Today’s “pretty” tattoo studio

Written by Roxanne Bastein

But the studio was pretty…

Over the past decade,  there have been many changes in the tattoo culture. It has become fairly mainstream. With this sudden cultural growth, and it’s acceptance in today society, more and more people are getting tattooed, and there is a shop opening up on every other block. Does this mean that anybody can run a tattoo studio? No my friends, it certainly does not.

tattoo studio

Most Studio owners today who do not partake in the arts are capitalizing on talents of the true artists and relying on new young artists, or artists from other countries and their ignorance of the culture to make their money, charging outrageous prices and promising “custom” designs, but providing a sub-standard service. Promising clients unrealistic expectations, and generally making a mockery of a time old tradition and artistic expression. When I got my first tattoo in 1987, it was in the back of a head shop, and I chose a piece of flash off the wall. In all fairness,  I was only 17 years old and it was an act of rebellion. The studio itself was definitely not pretty, but I still have that tattoo. And of course I’ve added many others over the years, have been to many shops and conventions, and have been lucky enough to meet and get to know many great artists…and some some really shady shop owners. (I ran my own studio for three years, and have been a piercer since 1999)

Tattoo by melissa fusco arizona colorado tattoo artist oil painting skull tulip
Tattoo by Melissa Fusco

Don’t be fooled by the glitz and glam of a pretty shop. A clean studio is different from a pretty studio. Think before you ink…and research your artists. Feel free to ask your tattoo artist questions, but understand that this is their career and it is their job to know what does and does not work as a tattoo. The shop owner should not be telling you or informing you of what kind of tattoo you should or shouldn’t get, unless he or she is the one doing the tattoo. Nor should they be dictating what the artist should design for you. Only the tattoo artist themselves can tell you whether or not your tattoo design is viable, about how long it will take, and approximately how much it will cost you. Many of these pretty tattoo studios do not follow standard protocol where apprenticeships and proper training are concerned, as it takes away from their “profit margin”.  These types of studio owners make big promises to provide substandard service to cover their massive overhead for their pretty studio.

I’m not saying that you can’t find an amazing artist in a pretty studio, but there is a likely chance that the artist is being underpaid, overworked and bullied into doing a tattoo that they really aren’t comfortable doing, especially when the owner does all the talking for the artist. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

About the Author:

Roxanne BasteinThe Piercing Artist…..
With a background in graphic design and fine arts, in 2000, Roxanne (aka Momma, Momma Roxy) gave up her government job in Ottawa and developed an intense passion for the subculture of the tattoo and piercing world. With humble beginnings, she was a client first, and then after getting everything pierced herself, she asked her 2 piercers to train her in the art of sticking needles through skin. They obliged. After many long shop hours of watching and reading and researching, she finally began to practice her art. From suspension hooks and sub-clavicles of the past, to the delicate fossa designs and dermal anchors today…there isn’t much she hasn’t pierced.

By 2003, she had opened her own studio in Sudbury, but being “the boss” became tiring. After a few years, she closed her own shop and headed south in 2007. From Ottawa, to Sudbury, to Toronto and London, and has finally landed back with the team at Abstract Arts at 627 Queen Street in Toronto, and will soon be an active member of The Ontario Tattoo Association. Up to date on her Bloodborne Pathogens certification, as well as her First Aid, OHSA and WHIMIS, and always researching the newest techniques, and jewelry options, she continues to strive forward.


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