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Just got an email from a guy with no tattoos who does not tattoo, we'll call him Old Man River, saying "Hey, opening a tattoo shop/art gallery with some friends and business partners," asking me if I knew anyone who wanted to work there. Without typing a laundry list of everything wrong with this picture (which I just did and then deleted after I thought better of it), what's the general feeling here?

My response to him was short but polite. I'm not a tattooer myself but I really wanted to fly off the handle a bit... and its not even my place to. I know there are a few non-tattooers who have done this very successfully but it's rare.

I wouldn't decide to go open a shoe store or a tire factory -- how could I justify it when I know nothing about those industries -- so why do people think they can open a shop/GALLERY and somehow become respected and successful in the tattoo community?

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yeah, this is a particularly grating problem in my neck of the woods, and i may post an adjunct thread (if it does not already exist) about shops opening up close to each other.

anyhow...i think that there's several factors at play here. because tattooing is no longer a marginalized subculture, and because in general, there has been a huge influx of new shops opening up everywhere, i think entrepreneurial/opportunistic "civilians" look at tattooing as a legit business opportunity.

from our perspective, of course, this is completely wrong. i don't think that people coming in care about respect inside the community. success, sure....

the rub for me (at least in the specific case in which a shop has opened up two doors down from us) is that these people are not opening without help from tattooers...wtf is up with that?

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i'd rather just tattoo in my kitchen than work for a non-tattooer, or a piercer. i don't fault others, i know we all have different situations and it is very hard to get the perfect job, but i just couldn't do it.

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I'm not a tattoo artist but it seems like there's no credibility that way. If you're passionate about painting you'd own paintings. If you're passionate about tattooing you'd have tattoos. Obviously it's nothing but a business venture to you then if you're nothing but blank skin and you're encroaching on good people's livelihoods and careers.

I mean hell, at least get the standard warped tour visible tattoos and fake it ;)

Edited by Jake
typo
sleepy mel likes this

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I'm not a tattoo artist but it seems like there's no credibility that way. If you're passionate about painting you'd own paintings. If you're passionate about tattooing you'd have tattoos. Obviously it's nothing but a business venture to you then if you're nothing but blank skin and you're encroaching on good people's livelihoods and careers.

I mean hell, at least get the standard warped tour visible tattoos and fake it ;)

Exactly! If I'm opening a tire factory I'd at least buy a bunch of tires and do a little reading on rubber or something. I'm not trying to beat a dead horse here, I just thought this kind of thing had already passed. The least you could do is be a scummy biker or something.

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i just got done working for a dude who had been tattooing for "13" years supposedly..california,east coast, etc..he had 6 tattoos, none bigger than a softball...he didnt know any history of our profession, had no desire to get anymore tattoos because they hurt or he was "too picky"..you would think after being around for at least 13 years he would know of key people in the industry..nope...he had no love for it, no desire to learn more about it or progress..he wasa happy doing his shitty color outline with watered down color look..his tattoos looked like they were aged 15 yrs or had a few laser sessions done on them, after they were healed in 2 weeks....the guy was a rad guy to be friends with but it got to the point where he would come into work, cancel his appointments and go to the bar....i lost all respect for him after awhile, why should i work hard for and give my hard earned money to someone who has no love for this industry...i put him up there with non tattooers honestly...i will never work for anyone like that again...i kinda had no other choice at the time....my 2cent ramble

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I'm dealing with this issue right down the street from me. I live in an area that has a vibrant underground economy which allows for so called artists and non-artists to open tattoo shops that don't have to support the artist or owners. So we end up with a good amount of half-ass tattoos going down. I have a woman down the street who took Fakirs piercing course and now has the largest shop in the county. However, after a nationwide craigslist search she was unable to find any artists. She has only been able to fill one chair with a local creeper artist. In our case it will probably fall. However I'm not into it when established artists team up with monied entities to open clothing store/bar/tattoo shop etc. in tourist locations. How lame! Corporate and Gangster organizations have the money and inertia to make things happen and they will continue to use tattooing as long as it remains mainstream. There will always be room though for artist owned and operated shop. And, this is nothing new to the profession. Look at history. Tattooers have operated in all kinds of environments since our current mode of business began in the middle 1800's. Currently tattooing in a town of 14,000 with five shops! I was the only shop for at least eight years. I guess the rest of the world will catch up with you even if you are in the middle of nowhere.

blacksandtattoo likes this

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within a 30 minute radius..spokane and the little surrounding cities..about 650,000 people..we have over 40 shops listed in the phonebook..thats not including the ones not listed...i can thik of 10 more off the top of my head..ridiculous..and here i go opening my own shop..hahaha

justcallmematt likes this

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Ahh. I'm in Richmond, VA. A CNBC "poll" listed us as being the #rd "most tattooed city" due to our shop/population ratio. And as of about a week ago, two strippers (sad but true) are opening a shop here. And to top it off, it's only two doors down from the shop Jessie Smith works at. I think our total number now is around 55-60 shops. And that's not counting the kitchen magicians and trailer tradesmen.

hgiles likes this

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Mario -- there's a place in Europe where this piercer tries to seduce many famous american artists to come to work for his shop and because no one knows him or his small tiny town, he has often succeeded.... when you get there you realize you're working for someone who has no idea about the business, isn't excited to seeyou do cool stuff, has no stencil maker or photocopier (the closest photocopier is at some sex shop) and then collects way too much money as a split. He's given me a run for my money because I'm a woman and apparently don't have the "cool" factor that a man brings into the shop. I cringe even typing this.

Then you look at our shop: I own it, but Hayden Menzies bought in 30% after doing half the work opening it and keeping it operational for a year solid. He isn't a tattooer. I've tattooed him what seems like an endless amount and he's made efforts to meet and be tattooed by interesting artists who are making waves. All of our guest artists are taken care of very well because he offers part of his own home to them to stay. He has worked NO PAY when things got rough in the beginning and will get in his van and drive across the city on the drop of a dime if the shop needs it.

I have never met a non-tattooer who has suhc a respect for this industry... He doesn't want to tattoo because he respects it too much and knows it's not his place, despite intense artistic ability. Half of our guest artists want to come abck to see HAYDEN hahahhahahha!!

Long story short, although he only owns slightly more than a quarter of the shop on paper, I am proud and honoured ot have this one person as my co pilot at the shop. It's a unique situation and makes me a fucking hypocrite because any othr shop woudl make my blood boil, but when you compare the shop in Europe tha tI've worked for (and wanted to slit my wrists at) to our shop, it goes to show how it's not the NON_TATTOOER aspect tha tmakes someone a piece of shit sop owner. It's a non-tattooer who also seeks to exploit our very special, unique trade for their own cool guy gain and money.

AlannaCA likes this

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I agree 100% with Mario. I have worked in a shop that was owned by a non tattooer, it was MISERABLE! Never, Ever again.

Dave

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Dave -- there are almost 100 shops in my city. It's crazy. With numbers like that, there must be tons owned by non-tattooers. They come up and go down as quickly as the seasons change. Even on twitter a few days ago, a girl was asking her friends if she should use her grad money to "BUY A TATTOO SHOP."

It makes me want to hide in my tattoo shop and cry! hahaha!

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Lizzie has a good point. I think there are alot of cool tattooed people out there who don't want to tattoo, I think this is a great thing, but i have heard alot of scrutiny of anyone but tattooers doing anything for the business. (starting shops, running conventions,etc.) In my opinion nothing can be done with out us, the hard working Tattooers, we are the workhorses. but i think there are a genuine few out there who do not tattoo who would also like to put in there contributions. after all we tattooers do get busy busting our asses, just to do sweet ass tattoos.

I am not saying that "civilians" should be building machines or other technical industry secrets,

If somebody has alot of tattoos,love for tattoos, and they don't seem to be profiting or taking advantage of the artists,they should be given a chance to give back. I feel like i am torn on this subject, we always love it when rockstars/famous people get behind what we do, why not give some credit to teh little guy, who has helped grease our pockets for their love of tattoos...

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Thanks for the props. I feel like our situation @ Speakaesy is pretty unique though. Despite having a partner who is a non-tattooer, I still feel very skeptical when I hear about it in other shops, only because of the general rule that lightning doesn't strike twice...

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Dang Lizzie, almost a hundred???? I remember in 1983 in Taronto there was D's Adventure Tattoo and Empire Tattoo with Tatu Manotu as the owner, both shops on Queen street and the basement shop of the old fella people knew as The Chinaman", wow have things changed!

As to the shop owner thing, it's burning down the industry, "Boutique" shops with everything from bar owners to somebody who viewed something on the net as to what "expected earnings" come form tattoo shops simply buying into the industry.

But not to worry, trends rise and fall and come back around but to do good tattooing and being true to a customer base will win out should the "image" of tattooing burn to the ground from these jackwagons.

There are the areas of the past where it reverted back to what it was before the trends and always there were those who held fast and kept busy. The pisser of it all is that those shop owners will move onto something else and toss our baby back at us like an over the hill abused hooker who once was our kid Sister, like a neighborhood bully who took off with a kids bicycle to return it only after it was broken, but back in our hands it will return.

Look how things exploded in NYC in the 50's, the easiest solution was to ban it after it came to be too large to handle and regulate, underground for nearly forty years it opened up again but this time starting out with regulation and revenue that everybody could deal with, this is not to mention how it exploded and there were the 3 month shop locations with people no learned in tattooing taking every customer to the cleaners or dermatologist capitalizing on it's new infancy just to grab the buck and move out. But holding onto what is ours and standing our ground when the time comes that the general pop may turn from the reality program consuming idiots that bring us their money now to becoming a disrespectful lot wishing they hadn't followed a trend, it will then bring those who hang in there a wealth of property from the shop owner/proprietor magnate that dumps their "investment idea", flash, chairs, mirrors, tables, lamps, and equipment for everyone! Pennies on the dollar!

And most gratifying of all will be that we will still have the customer base we built if not the second or third generation of those customers simply from doing honest good tattooing through all that time.

Tattooing isn't just the "Americana" Norman Rockwell painted, it rolls up and down from sub culture to pop culture historically but part of our culture just the same and never in our history has it ever "left the building", the trend may have "shot it's load" as Tuttle so eloquently put it, but if it's what we do, then we will have work.

Also, I see allot of people who came from the art school area that are doing as well if not better selling their artwork. As overcrowded as it gets, there is still areas for extra income. Reminds me of Walter Cleveland, traveled in the hay days and owned shops in several locations but when times were when he had few coming through the door, he went to part time work at a saw mill, zipped the fingers of his Left hand off, he was a lefty, learned to tattoo right handed by redrawing all his flash with his right and got back to it! Now that is drive to do what you do!

The way I see it is this, these people coming onto the scene with all the EBay import stuff and their scratchers making Doctors and Dermatologists rich in a field that is practically impossible to institutionalize will wither away with the trend, we will have to swallow the blame of their invention until it comes around again in a form we can't predict, but tattooers true to the trade will still eat. The blame we swallow is the trouble they will or are causing that's hurting the reputation that so many worked hard to elevate from what it was years before they came on the scene.

Damn if it don't play like a broken record, but when we were playing records it was Milton Zeis School of Tattooing days, now we are using "Media Player" and look at the amount of 40 hour classroom diploma toting "Professional Tattoo Artist" we have now, cranked out every two weeks like some checkbook biker wearin their authorized leather clown outfit and callin themselves "Bikers", ha! And we all know that a new bike and leather outfit don't make you a biker no more than a self respecting S&M catalog would carry "soft cuffs", ha!

Damn, little did I know that when I was doing interviews talking about how it's not just for sailors anymore that I was tradin sub culture customers for yuppie scum wanting a Kanji on their wrist. I didn't know how big of a plate I needed for all the words I'd have to eat.........

Sorry Lizzie if I ramble off topic, but just one more thing, I enjoy having fun with some of the people who start talking the talk of getting into or buying into this business, like ask those that think it's their direction because they are "really great drawers" to define MRSA, ha! As for the people who buy into it and are NOT loving of the life, they are the train wreck waiting to happen and will be their own undoing, just wait for the time to pass to split up their gear.

sbrookins likes this

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I own a shop in a small town close to niagara falls, bein close to a tourist trap you can see the dudes jus milkin our industry for cash.. Its a bummer these guys are jus lookin at makin a quick buck , not the art, an they deffinetly wont be doing anything groundbreaking for our industry. People come in my shop all the time and are suprized when there isnt 40 flatscreens, waterfalls, 25 different t-shirts etc. Remember when people came in to get tattooed? lol Look at the damn portfolio!!I mean i cant complain tattooing has been the best thing that ever happened to me, but when i started i was even allowed to look at catologues to order my own stuff, now a kid gets denied a apprenticeship...he jus goes home an reads about it online an orders gear... Gimme the ol days

RockelMan likes this

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ive worked for non tattooers and piercers in the past, and its a mistake. they have no grasp of reality when it comes to this business. thumbs down from me.

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I joined last sparrow specifically because I found that this seems to be the only place online discussing this,and in my opinion it is a growing problem.It may be okay for the non-tattooer to be an owner of a shop,but for an artist it can be hell and for so many reasons!I have had many bad experiences working at shops run by non-tattooers,too many to list here.

The main problem is that the tattoo business is a whole different animal.Running other types of business establishments is not the same at all,and nowadays far too many people get a decent size tax return & a book on business and think that they know what they are doing,because they spent a few hours in a tattoo shop.They all spit out catch phrases that they acquire in these books.I had a non-tattooer recently tell me(after putting me through a bunch of unnecessary nonsense) that he worked in the"retail" business before & that the "retail" business can sometimes be rough.I told him that he should take it up with his "wholesaler",but I don't think he was bright enough to understand what I was saying.A lot of these "business" people also don't understand why if you get a detailed description of what the customer wants from them and then when you spend 6 hours drawing it,only to have the customer come in for their appointment and say "yeah,I was talking to my friends and I have decided that instead of that I want this...." why you won't draw them something else after they have wasted 6 hours of your life that you will never get back.I don't think that is hard to understand,but what do I know,I have only been tattooing for two decades.

I have a phrase-"the customer isn't always right,you can only try to do right by your customers".Most non-tattoo artists that run shops don't understand this.If someone comes in with say for instance a horrible maze-looking tribal design that their little brother drew at school on a spiral notebook and I tell them that it isn't really a drawing that translates to a tattoo and that I can draw something that is similar,but better (rather than saying that the drawing is shit and insulting them).Yet still they are insistent that they want it EXACTLY like it is on the paper,the non-artist owner that owns the place will say,"that's what they want,so just do it!"-not understanding that they are trying to force me into doing a bad tattoo,which in turn would give me and their shop a bad reputation.

The non-tattooer also normally doesn't do research before they open a shop,I think they just watch television shows & figure that is how it is supposed to be.So when they are building up the inside of a shop,they say"okay I will have a row of barber chairs over there that 5 or 6 artists can work at (in this small town) ".Not realizing that without dividers of some sort if the customer wants a tattoo in a private place that they will be exposed in front of everyone else in the shop and a small town doesn't have enough business to support 5 or 6 artists.They are worried about having a koi pond,crushed red velvet curtains,leather couches & flat screens,but don't worry about things like a thermographic copier,because the artist can hand trace everything and what do they care if they make the artist work way more than they have to,it isn't making them work any harder.

When a non-tattooer opens a shop they will post something online that normally says "No rock stars!".I have grown to realize that this is code for:leave your individuality and self respect at the door,because really they are looking for rock stars.I am one of the least pretentious artists that there is.I just want to make a living and do great tattoos,which after all these years of denial & error I have finally become very good at my work.I love tattooing,but I am an artist not an entertainer,some people may be both,but I choose not to be a part of that.The non-tattooing owner doesn't seem to understand why I don't want 10 people leaning over me while I'm working,all taking photos & video of me on thier cellphones.They don't understand why I don't work at conventions and have no urge to.They don't understand why I don't care how many people press the like button on their shop's facebook page,or why I don't want to pose for a group photo outside their shop with everyone folding thier arms and acting tougher than they are in their Ed Hardy shirts and with thier fauxhawks.I don't want a biography on your stupid website,let my work speak for itself! Some job postings online say "must have own clientele,you will not be getting walk-ins"-that is just an insult to anyone with any intelligence,especially if your not looking to work near where you live & looking to relocate.What would they be doing for their half of a 50/50 split,providing paper towels?

Most of all I have had problems with non-tattoo artist owners trying to give away my hard work for nothing."Welcome to our tattoo family,now we will take advantage of you like we do our real family" they might as well be saying when they say"we are giving away $200 gift certificates on the radio,because it will be good for business!" .Who's business?-not mine,I don't work for free."we are running a special:as long as you can sit for $250,it will be good for our business!".Yeah,sure,maybe for you-you don't have to depend on this for your living,you have another job as a contractor or a bartender or whatever it is that you do when you are not here most of the time.I appreciate you stopping by for an hour every day and bitching about how tired you are & how hard your primary job is & then telling me something I should do differently.You must know more than me,you have done 5 tattoos in your lifetime & have been in the industry for a staggering 6 months!with expertise like that,you must know what you are talking about!

It feels good to vent!

Can I get an Amen?

dari, missStark, JoKno and 1 other like this

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Oh,yeah....& the first three rules of business are 1)location 2)location 3)location.Anyone who doesn't understand this shouldn't be taken seriously as a business man or business woman. Don't be cheap,pay a few extra hundred a month & get a location where people can see the sign that says TATTOO.

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Feel better Jolly? Sounds like you've wanted to say that for a while now. You had me thinking about a shop in Augusta. The owner doesn't tattoo, but her son does. He's not very good either. He thinks he's all that and a bag of chips though. The owner completely bombarded the radio and tv with ads and discounts and give aways of all kinds. She did have some great artist working for her until they got fed up and left opening their own shop across the street. She wouldn't hire anyone that wasn't tattooing for less than 10yrs and wouldn't let any new apprentice in unless they had a assoc degree in art. Now that shop is only surviving on the military crowd that doesn't realize that they are over paying by 100%. A tattoo that would cost 100 - 200 anywhere else with better artist they are charging 300-400. Crazy.

JOLLY J likes this

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just to play devils advocate... what about ny adorned. that shop is owned by a non tattooer and i cant see anyone saying anything bad about that shop.

ive been tattooing going on 14 years this summer and ive worked with/for some of the biggest douche bags on the planet. it unfortunate to say that a lot of the purity in our industry is gone and this is one of the many results of it

at the end of the day it is what it is, isnt it :/

LeoKraft and Jennifer Stell like this

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solution: don't work for shop owners like this. then there will be nothing to bitch about.

let me re-phrase; there will always be something to bitch about, but if you aren't working for them then there isn't much of a concern.

I have much bigger fish to fry then spending any time fretting about a boss I don't and won't work for.

Jake likes this

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Oh,yeah....& the first three rules of business are 1)location 2)location 3)location.Anyone who doesn't understand this shouldn't be taken seriously as a business man or business woman. Don't be cheap,pay a few extra hundred a month & get a location where people can see the sign that says TATTOO.

Everlasting Tattoo was(is?) located in a not so good area of town, out of the way and not really visible to street traffic and without much foot traffic either. I guess being top caliber makes up for that.

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Sounds like a lot of these non-tattooer 'owners' shouldn't be owning any kind of business, whether it's a tattoo shop or a Tire Kingdom.

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just to play devils advocate... what about ny adorned. that shop is owned by a non tattooer and i cant see anyone saying anything bad about that shop.

ive been tattooing going on 14 years this summer and ive worked with/for some of the biggest douche bags on the planet. it unfortunate to say that a lot of the purity in our industry is gone and this is one of the many results of it

at the end of the day it is what it is, isnt it :/

I agree Guy..I think one of the reasons people don't say anything about Adorned is because it was one of the first shops in the city when they legalized,and they have guest artists coming in and making good money while working at a respectable shop.If i was a tattooer and wanted to do a guest spot at a shop in NYC i probably wouldn't be concerned if it was artist owned.I would be concerned if it was a good shop with respectable tattooers.

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