credibility and acceptance in your area.
- Take advantage of modern technology at your disposal. Advertise through social media, create listings with Yelp and Tattoo.com, engage and be present at conventions to attract potential customers. Keep all profiles and websites up to date with latest tattoos and personel. - Invest in a proper, high quality, professional camera and take high resolution, well lit photos to put into your portfolios.
- Understand your location and setting. Is it a tourist town? What seems to be the most popular style of the region? Have clear, visible signs with “Tattoo” in the name and try to incorporate the name of the city to attract newcomers. ex: Las Vegas Tattoo.
Annual Breast Cancer Benefit put on by Ink'd Chronicles in Pomona, CA
Of course, a lot of these things seem pretty obvious, but not every shop and artist is up to date on the laws, rules, regulations and “no brainers” of the industry. In no way, shape or form is the above list comprehensive or fool proof, to each their own as they say, but surely Joey Tattoo and the gang know a little about the industry with their years of experience and success. We can only hope that emerging artists and shops take away some positives from Tattoo Rescue and the list we provided.