By Dave Allen
Photos by Jayme Ford
I never thought that I could make much difference in the world, let alone inspire others to follow my lead. I’m just a hard-working tattoo artist that no one’s heard of. And to tell you the truth, I don’t mind slaving away in anonymity. But I guess when certain circumstances move you to act there’s no telling what might happen...
As so many others, I was devastated to hear about the earthquake and ensuing tsunami in Japan that obliterated so much and killed so many. It’s hard to describe the shockwaves that went through me as I stood in the safety and comfort of my local coffee shop watching the footage of unstoppable water destroying everything in its way. The more I watched the more I felt completely useless. People needed help and there wasn’t much anyone could do.
It’s at times like this we are often inspired to act, inspired to stand up and shake off our daily bullshit and do something for people that we will never meet. This call to action comes from within us. It seems as though it’s only in times like these that we feel this deep desire to fulfill our duty as humans to help others.
At least this is where I found myself later that day, sitting on my couch, wondering what the hell I could possibly do. It was simple really. The thought of donating some had money crossed my mind, but the more I thought about my own connections with Japan, the less that idea seemed adequate. What more could I do?
Inspiration comes all at once. Why not have a walk-in day? I’ve been part of fund-raisers before that were hosted by tattoo artists. Maybe I could organize some similar events with my buddies across Canada. Seems easy enough, just start a Facebook group, invite some friends and... Damn, that worked fast!
Within a couple of days people were joining from all over the world. Social media turned my simple little idea into a global affair. Suddenly, my little idea, that bit of inspiration was being networked across the globe and people were also working hard to raise money. We were making more than just a little difference, we were affecting other people. Instead of donating a small amount of money, each tattoo artist was able to organize in their community and raise awareness and a lot more money.
The reality is that a good cause and some hard work can make a bigger difference than simply opening your pocketbook. We are all living in a world of depressed economies and reduced incomes, but we are still better off than most. Our industry affords us a great lifestyle and a vast network of individuals. Through creative compassion we can set an example of what our industry can be. We can create a community of thoughtful and caring tattooists and collectors.
There are many ways to give back to a world so desperately in need and promote yourself to your local community at the same time. At a time when tattoo school graduates, kitchen magicians, and hotel hacksters are threatening to drag our industry down, here is a way to show that we are more than just tweaked-out freaks.
To date Tattooers for Japan has raised almost $47,000 for the International Rescue Committee and over $10,000 for the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. Over 30 tattoo shops from all over the world participated in walk-in days and art auctions. Thousands of people have helped and participated in these events.
And this is just the beginning...
In the future I will discuss other tattoo fund-raisers, which charitable organizations are best, how to organize a local event and some ideas for future fund-raisers.
(Paintings and prints were auctioned and sold online and at the Vancouver Tattoo Convention.)
Video from the walk-in day event held in Red Deer, Alberta at Lucas Ford’s Classic Tattoo.
(Dave Allen is a tattooer, the founder of Tattooers for Japan and a contributing blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine.)
Dave can be found at, Craftsman Tattoo Parlour in British Columbia, Canada.