Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Who's Confident?

 This will be a bit of a rant, so let me set this up properly.

 I get a text message from a friend who asked, "If you were getting a tattoo tonight, what tattoo shop would you go to?" For me, that is both a simple and difficult question. I have a tattooer who is AMAZING but who may not have been available for a walk-in tattoo. His shop was the first on my list in my response. I have the privilege of knowing a lot of great tattooers in Austin, guys and gals who I would happily get work from at any time. From that set, I listed four other tattoo studios that I consider highly reputable and who host consistently great tattooers. My friend hit me up simply because she was confident in my opinion and knowledge about the local tattoo offerings.

 A little bit later, I get another question. "Do you ever setup without gloves?"


 Hell no.

 Being the inquisitive type, I asked why. What was happening was her boyfriend was in the mood for the sweet, sweet feel of a tattoo needle, and wanted to get some ink. Not being familiar with what might be available, especially since I was not (available), they asked my opinion. Trusting me (and that is important), they went to one of the shops I recommended.

 Let me reiterate: I recommended the shop they went to. They went to this shop on my recommendation.

 The tattooer at this particular shop was not the tattooer I would go to at this shop. At the time, that was simply because I did not know the guy like I know one of his co-workers. He does, however, have a favorable reputation locally. He happened to be available the night my friends went to the shop I recommended. When a tattoo design was selected and a price agreed upon, this tattooer went about setting up his station.

 He did so without gloves.

 My friend, herself a tattoo collector, questioned this. She recognized that she was seeing something that in her years of getting ink she had not seen before. Her dude asked the tattooer about the lack of gloves. The tattooer's response?

 "I am confident in my method."

 I am not going to name names, or put anyone on blast. The shop this guy works at is a great shop, and should not be besmirched by this guys lackadaisical attitude and ego. I DID, however, recommend to my friend that she contact the owner. When she asked if they should stay or go (they had not paid yet), my advice was to walk.

 My friends on Facebook agreed (they must read my blog).

People must be reading my blog...

 I am not even going to rail on the BASIC NECESSITY of wearing gloves when you setup, about how your station should be as close to a small surgical bay as possible, and how gloved hands should be the only things that make contact with the tools used to tattoo anytime. No, that is not what this rant is about.

 He said, "I am confident in my method."

 Is he really the one who should be confident in his method? Friends, I do not care how cock-sure your tattooer is, YOU need to be confident about what they are doing. If you feel something is amiss, a professional tattooer will do what is necessary to address your concerns. It is your tattoo. If something bothers you, your worry should not be casually dismissed.

 The proper tattooer response to, "Hey, aren't you supposed to wear gloves when you setup?", is to stop what you are doing, agree with your client, apologize for letting this simple step slip your mind, tear down your station, clean everything your touched, and setup with clean gloves on. There is no other excusable response.

 Gang, I don't care if he had a bucket of hand-sanitizer at his station that he was dipping into every few minutes. He is leaving bits of himself on everything he touches, bits of himself he would then be sharing WITH HIS CLIENT. We make mistakes. The professional thing to do is own it and correct it.

 Blowing-off your client's concern is a dirt-bag move. It suggests a lack of character and confidence; trying to ignore your mistake instead of admitting it. The sad thing is that this guy is a good tattooer, but moves like the ones he is making kill careers.

 Added to this is the fact that I recommended his shop. Maybe not him, but in the minds' of his clients and my friends there is no distinction. If asked again about where to get a tattoo, or getting a tattoo at this particular shop, I would still recommend it.

 But I would add a caution about that particular tattooer. For the sake of my reputation and their safety, I would tell whoever was asking to not get work from that guy.

 To my friends who trusted in my recommendation and had this poor experience, I am sorry. I know this is not my fault, but it is the kind of thing that brings all tattooers down.

 Jason Sorrell is a writer, tattoo artist, satirist, artist, and generally nice guy living in Austin, TX.  He loves answering questions about tattoos.  Shoot him an email at

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