It’s More Than Bitches That Get Stitches

The Rise of Embroidery Tattoos

On March 28th, 2019, tattoo artist, Rogelio Vasquez of Cowboy’s Tattoo in McKinney, Texas posted his day’s work on his Instagram account. There was nothing odd or out of the ordinary about this. It was his nightly ritual; make a client happy by day, post on the ‘Gram by night. It’s more or less what you do if you’re a tattoo artist in the digital era. The ‘out of the ordinary’ aspect of the story began when he awoke the next morning.

“It was crazy,” he recalls. “Hundreds of people were tagging me on Facebook and Instagram. Websites were embedding my post. There were some Mexican celebrities that were sharing it. Just on one page alone, my picture got 50,000 likes.”

The whole thing took him completely by surprise. “For me, it was just another tattoo,” he laughs. “If I had known that this was going to happen, I would have added a watermark or my Instagram account on the picture.”

Nonetheless, the comments and messages poured in, “from all over the world.” He was flooded with appointment requests, most of them not even asking about price or location. “They just kept saying they’d never seen anything like it,” he says.

The piece in discussion was created for a client who had requested an Otomi design. For reference, The Otomi are an indigenous people group inhabiting the Altiplano region of Mexico, who most historians believe were the country’s first inhabitants. Outside the region, they are primarily known for their tenangos—handmade textiles, beautifully embroidered with elaborate designs inspired by nearby cliff paintings, likely created by their ancestors. It is said that a traditional tenango can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years to complete. Naturally, since he was asked for an Otomi design, Rogelio drew the tattoo to mimic the embroidery pattern of an Otomi textile. In doing this, he unwittingly tapped into a tattoo style that was quickly becoming the latest trend to emerge on social media.

This publication is a trade magazine for the tattoo industry, so if you’re reading this, the concept of embroidery tattoos likely isn’t news to you. But for the sake of the uninitiated who might pick up a copy of this in the foyer of their local parlor, we should elaborate on the concept.

The style is what the name implies: tattoos that are rendered to mimic a work of art created with needle and thread. Sometimes, it’s portrayed as a patch, and sometimes the stitching appears to thread straight into the skin, as is the case with Rogelio’s piece. Several artists have carved impressive niches for themselves with the style and have created some stunning work in the process. Bau Oliver, Russell Van Schaick and Ksu Arrow, are just a few that come to mind. Look them up; they deserve the attention.

What’s particularly striking about the embroidery tattoos, at least from an artist’s point of view, is levels of detail required. You’re not only creating an image; you’re drawing the individual composite threads that make up the image, which requires an entirely new level of shading and texture. According to Rogelio, though, there’s no magic trick. It’s just a matter of wrestling the devil out of the details.

“For me,” he says, “it was like any other tattoo. I started with all solid colors. Then, for the 3D embroidery look, I just did super tiny black lines on the bottom and white lines on the top. That’s the secret.”

We’d be remiss if we didn’t take a moment to mention cross-stitch tattoos as well, as they are often lumped in with the embroideries. It stands to reason; both styles are imitations of textiles and threadwork. However, as far as technique goes, the cross-stitch tattoos are an entirely different animal, made up of a series of tiny “x’s” that come together to form a sort of mosaic image, not unlike a dot matrix printer.

Whether Rogelio’s post triggered the abrupt surge in the style’s popularity, or it just caught the tailwinds of an already emerging trend is the “chicken or the egg” question of the year. What is known, however, is that a mere three weeks after his work went viral, the digital world was suddenly overrun with articles on the topic.

“Embroidery tattoos are now a thing!” proclaimed one website after another, nearly verbatim, and Rogelio’s piece was included in every one of them, often at the top. To be fair, he deserves the accolades. It’s an incredible work of art that stands on its own merit outside of any incoming or outgoing trend. Even more impressive is while, as we’ve already mentioned, there are several artists who have made embroidery tats a specialty, he’s not one of them.

“This is the first embroidery piece that I’ve done,” he reveals. “At the moment, I don’t think I want to do more. I think this was something special for me—and my client. As a tattoo artist you always want to do something unique. But really, I’m a black and gray artist. I love doing portraits and photorealism.”

Tattoo or Not Tattoo

People get tattoos for many different reasons and they’re more than skin deep 


Tattoos are your business. As a professional artist, tattoos are your not only your expression in a piece of art, they are a product through which you make a living. The more people that visit your studio  and leave with fresh ink, the better. But have you really sat back and wondered about why people do and do not get tattooed? 

The reasons, according to psychologist Luzelle Naudé, are more than skin deep. 

Naude and her colleges interviewed college students to better understand their relationship with tattoos. The results were striking. Most of the participants (78%) did not have tattoos, and most of their parents (92%) did not have tattoos. However, most of the participants’ friends (74%) had tattoos — and almost half (47%) were considering getting a tattoo or another tattoo. 

For the participants who decided not to get a tattoo, the main reasons revolved around social and cultural factors, primarily religion (11%). Other reasons for forgoing a tattoo included disapproval from family and friends and invoking negative views at work. Some participants (10%) shared concerns about the permanency of tattoos and their sense that it looks unattractive on older people.  

One of the most popular reasons people get a tattoo is to symbolize love or affection for somebody. This can be either somebody the person is in a relationship with, somebody they admire, someone they are related to, or some person they wish to pay tribute towards. 

It’s therefore no surprise that someone’s name is the design most men and women regret having as a tattoo. 31.34% of males regretted getting a person’s name inked on them. 24.33% of females was a lower percentage, but still the most common tattoo type they regret. 

Participants also referred to medical reasons or fear of needles and pain (10%). Moreover, some participants viewed tattoos as simply unappealing. One participant remarked: “I wouldn’t get one. Would you put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari?” 

The primary motivation for those who got a tattoo (25%) had to do with its personal meaning (such as to mark a significant experience or struggle). Participants reported reasons such as “to keep my mother’s memory,” “a way of honoring my first child,” and “presented what I was going through at a certain time of my life.” Some participants (12%) also felt that their tattoos were an extension or expression of who they were. Comments included, “My body is a book, my tattoos are my story.” and “Tattoos are an extension of your personality, everyone is given a blank canvas to paint on – if you wish.” 

Another study showed that people typically take between two and seven years before getting their second tattoo. If anything, people tend to consider their choices more carefully after their first because they better understand what it entails and less likely to make a rash decision — pain was quite a big barrier. So was permanence and affordability. 

Among those with positive views about those with ink, they saw tattoos as attractive and those who sport them as cool, trendy, fashionable, interesting, spontaneous, creative, artistic, free-spirited, more open/accepting, liberal, adventurous, brave, strong, courageous, and unafraid of commitment and pain. As one participant put things, “People with tattoos are the realest people you ever will meet.” 

Stop Playing the Guessing Game

Take the Lead to Find Out What’s On Your Client’s Mind

Don’t judge a book by its cover. It’s an adage that rings true in the tattoo world. Don’t prejudge customers who walk into your store just because they don’t fit your image of somebody who gets tattooed.

There was a time when the stereotype of only bikers, sailors and jailbirds getting inked was pretty true. But those days are well in the past. One recent survey found that contrary to popular belief, more women (40%) than men (36%) have tattoos; 32% of young people age 14 to 29 have a tattoo compared to 45% of people age 30 to 49 and 28% of people over 50.

Prejuding your potential clients is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. A good rule of thumb is to treat a customer as if they are your grandparent, a dear friend or family member — basically just like anyone else, according to Chris Coltran, sales expert and author of the book, “Selling to your Grandmother.”

“Do not hinder your sales by thinking someone either has or does not have money based on their appearance,” Coltran writes in his book. “This is the best way to lose a ton of business, so don’t fall into this trap. People do not wear a sign around their neck that says they are wealthy.”

People with real money are usually the last to flash it. As Dr. Thomas Stanley pointed out in the Millionaire Next Door, people with real wealth are more likely to drive pickup trucks than BMW’s.

So don’t judge. Start your relationship with a conversation. The more questions you ask, the more useful information you’ll get. If you don’t know what’s needed (or if it’s really needed), how can you help the person get a tattoo or piercing they’ll be proud to show off for a lifetime? It’s a technique called, “Qualifying” and it’s what the best sales people do in any business.

Qualifying is determining whether or not that person who called to find out about your services is worthy of the time and effort it will take for you to convert him into a customer. That’s right — “worthy” of your time and effort. Your time is valuable, and once gone, you can’t get it back. So it makes sense to use it as wisely as possible.

Here are three questions that will help you qualify your client:

For what reasons are you looking to get a tattoo or piercing? What triggered your decision to come into our studio? What’s made this so important or urgent?

How can I best help you make this decision? Every prospective customer has something holding them back. Whether it’s budget or not being entirely sure what they want, you want to find the hurdle that’s preventing them from taking a seat in your chair. Ask your what you can tell them about or offer them that will help them say, “Lets get started.” Remember to listen to their unique challenges and fears.

What is your budget? The budget is arguably the most important part of a new artist-client relationship. That’s why almost 60% of shoppers (of any product or service) want to discuss pricing before anything else. Talking about budget expectations up front can help you understand where customer falls in being serious about getting that tattoo, and you can also get an idea of where they can

fit within your pricing strategy and if they’ll be able to afford your services. For both you and your client, you need to find a way to create a deal everyone is happy with — but don’t devalue your work simply to put some coin in your pocket.

Quit playing the guessing game when it comes to connecting with clients. If you want to stop missing out on quality clients who are your best chance for repeat business, stop assuming that you know what’s on their mind. Instead, let them tell you — even if they don’t realize they’re doing it.

More Than an Expo

The BTAME Founders are Using Art as a Medium for Change in Their Community

It was never just about tattoos. Yes, since the event’s inception five years ago, the primary thrust of the Black Tattoo, Art and Music Expo in Detroit has been the celebration of the subdermal art within communities of color. That much is true. But take notice of the comma placed within the name. It’s not “Black Tattoo Art . . .” It’s “Black Tattoo, Art . . .” The comma denotes a series, and that series includes three distinct categories: Tattoos, art and music. It’s about creative expression in all its various forms.

So, if you thought it was just a tattoo convention, widen the scope. And then widen it some more, because there’s a much bigger picture here.

Their website explains it best, stating that their driving purpose is to use “art as the building blocks for change in urban communities.” The Expo itself was only ever intended to be their initial splash point, with the real effect being the ripples that result.


“We want to really be a spark for art education, whether it’s visual arts or dance, or music—whatever” explains Jason Phillips, event co-founder and owner of the Ink Spot, one of the Motor City’s top tattoo parlors. “That’s the overall goal; to get art in front of those who aren’t being exposed to it otherwise. We have people who are missing their calling, especially with the arts being pulled from public school systems. You’re missing the artists who could be that next great architect or planner because they’re not getting the exposure to it.”

To this end, Jason and his partner, Mike Burnett have formed a 501(c)3 parent organization that will now house the expo, as well widen the scope to include a variety of projects focused on empowering their community through art engagement. Though they’ve maintained the BTAME acronym, it now represents something bigger than one event. Instead of just an expo, it’sthe Black Tattoo, Art and Music EXPERIENCE.

“In a nutshell, we’re a non-profit to promote the arts and make that positive change,” Jason continues. “We kept the umbrella of the corporation broad, so we’d be able to work throughout the various disciplines of art to create different programs and work with different institutions. We’ll still be putting on the Expo, but that’s now just one facet of our efforts.”

“The first organization we’re working with is called Wellspring,” Mike chimes in. “They work out of our Brightmoor community. They’d received a grant to continue a summer program to fight illiteracy between kindergarten and eight grade . . . and they incorporated us into their program.”

For their part of the program, Jason created two images for the kids to work with, one for the older kids and the other for the younger, both conveying one simple message:Knowledge is power. The image for the elder of the age groups was of a boy and a girl, each of them wearing a crown, sitting in the grass and reading a book. For the younger group, the image was of two children, again one boy and one girl, reading together.

“Jason sketched out the concept and came up with the color scheme,” Mike continues, “but it was the kids who pretty much did all the painting. We donated our time to work with them every Tuesday and they just went at it.”

The summer program was capped off by a picnic attended by the kids, as well as their parents.

“The parents got to see what their kids had been working on,” Mike recounts, beaming through the phone. “They were just so proud. They couldn’t believe that the kids were doing what they were doing. They were amazed.”


The Expo is all well and good, but interactions like this are what truly lie at the heart of Mike and Jason’s vision: To empower and build up their community by igniting that artistic passion within the youth and letting that passion be the catalyst to trigger inspiration in their parents; to remind their community that art is more than just a hobby. It’s life—and it can be a living.

“When the adults see that their children have interest in the arts, they see that there’s something they can do to cultivate it,” Jason says,“and that there are professionals out here using this talent to be entrepreneurs and make a living for themselves. That’s important because adults often feel that art isn’t necessary and think their kids will just become starving artists if they pursue it.”

“That’s the ultimate goal,” Mike adds, “to show kids and their parents how you can make a sustainable living through art. You can be alright out here through art. You don’t have to shoot a basketball or hit a baseball. You can do more.”

If they have their way, this is only the beginning. Mike sees a world of possibilities and hopes these initial outreaches will inspire others to join in and support the cause.

“We’re building our portfolio to make it attractive to potential sponsors. Maybe we can get someone willing to invest. Through that, we can create scholarships; maybe even have a community center so kids can come and create—in all facets of art. A practice space and recording studio for music, a dance studio, an art studio where kids can come and work at an easel.”

As far as the Expo that started it all, you can expect another installment in 2020. Meanwhile, Mike is doubling down on his call to the industry for sponsors. “As I said last time, if you’re willing to take the black community’s money, you should be willing to reinvest some. Come work with us.”

Don’t Blame the Artist, Vol 2

Preparing Yourself for When Problems Arise

Last month, we were presented with a stark reminder of the risks involved with tattooing, when one of our own suffered severe from a severe infection after a routine session. We learned that even in the best of scenarios, problems can still arise. However, the final lesson was ultimately for the client, and that was that in these situations, one should never be so quick to blame his or her artist when infections arise. As tattooing has continually expanded from the margins of society into the overly populated realm of the “middle,” this industry has been all but forced to step up its game and (literally) clean up its act. As a result, infections through the negligence or error of the artist, while not impossible, are increasingly unlikely.

But that’s not total vindication. You still must exercise due diligence, every moment, every hour you’re on the job. And even if you could prove your innocence in a court of law, that’s barely half the battle. There’s still the court of public opinion, which can level a business far more quickly than any legal proceedings. Reputation is everything—and when it comes to the health and safety of your clientele, the old adage of “all press is good press” goes straight out the window. In this realm, any press that’s less than glowing can be a death sentence. Therefore, when a client you’ve recently tattooed walks through to door complaining of an infection, you can’t just brush it off and you sure as hell can’t wing it. A plan must already be in place.

There are two basic portions of a good plan: the ‘pre’ and the ‘post.’ That is, there’s the portion of the plan that prevents issues in the first place, i.e., the preparatory portion, and there is the portion dedicated to how to act when issues do arise, i.e., the initiation portion.

The ‘Pre’: How to Prepare

Be obsessively clean. This part is a no-brainer, but we can’t exactly discuss the topic at hand without addressing it. The short of it is you can’t cut any corners on cleanliness and sanitation. For the long of it, refer to our piece on clean room safety in Issue #[insert number], published October of 2018. The major takeaway from that article is that you can’t just abide by the minimum safety standards of your locality. You need to go over and above to the point where your workspace is cleaner than a hospital. Why? Simply put, because hospitals have the luxury of gargantuan insurance policies that will more than cover them in case of a disaster. They can arguably afford the mistakes; you can’t.

Know your sources. Considering the risks involved, you would think the FDA was closely monitoring the industry’s suppliers, especially the inks being injected into skin, but you’d be wrong. By their own admission, the agency is far too overstretched to do more than address problems as they come up. That means, as an artist, it’s incumbent upon you to do the research and properly vet your sources, insuring they’ve employed the proper sanitization protocols and are utilizing only the safest ingredients. And while the FDA might not be closely monitoring the industry, any supplier you deal with should still be operating in an FDA-compliant manner. That means producing out of a CGMP facility and employing lot and batch numbers for the purpose of traceability. That brings us to our next point . . .

Keep a log of everything. All of the previously mentioned actions we’ve touched on are essential, but they ultimately don’t mean shit if you don’t meticulously document their implementation. Think of it as high school algebra; you only get credit for a correct answer if you’ve shown you work. If you haven’t, there’s no way to go back and prove your method, or more importantly, no way to go back and find the mistake in the event of a problem. This also applies to your material. Every item you use, especially the ink, should have batch and lot numbers just like anything else within the FDA’s purview. In the event that a problem occurs, you need to be able to trace the materials all the way back to the location and date of production. Doing this not only covers your ass, but also instills confidence in your clients that you are employing the safety protocols necessary to keep them safe. Finally, always make sure they are there to witness when you open any of the prepackaged disposable items you might employ.

The ‘Post’: How to Act

Notice we didn’t say, “how to react.” That’s an important distinction. Reactions are just defensive jabs thrown blindly by the unprepared. Actions are the pre-conceived protocols ready to initiate when an anomaly arises in the system. You want to aim for the latter.

Don’t be defensive. Defensiveness is the reactive approach, which as we’ve already noted, is what you want to avoid. The more defensive you are, the more guilty you’ll appear. Start rattling off all the reasons it’s not your fault and your client will automatically assume it is. “The [artist] doth protest too much, methinks,” etc . Don’t tell them it’s not your fault. Show them. If you’ve maintained the proper documentation of your protocol and materials, that should be easy.

Listen. Keep an open ear. Let your client vent and don’t start playing the blame game when they point the finger at you. Chances are, they will, but that’s only natural. You’re the professional in the situation, so keep a cool head and hear them out. Maintain a humble attitude and make them understand that you are just as keen on getting to the bottom of it as they are. Once they’re done venting, follow up with questions about their aftercare, keeping in mind they’re likely to stretch the truth to save face. If they swear they’ve followed all your recommendations . . .

Utilize your system (pull the paperwork). This goes back to the idea of showing rather than telling. Go to your filing system and pull every piece of documentation related to their visit. Show them how and when your station was cleaned before they sat down in your chair along with what products were used and then show them the tracing system you have in place for the needles and ink. Then, remind them that they watched you open the needle package. If necessary, call the manufacturers and verify no other problems have arisen from the products you used.

Show empathy. This will go a long way. Remember, your client is freaking out and arguably, rightfully so. At best, they’re dealing with a flawed tattoo; at worst, they’re looking at long-term health issues and a stack of medical bills. If you’ve done everything the right way, you don’t have to apologize for your actions, but you should still show them that you feel sorrow for what they’ve endured.

Learn from the experience. Trials and tribulations are opportunities for growth. When this situation arises at your shop, take advantage. Go back over your process in light of the revelation and see how you can tighten the system. There’s always room for improvement.

Written by David Pogge – Expert advice provided by Jose Pena of Xtreme Tattoo in Sheffield, OH

CLICK HERE to read volume 1

Don’t Blame the Artist, Vol 1

CLICK HERE to read volume 2

What Firsthand Experience Has Taught us About Tattoo Infections

“I’m 41 years old and I’ve been getting tattooed since I was 17. I have tattooed pretty much every area of my body. Uncomfortable places, sensitive places, places that people have weird reactions to; I’ve basically marked every part.”

Jenn’s not exaggerating. She collects tattoos like a kid in the late 80s would have collected baseball cards and she does it with uncanny tenacity.

“My average session is about six hours minimum,” she states as a matter of fact.

But no one is completely impervious to infection, a fact that she learned the hard way in recent weeks, for the first time in her near quarter century of putting needle to flesh. There was nothing out of the ordinary about the experience initially; just a routine visit to the parlor to get a new piece on her upper leg, just above the knee. But a week later, she found herself in the hospital with a severe staph infection.

“My immediate reaction was to blame the artist,” she admits, a touch of shame in her voice. “Just 100%.” There are layers to the shame. First, as PAIN Magazine’s primary representative, the last thing she wants to do is paint her colleagues in a negative light. Second, the artist in question was a long-time friend with whom she had undergone multiple sessions already. The assumption that he’d slacked on safety protocols felt like a betrayal.

Nonetheless, it was her natural inclination and not all that uncommon among those who’ve suffered the same fate.

For years, we’ve been warned by medical professionals and concerned parents of the dire potential consequences of joining the ranks of the marked. “It’s not worth the risk,” they would tell us. “You never know when the artist might cut corners and reuse needles to save a buck.”

While an open wound—and that’s basically what a fresh tattoo is, regardless of how beautiful—always poses the risk of complication, anyone working in or around this space knows the generalizations highlighted here are preposterous. An artist’s livelihood is at stake every time they press the needle up against skin. No true career artist is going to risk everything to shave a few points off their overhead.

This fact was reinforced for Jenn at the hospital. “’Slow your roll,’” they told her. “’There are several factors here. You can get a staph infection from cutting yourself on a tree branch if you’re susceptible to it, if your immune system is low. There are just so many things that go into it.’”

Jenn, being the fearless human canvas she is, decided to do an experiment, using herself as a guinea pig. Once recovered from the first disaster, she went to another artist and had her other leg tattooed, practically in the exact same place. It happened again.

“That’s when I knew it wasn’t the artist,” she recalls. “It was me. My body.” From the input she received at the hospital, she concluded with a degree of certainty that her situation arose from chronic circulation issues in her legs. It hasn’t swayed her passion for the art, though.

“I’m fixing the problem,” she says, “doing more squats, walking more—I now have a stand-up desk in my office. I love tattoos. They make me happy. I don’t want to lose my happy if I can just fix the problem on my end.”

“But,” she adds, “the lesson I think people should take from my experience is this: Don’t be so quick to blame your artist.”

Jose Pena, owner of Xtreme Tattoo and Piercing in Sheffield, Ohio, concurs—and not just because he’s a tattoo artist. He had an infection experience of his own at the age of 16 that nearly claimed his life.

“I didn’t want to wait to get tattooed,” he recalls. “So, I got this ‘stick and poke’ at a house.” It only took a day for him to regret the decision. After coming down with a fever of 105.6, he was rushed to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a rare strain of spinal meningitis and held for close to six months. “I don’t remember much of it,” he says.

What he does remember, however, is the surprise he felt at the doctors’ assessment.

“Even though I told them I got it from a house, they told me, ‘Well, you probably didn’t get it from the tattoo itself. It was the open wound.’” In retrospect, that conclusion makes sense to him. “The tattoo wasn’t wrapped, wasn’t cleaned,” he continues. “And the night I got the tattoo, I ended up passing out on the floor. What they believed was the infection was on the carpet and it transferred through that open wound.’”

Now a tattoo artist with his own thriving shop, that memory has served as a constant reminder of not only the dangers of cutting corners, but equally, the importance of proper aftercare and how the health of the client factors in. What it obviously didn’t do was deter him from pursuing his passion for the trade.

“I was just like, ‘Well, I learned my lesson. Not gonna get a fucking tattoo in a house anymore.’ but it never took me off the path of learning how to tattoo.”

However, while experience has taught both Jenn and Jose not to jump to conclusions about the artist or the process itself, it’s not a lesson the average client has learned. Complicating matters further is the tendency of many of clients to bend the truth about their aftercare regimen to save face with the artist. The result: Artists are left to defend themselves in the lopsided court of public opinion, where the notion of “innocent until proven guilty” rarely applies.

Hence why the concept of “CYA” (cover your ass) is so essential to the trade. In the next installment of our saga, we’ll drill down into the basics of how to minimize the risks of infection as well as how to manage these situations on the off chance they arise. Stay tuned, as they say.

CLICK HERE to read volume 2

To Build or Not to Build

A Quick Word on Websites and Why They Matter in the Social Media Age

“Website? I already have Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Snapchat. I can get by without a website.”

You’re right. You can get by without your own website.

But you’re a self-employed artist competing with millions of others just like you. Since when can you settle for just getting by?

The ‘Why’ of it.

Because you’re a professional. Social media pages are important, but anyone can open an account and claim whatever they want. Having a professional website with a purchased domain sets you apart and shows that you’ve invested in your business.

Because you’ll have a semi-captive audience. As a self-employed entrepreneur, your social media pages shouldn’t be the final destination for potential clients, but rather the funnel to bring them to your page. As important as testimonials are, your clients still need to here your core message, free of distracting clickbait and critiques from self-appointed tastemakers. Your social media page is all about the here and now; quick snapshots of works in progress, happy customers, impromptu promotions, cross-promotions with other artists, etc. Your website is where they truly get to know you and who you are. The bio is your story, not your followers’ interpretation of your story. All the images in the portfolio are yours. No shared images, no memes, none of the general distractions. Your work. Your story. Your message.

Because it expands your digital footprint. Prominence in the digital world is all about accessibility. A well-designed website that adheres to the proper SEO protocols will go a long way to expand your presence and increase your reach.

The ‘How’ of it.

There’s a lot that could be said here, but we’re going to keep it limited to the basics for the sake of space.

Hire a damn professional. Everyone thinks they can build their own website, and to a point that’s true. You can always go the Wix route or even get a little fancier with WordPress—or you could even pass it off to your nephew who just built a page for his high school punk band. But think of it like a tattoo. Yes, you can always go to a scratcher, but chances are, you’ll just end up paying a real artist to redo the work.

Maintain a professional portfolio. Two things about this. First, photo resolution and quality. This isn’t where you throw up snapshots you snapped with your phone for Instagram. You want professional lighting, proper angles and solid resolution. Also, please wipe the lens before you shoot. Second, make sure your digital portfolio is navigable. When a potential client clicks on an image of interest, they should be able to then scroll through the rest like any other platform. If it’s set up in a way that it forces them to navigate back to thumbnails every time, they’ll lose interest quickly. Remember, the digital age has shrunk our attention span to the capacity of a Tic Tac. Make sure you cater to that reality.

Write a compelling bio. Once again, you may want to seek help from a professional for this part. But either way, when crafting this section, asking yourself this: Why should we care? In other words, what is the “it” factor that will keep the audience reading, that will help them truly connect with you? Stats are boring. Create a compelling story.

Maintain a sharp design. You wouldn’t go to an orthodontist who has teeth that look like they’re throwing gang signs. Likewise, clients generally don’t seek out artists who haven’t mastered basic design aesthetics. After all, layout and design is a facet of art. Your design should ultimately reflect you, your style and the space in which you work. Make sure it pops. Also, don’t bother with heavy media like Flash or excessive videos. No one’s going to wait for that shit to load. Remember what we said about Tic Tacs? It applies here too.

Make contact easy. Forms are what you fill out at the DMV. They can be useful for booking appointments, but for most people, they’re just a drag. When people are online, they want immediate gratification, or as close to immediate as possible. Facebook now allows you to incorporate your Messenger account directly on your webpage. We suggest you use it. It’s direct, it’s familiar, and it allows you or your staff to respond anywhere, anytime.

Finding the Right Tattoo Artist: A Primer

Tip: Tear out this page, scan it, print copies and hand it to new clients walking in the door.
So you’re ready for a tattoo, but have no idea how to find the right artist. It’s OK; that’s what we’re here for. The short version of this is for us to simply tell you to do your homework. Treat it like any other good or service and research, research, research. But you might need more specifics, which is fine, because we need to fill some space. Here are some basic thoughts to consider when shopping for the perfect tattoo experience.

Prepare yourself and set your priorities. First, ask yourself why you want to get a tattoo. If your answer doesn’t go any further than “my friends have them and they look cool,” then by all means, just pop into the closest street shop and pick something off the wall, like a set of nautical stars or maybe a vintage airplane. You’ll be as cool as Christian rock. If there’s thought behind your choice, if there’s a genuine desire for self-expression, be choosy. Bide your time and make sure you pair up with an artist who gets you and can jive with your vision. But how do I do that? Keep reading.

Be realistic. Yes, we would all love to squeeze in a session with Joey Hamilton or Kat Von D, but the fact is, there are a handful of them and millions of us. Besides, they might not even end up being the right fit for you anyway. Imagine saving all that money, waiting the year it will take to fit into their schedule, and making the trip to see them only to walk away with a permanent mark that you’re only half-satisfied with—not because they’re not amazing at what they do, but because they weren’t the right one to catch your particular vision. Start local and start accessible.

Match the artist with your vision. The art of tattooing is becoming more and more specialized every day. We celebrate the artists who can do it all, yes, but we still appreciate those artists who have found a niche. Garth Brooks is a great musician, but you wouldn’t ask him to join your death metal band. Neither should you expect a portrait artist to go all Alex Grey on your arm. Come up with the idea and style that you want and then sift through the Instagram accounts of the artists in your region. When you find the closest match, reach out and start a dialog. As you communicate, make sure there’s the proper balance between what you want and what they suggest. They’re the artist, so you should value their input, but don’t fall into the trap of agreeing to something you don’t want just because they made a good pitch. You’re hiring an artist, not a salesman.

Verify quality. This should be a no-brainer, but in journalism you’re taught to keep things on a third-grade level, so let’s pretend we’re all idiots, lest we leave out the less fortunate. Obviously, if the artist’s portfolio looks good, there’s a pretty good chance he or she is a legitimate choice. But as artists in the space love to say, “You’re only as good as your last tattoo.” Is the artist putting out consistent work or are they just blasting their rare forays into quality on social media? What do the reviews say? Nearly every online platform has a review section. Read all of them. What about the shop? Are they reputable? Are they maintaining proper hygiene standards? Don’t cut corners here.

F*ck the assholes. We mean that figuratively, not literally. If you’re dealing with an artist whose ego can’t fit inside his studio, chances are, there won’t be room for you either. The experience of getting the tattoo is almost as important as the tattoo itself, especially your first. You’re going to be nervous. It’s going to hurt—a lot. The last thing you want is some self-absorbed Primadonna with no empathy tied to that permanent memory on your skin.

Don’t bargain hunt. Everyone wants to save a buck, especially in today’s world where the cost of living is far outpacing the median income. But tattoos are a lifetime commitment—and you can’t put a price tag on that. If you can’t afford the level of quality you want, wait until you can. The only thing less cool than having no tattoos is having a shitty tattoo. You can be a cheapskate in plenty of other areas to offset your tattoo cost. Smoke out of Chinese glass. Drink PBR instead of your snooty, dry-hopped IPA—and order it by the pitcher. Buy a PC instead of a Mac. Granted, none of these are the best life choices, but they’re temporary sacrifices, minor missteps that are far more manageable than a mark on your skin you’ll have to explain away for the rest of your life. Save the haggling for the swap meet. Save the money for your body.

Temp to Higher: Conscious Living Temporary Tattoos Lead to Permanent Transformation

Conscious Ink

Some people need a few words of encouragement about getting a tattoo. And some people can take a few words of encouragement from a tattoo. That’s what inspired Frank Gjata, a transformational coach for 15 years after leaving a career in advertising, to launch Conscious Ink, a line of temporary tattoos featuring positive words, inspiring quotes and healing affirmations.

Conscious Ink offers tattoos across genres that include healing, abundance and perseverance. Others are dedicated to parenthood, veganism, the Aloha spirit and the LGBTQ community. The tattoos are soy-based and made in the U.S. They last two to five days, depending where on the body they’re applied. Customers can pick and choose from about 500 messages, mantras and images. The messages are simple — phrases such as “Be brave,” “Expect miracles” and “Follow your bliss,” but their meanings powerful and profound.

“Healing and transformational tattoos are all about finding the right script, the right color and the right combination of words that really will connect with someone fighting personal challenges,” says Amanda Brown, who handles community relations for Conscious Ink.

Can a temporary tattoo make a permanent mark on our world? Leave a lasting impression on our disposition? Or even improve our health and healing ability? According to some, the influence of these positive messages can extend beyond the skin. Much research has been done on the mind/body connection. Louise L. Hay, best-selling author and a celebrated pioneer of the mind/body connection, has taught about the power of affirmations since the 70’s. In her best-selling book You Can Heal Your Life, she’s compiled a list of mental/emotional causes to various physical ailments and offers positive thought patterns to address disease at the root level to promote health and healing.

“We’re seeing a movement of consciousness,” Brown says. “There’s certainly something to be said for going to a professional tattoo artist with a specific idea and you ask them to draw it up and there’s a human connection right there — the artist is hearing your story and why you want that tattoo, and when they create that tattoo, it’s very special.”

Since being founded in 2009, Conscious Ink designs have found their way into hundreds of retail gift shops. Brown says a few tattoo shops have even started carrying them. A temporary tattoos will never replace the real thing, but they do have a couple of plusses. Putting one on the body can allow the wearer to experiment with placement. Another benefit of the temporary aspect is that you can change them as often as your mood, or as you shift from one intention to another.

“Oftentimes, the challenges people are trying to overcome and tones they ultimately want to leave in the past,” Brown says. “If you’re a young girl who’s going dealing with issues related to body image, for instance, it may not be something you want to remember for the rest of my life. But in those moments, at that stage of your life, you can benefit from these subtle reminders that help you not to go down that path of these old patterns of thought.”

CBD: Volume 2

CLICK HERE to read part 1 of this article

Before we get into this second installment of our series on THC’s more straight-laced younger brother, we should quickly tackle a related current event. As of press time, Carl’s Junior has just announced that they will be testing a new CBD-infused burger at their Denver location in the coming months. No, this is not The Onion (although, that would be delicious on the burger.) This is a real story, first reported by CNBC. Dubbed the “Rocky Mountain High: Cheesburger Delight,” the fast food chain’s foray into cannabis culture will feature two all-beef patties, pickled jalapenos, pepper jack cheese, waffle fries and their signature Santa Fe Sauce with a new twist: 5mg of CBD. And of course, the menu price is set at $4.20. We see what you did there, Carl’s Jr. (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

Granted, adding CBD to a burger from Carl’s Jr. is arguably as useful as dousing the bathroom with Axe Body Spray after passing a burger from Carl’s Jr. But what is important to gather from this is CBD isn’t just for your friends who decorate their houses with Grateful Dead tapestries anymore. It’s mainstream, and though it still may be legally ambiguous, it’s not going anywhere.

Let’s get back to the matter at hand. In our last installment, we concluded to a degree of relative certainty that CBD, when produced properly, has shown incredible efficacy in aiding the healing process of the skin. But not all CBD products are created equally and finding the companies who are doing it right can be as daunting as finding your girlfriend’s missing earring after a day at the beach. Luckily, we also have a publication for the cannabis space and naturally, have been following the topic for several years. Here’s what you need to know.

Is it Legal?

Mostly yes, but it’s complicated. Per the Agricultural Act of 2018, industrial hemp is now legal to grow in the U.S. Equally important was the Agricultural Act of 2014, which changed the definition of the plant itself from the previous designation of the flowerless plants grown for rope to any cannabis plant that is under 0.3% THC. That means that the medicine-rich flowering plants are now allowed, so long as they meet the aforementioned threshold. Moreover, Congress has made it clear through a recent amicus brief (1) that they specifically legalized hemp in part to allow experimentation with CBD products. However, the FDA isn’t yet on board and their memos on the topic complicate the situation dramatically. There is also the question of state and local statutes—and those are about as diverse as they can be and are changing every day. It’s important to do your homework and know the laws of your particular region. But you run a tattoo shop, so that’s really nothing new for you.

Whole plant is better.

When choosing your brand of CBD, whether oral or topical applications, never settle for anything less than full spectrum, otherwise known as a full plant extract. Skip past the stuff labeled “broad spectrum.” That’s just a marketing gimmick. Avoid isolates altogether. They’re basically useless. You don’t just want CBD; you want all the essential compounds of the plant, because they work best when they work together. This is commonly known as the “entourage effect.”

Basically, the compounds, both the terpenes and the cannabinoids, work together synergistically. Remove one compound, and you’ve diminished the effects of the others. This really applies to any plant with beneficial properties and is why you’re better off eating an orange than popping a Vitamin C capsule.

But don’t just trust the label. There are plenty of vultures who are wise to the terms and slap the “full spectrum” label on their product illegitimately, knowing there’s nobody policing them. Read reviews, talk to the company, and demand lab reports. Own the process.

Sourcing: plant type and geography.

Knowing where and how the source plant was cultivated is essential. Since we still can’t import the flowering portion of the plant, the best CBD products will be those made here in the U.S., under the umbrella of the Farm Bill. Even if it’s U.S. grown, though, you should still verify that the brand you’re carrying is utilizing flowering, medicinal hemp plants. Otherwise, they’re pulling trace amounts from the stalks and stems of hemp grown for rope, which requires copious amounts of toxic industrial solvents. That’s not how medicine is made.

FDA compliance.

Whether the FDA approves of CBD as food or medicine or not, any company worth a damn will still follow all guidelines for labeling and manufacturing. Can you verify that the product you carry was produced in a CGMP facility and tested in ISO 9000 labs? Does the label have a supplement panel? What claims is the company making? If the literature or labeling makes any drug claims (e.g., “cures cancer” or “relieves pain”), drop them like a bad habit. The FDA has very strict guidelines about what a company can and can’t say. If your brand can’t even follow those, it’s likely they’re cutting other corners too.

Special thanks to Stavros, founder and CEO of Hempzilla CBD, for taking the time to consult for this article, as well as allowing us to drill him on the practices of his company. His answers passed with flying colors and we look forward to taking a closer look at the products his company offers, especially their CBD-infused tattoo cream.

(1) Amicus Brief: No. 17-70162 Hemp Industry Association vs. Drug Enforcement Agency, P. 17