Guen Douglas: What Do You Want to Talk About?

By Guen Douglas
Your “not a manifesto” post lit a little fire under me. Ha-ha
All this hoopla about TLC’s new show has really had me thinking about a project I’ve wanted to start for a long time, and with everyone all fired-up, I’m hoping some of you may want to help out…

All of these TV shows have misinformed the public about tattooing. I’d like to offer information to the public about the actual business of tattooing. As tattooers we often take for granted even the most basic knowledge about our profession.  We forget that first timers know either nothing or just what they have learned from TV about the process of getting a tattoo.

So I figured why don’t we tell them? Collectively, we have a vast knowledge.

Here are a few examples of the kinds of topics I’d like to see covered:

  • How to look through an artist’s portfolio (Remember, no topic is too simple.  For example for us tattooers the idea of looking through a portfolio is obvious, but it’s been proven time and time again that people get wowed easily and/or they miss the things that they should be looking for.  How many times has a client said, “I didn’t see the tattoo I want in there” or someone who wants a realistic pin-up looked through all the artist’s portfolios and then picked the one without a single human form in it because, “the colors in this one were amazing.”  It happens all the time.)
  • What are the different styles of tattoos available
  • Sleeves: The real process
  • Rates: Hourly vs. Set Price
  • The process of a custom tattoo: From Consult to Application
  • Sterilization/shop health and safety
  • The biology of tattooing
  • Tattoo Vocabulary: A glossary of terms would be great! I hear clients throw industry words around all the time, like “blowouts” “new school” and “freehand” (actually I hear “freestyle” all the time, which does make me laugh) and they usually use these words incorrectly.  If we can share our language maybe we can communicate better.
  • How to prepare for a tattoo appointment
  • Tattoo etiquette

Anyhow, I think you get the picture. Naturally this is all still in its infancy.

It would be nice to start small, with basic topics and once we have those covered get into more in depth conversations about tattooing, but I think it’s best to start with the basics.  Once those are archived we can all move on to whatever topics tickle our fancy!

So any and all input would be fantastic! What are topics you would like to see covered?

This goes for collectors and would be collectors too!  What would you like to know?  What information do you search for and can’t find?

Also, naturally I cannot write all of this alone.  Nor would I want to.  It wouldn’t reflect our community adequately.  The thing that makes our business unique is that we all do things differently.  I’d be happy to have three or four tattooers write on the same subject and post them all alongside each other.

Right now all I need is opinions/ideas and volunteers to write on some of these subjects I am probably biting off way more than I can chew, but what the hell.  I can at least give it a go. Ha-ha. This after all isn’t about me, it’s about what we collectively can do for our beloved profession.

What do you think?

(Guen is a tattooer and contributing blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine, and can be found at 25 to Life Tattoos in Rotterdam, Netherlands.)

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23 thoughts on “Guen Douglas: What Do You Want to Talk About?

  1. This is such a great idea. I’m not an artist but have been getting tattooed for 22 years. I heavily advocate awareness and education. Even more, I advocate a universal set of standards for practices and etiquette (on both the artist and the client side).

    If you and your colleagues can put this together and move it out into the greater tattoo community as well as encouraging organizations to have their members contribute and seed as many places as possible, this that would be great.

    Major kudos to you and for what you intend to do. It’s going to be one hell of a job but I believe will be worth it in the end. If I were an artist, I would contribute but alas, I can only give you a standing ovation from the audience.

  2. I think this is a wonderful idea! As a tattooer myself I come across the same issues as you mentioned. Spread the knowledge!

  3. Believe it or not, many of these concepts are addressed within the curriculum in High School Art, Health, Civics and Economics class. Perhaps if there was some way to stress the importance of basic art concepts in High School as they relate to other content areas and real life encounters (tattoos in this case). Has I occurred that a lack of knowledge of the Art is the core problem in this situation.

    If you are advocating a tattoo safety class in High School Health class I’m all for it Maybe we can detour some young people from getting tattooed in the first place, simply because the health and social consequences are not reasonable for a particular child’s adult potential.

    If we are to have an open and honest discussion we will have to make an effort to understand why “scratchers”, “independents’ and “amateur” tattooers seem to be so prevalent in this art-form and what is their role in the propagation of the Tattoo Lifestyle (never mind the industry). Exactly what percentage of profits are made in tattoo shops from those who found a love for tattoos because a scratchers introduced to them the tattoo lifestyle,

    If we can’t address these underlying issues openly and honestly can be no shared understanding, thus, there is no Art; there is only a cultural manifestation of creative processes with no aesthetic intent or purpose other than to entertain human curiosity.

  4. I think that kind of thing sounds excellent and I’d love to help. I’m a collector and have had to learn some things from trial and error. I’ve been fortunate though to be pointed in generally positive directions so far though, but I can’t say that everyone is that fortunate. Is there a way to contact you directly to offer assistance?

  5. This is great. I feel like if the general public knows what to look for in an excellent artist, then just perhaps, these hack-job shops won’t stand a chance. I would like to see you start with the sterilization segment and discuss some cross contamination hazards. It doesn’t matter how great an artist is if he or she isn’t changing gloves before grabbing the ink bottle, or even just not cleaning up thoroughly enough. I feel like this is the real danger currently, as I feel like any half legitimate artist knows well enough by now how to run the autoclave, or how to dispose of their sharps. Even the best artists can always use a reminder, and maybe the clients will be better informed on what to look for while their artist is working. Kudos! Now I just need to get my subscription!

    1. THIS. It has been a long term stance of mine that the hoarding and protecting of information no longer accomplishes to keep our kitchen magician imposters at bay. We now bear the responsibility of educating the general public in any way we can so that a prospective client can make a safe and educated decision on who to be tattooed by.

  6. Wow…people wrote something. crazy!
    Guen, I think you might have hit on something here.
    Thanks for the contribution.

  7. Sounds like a great idea. Someone could write a book on the subject. I’d keep something like that on the coffee table at my shop.

  8. Excellent idea. You’re practically writing a text book. It would be great to have a body of work out there covering all aspects of the process and industry.

  9. the biology of tattoo topic had me intrigued.
    I don’t want to assume I know what that covers, but imagine it could include things like just taking care of your skin, not coming in for a tattoo when you are freshly sunburned etc. I love it when customers have some knowledge. it is challenging trying to clarify and explain everything to people who are not familiar with the process.

  10. This seems really great! What a wonderful idea. I’m not a tattooer, but I do write about them- if you guys would like volunteers to help with that side of things, feel free to get in touch at any time (though, I’m sure the TAM guys already have this well and truly covered). It’s[at] 🙂

  11. As a collector, I would love to read a post about tattoo etiquette (as N mentioned above, for both artist and client). Hopefully it would include how to protect oneself from sexual harassment and exploitation. A first time client might assume that an artist or shop with a good professional/artistic reputation would be trustworthy, but in my experience that is not always the case.

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