Nottingham tattoo artist warns of the rise of at-home tattooists

Tattoos have become a massive trend in recent years with more and more people getting themselves inked. But one Nottingham tattoo artist warns of the rise of at-home tattooists that are destroying the industry.

“Everybody is a tattooist these days”, says tattoo artist Danny Harkins.

“But back in the day if somebody knew a tattooist it was rare. You were almost like a celebrity.”

“There are hundreds doing it now that are unregistered and haven’t got a clue what they are doing.”

56-year-old Danny has been a tattoo artist for over 30 years and owns his own parlour in Nottingham called Danny’s Tattoo Studio on Southwell Road.

He says that at-home tattooing is on the increase and is becoming a big problem.

Cheap equipment that can be bought on the internet from China has meant that anyone can now tattoo themselves and others at home. However Danny says that sometimes the inks are not safe and the equipment is of a poor quality.

“The average guy on the street, sad as it is, as we are in a recession will go to the cheapest place not necessary the best place which isn’t a good thing.”

“It has damaged the industry and it will never be the way it was.”

Danny Harkins, tattoo artist and owner of Danny’s Tattoo Studio

But although he says the bottom end of the industry is a lot worse than is was 30 years ago the top end has completely reinvented the art.

“Some of the tattooist that are in the game now are sheer artists. If they did oil paintings they would make a living they are that good. They have just brought it to a totally new level but they do charge for it.”

Kyle Walker, 28, who is a tattoo artist at Danny’s Tattoo Studio thinks that tattoos have been glorified by celebrities and the media and this is why they have become so popular.

“Now every single person you see on TV has tattoos, ninety per cent of music people have tattoos, it’s kind of in your face,” says Kyle.

Kyle Walker and tattoo parlour owner, Danny Harkins talk about how they became tattoo artists and what their tattoos mean to them.  

But the increase in demand has meant many people are now shunning tattoo parlours in favour of cheaper at-home alternatives.

One person who has taken tattooing into her own hands is Olivia Watts from Hucknall.

Olivia Walker, 20.
Olivia Watts, 20, says that many of her friends tattoo each other.

“Tattoos are something I have always liked. They are so expensive in shops and I knew I could do it at home and buy my own stuff,” she says.

The 20-year-old waitress has one tattoo, which she did herself using the hand poked method. This is a method of tattooing where a person pokes the ink into the skin with a needle instead of a gun.

A bumble bee that Olivia tattooed on herself.
A bumble bee that Olivia tattooed on herself using a needle and ink bought from the internet.

Olivia says that you can buy a tattoo gun and ink on eBay for around £40.

“You can literally just go online and get it straight away,” she says.

“Obviously it’s not the best and so I got something that was a bit better with good quality ink.”

She says she would not tattoo someone else, as she does not know about the health and safety and would advise people to go to a tattoo shop.

“The only reason I did it on myself was because I knew I had a brand new needle and decent ink,” she says.

But that has not stopped many others from getting tattoos from unlicensed amateur tattooists, as Olivia says that many of her friends tattoo themselves and each other. There are even YouTube tutorials available online.

In terms of the law tattooing yourself is completely legal. Whereas tattooing someone else must be done under the supervision of a licensed premises and both the customer and tattoo artist must be over the age of eighteen.

However with DIY kits being sold on the internet it means that anyone can buy them, even someone underage.

Risk to health

Although there is always a risk when getting a tattoo, even at licenced parlours, this type of untrained and unregulated tattooing poses obvious risks.

Tattoos can become infected and diseases such as HIV or hepatitis C can spread through the blood from unsterilized equipment and the cheap quality ink can also cause allergic reactions. There is also the risk of letting an untrained person tattoo you which could go wrong, leaving you with something permeant and unsightly.

Danny says: “People will say ‘my cousin does it he will do you cheap’. The problem is years down the line it’s our job to cover the rubbish over they had in the first place.”

Finding a job

But with the tattoo trend only getting bigger, particularly in young people, what does this mean for their future job prospects?

Is there still a stigma in having tattoos?

Danny says a lot has changed since he first had them done, especially the number of women who are getting themselves inked. But says there is still prejudice when getting a job.

Leslie Beauchamp managing director of Nottingham recruitment agency, Express Recruitment, said that people should think before getting permanent body art as it could effect your employability.

“How detrimental a tattoo is to getting a job depends on the size of the tattoo and where it is on the body. If people want non-manual jobs tattoos should be viewed with moderation, especially on places like the hands.”

“When you have a tattoo when you’re young you should think of what it is going to look like when your 65.”

Leslie says that she asks tattooed employees of her company to cover them up as it may not be appreciated by some of her clients.

“Tattoos still have a social stigma and it is about sending out the right message.”

Leslie Beauchamp, managing director of Express Recruitment

But if you are thinking about getting a tattoo going to a professional tattoo parlour is generally the safer and better quality option.

As Danny says: “There is an old saying good tattoos aren’t cheap, and cheap tattoos aren’t good.”




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