By Phil Kyle
It's hard to know where to start here seeing the state of things... So just going to play it by ear and have a bit of a rant while stating proper facts on things happening to our craft... not industry. An "industry" is a factory in China making and selling shitty equipment to sell on eBay...
We [tattooers] are craftsmen/women, (A.K.A.) the little guy who hand makes each tattoo one-by-one and not on some mass level where tattoos are produced 1000 at a time. We [Tattooers] are the carpenters of this craft.
Many factors play into the explosion of tattooing today. First, I will speak of the Internet. The Internet didn't even exist when I started tattooing. I personally have only been using the Internet for about 10 years.
When I was tattooing starting 20 years ago people had to come to the shop to see your work in a portfolio or in a tattoo magazine, which I think there where like three then. Now you walk into a news shop and you couldn't even afford to buy every magazine each month... no way! I’m not criticizing the magazines themselves, but damn when there are 20 each month what are you going to do? You cant even read that much in a month. I can't anyway, not on my agenda.
Back to the Internet... I believe the Internet is to blame in a big way for some of the mass-influence on the popularity of tattooing. Websites, Myspace, Facebook... We all have this shit.
It's a double-edged sword. It's good in the aspect that your work can be seen and shared with other tattooers around the world etc...
It's bad because anyone can print out your photos and bring it to the local shit-scab vendor and get bad copies of your work, which happens every single day. Or kids go on eBay and buy shitty equipment to fuck up their buddy’s arm in their mama’s kitchen.
When I did the London Ink show I was there to represent my craft. There were no scripts and cameras following you around all day. You came in, sat down, and did your work. Keep your nose down and out of drama.
It's a show about tattooing... not a soap opera. This show was more like a documentary. It was an opportunity for us to show people tattooing is not some easy task. I had a sign hanging up in full view saying, “DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME... EVER!” And I have been saying that for years and years. Any of you who know me, know that all to well. I bitch about it all the time...
But people have been doing this shit at home since the beginning of time. We used to go take motherfuckers equipment and tell them not to start again. You can't do that today.
Times have certainly changed. All the rock videos and sport stars covered in tattoos have pushed tattooing into popularity as well. It's been happening for the last 20 years that I've been tattooing, and even before then. I used to hear the old guys talk about it. In that aspect nothing has changed, assholes think tattooing is easy and it makes them cool. Well it's not...
I'm up most of night until 2 or 3 a.m. drawing for clients, because it's a serious game.
Meanwhile, dickheads are posting tattoos all over the Internet they have done in a garage and getting praise from their friends how "awesome" it is. It's an awesome piece of shit to us.
We work hard and clients come in and tell us they ordered equipment from eBay and are having a go at it but just on friends, what the fuck is happening here? Same as it always was, just now through a few clicks on a computer any asshole can buy this shit-ass equipment...
Before you had to order “starter kits” from a magazine ad. Things have been made too easy. and now assholes that have been “tattooing” two years taking apprentices. Then they have a falling out and the apprentice leaves the shop, opens his own, then starts teaching his friends. The onslaught of shitty tattoo shops is like a bad tattoo cancer that needs to be treated ASAP.
Tattoo schools are a fucking joke... two weeks to learn how to tattoo? It took me at least 10 years to start being happy with my work, because I push myself so hard, and try to make each new tattoo the best one I can do. Wake up, people who fall victim, it's a scam! And you shouldn’t be “tattooing” anyway if you think that's how it works. Proper training by an experienced tattooer of at least 15 years is appropriate. Fucking hell...
Tattooing is not about these assclowns who don’t give a fuck and do shitty tattoos for the sake of fashion. It's sad when you see these tattoos, because the people who have them say, "Well I love it anyway."
Um... Yeah... You have to, BECAUSE YOU'RE FUCKING STUCK WITH IT NOW!!!
What a fucking mess...
There are all these kids now with tattoos on their necks, hands and forearms, and nowhere else? Fucking fashion victims. When they take off their t-shirts it looks like they are still wearing one with pasty-ass skin on their entire torso, but lower arms, hands and necks covered? Sorry, too fucking cool for me. I got my neck tattooed when I was like 29. We don’t do that shit. Everyone who works or owns a shop need to start pinning things down locally in each town.
Fuck, we found some kids tattooing NEXT DOOR to my shop a couple of months ago. You can imagine how that went down, not good for them. They are not “tattooing” anymore...
But this is just it, these people have NO RESPECT for tattooing. The people they are “tattooing” and no fucking morals at all. Back in the day these people would have gotten a lot worse. Today everyone thinks it's okay to fuck-off any tattooers they want. Well, thats not the fact.
Time to step up and represent like a motherfucker, via the shop, portfolios and the Internet, because if we can turn around the shit that's been going on, on the Internet (a total 180) some people will get it. Others will continue, because no matter how much we speak out, there will always be that certain percentage of assholes fucking things up.
This is why at Magnum Opus we continuously have art shows in the gallery and events at the shop and invite people to come to see what we do; lots of hard work and many projects. If it helps get the word out that this shit is serious, well that's a good start.
But we have to keep it real, keep fighting the good fight. My own personal background comes from a very underground punk scene. Back in the 80s we were all fighting for something, keeping traditional roots and fucking-off any establishment-type shit. The problems we face today are no different. Time to revolt on what’s making our craft into a fucking circus. And that time is right now!
With as many good tattooers there are today, we could fuck shit up in a good, positive way. We need to work with the strength of our numbers, we are many. Compared to these few who are undoing everything we have done, via our work and passion for this craft, which is why we are where we are today...
Magnum Opus Tattoo