Pimp Your Presence

How do I get into Pain Magazine? It’s the question we hear more than any other.

Each month, we receive thousands of submissions from the tattoo and piercing community. Our staff spends hours pouring over these submissions, and we’re always amazed at the quality of the work —- its kind of a dream job, don’t you think? Ultimately, we go for amazing images, unique artwork and techniques, and an air of professionalism and commitment to the craft.

The magazine you received in your mailbox today took a great deal of planning and preparation — that’s one of the reasons that we’re typically working two months ahead. In each issue you’ll find a variety of regular features such as Shop of the Month, tattoo show coverage, and up-to-date information on regulations, health and safety issues, new product showcases and articles to help you operate a more successful business and market yourself to the ever expanding tattoo and piercing community.

Unfortunately, as much as we’d like to, we can’t include everything we receive — there are only so many pages in the magazine. Our art department has so many individual submissions on file that there can be as much as a two-year wait before you see your work in the magazine.

Because we receive such a high volume of submissions, we’ve decided to offer an opportunity to artists and shops who can’t wait to get into the magazine. Pain’s Favorite’s is a new section where you can showcase your work —- yes, at price: $300 for a full page which includes up to 12 images, a bio, and of course your contact information. Our art department will even work their magic to create a killer layout.

Pain magazine has established itself as a must-read for professional tattoo artists, piercers and other body modification professionals. The print magazine has a monthly circulation of approximately 10,000. That might not sound like a lot until you considerer that each month the magazine is mailed to more than 9,000 tattoo and piercing studios across the United States, and another thousand delivered throughout Canada. You can’t just pick up Pain at the corner newsstand —- our readership of over 36,000, and those are professional artists and business owners like you. People who are dedicated to furthering their craft and advancing the industry.

So for three meager Benjamins — about the cost of one tattoo — your work is reaching the entire tattoo and piercing community. Think of it as your big chance to brag. We’ll send you some extra copies of the magazine so you can display it in your waiting area or frame up your feature and hang it in your work station. You can even send one to Mom! Being seen by other artists and shops outside your local area is also an excellent opportunity to promote your availability for guest spots.

But wait there’s more! For the low, low price of $50, you can jump on the Pain Magazine online presence. The new digital media package includes five social media posts, and an Artist Showcase on the main website with a bio, up to 10 images and a live links to direct people to your shop page and social media accounts.

The Pain website (painmag.com) features a virtual version of the current month’s magazine, as well as an archive of past issues and expanded content that’s only viewable on the web. Unlike the print magazine, which has a dedicated readership, Pain online reaches everyone — okay, so we might not be seen by every single one of the estimated 7.6 billion people who are online every day, but we get our fair share. More than 60 THOUSAND tattoo and piercing artists and enthusiasts visit the Pain website each month. Add to that Pain’s Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest pages, which are updated daily with news, photos and contests, and have combined more than 15,000 followers.

As you know — without traffic, your own website is little more than an old-school phonebook ad. Being featured on Pain’s website and social media feeds will amplify your reach and drive targeted visitors your way. You never know where online promotion can lead — new clients, invitations to participate in shows or expos, even commissions that utilize your other artistic talents.

Pain Magazine is the go-to resource for the tattoo and piercing community. Let us help you pimp your presence and grow it with passion. The connections are exponential, the possibilities endless.

For more information, contact Jennifer Orellana, Account Executive.
(505) 332-3003.

Capture and Release: Pro Tattoo Photos on an Amateur Budget

Imagine this: To cut costs, your favorite band has decided to forgo the studio time and instead, record their new album with an old tape recorder on the floor of their practice space (or, just consider Metallica’s St. Anger.) They probably wouldn’t be your favorite band anymore, to say the least.

Agree? Of course, you do. So then, why would you promote your artwork with subpar photography? Word of mouth is great—essential, even—but your portfolio is still your best salesman, and your portfolio isn’t selling shit if it’s full of low-res, half-assed, cell phone snaps. It’s time to step up your game. Here’s how . . .

Going Pro: Using a Real Camera.

In a perfect world, every shop would have a solid DSLR camera and a dedicated photography space. Yes, cameras aren’t cheap, but why settle? You’re photographing art. Your art. As in, the visual creations that fund your livelihood. There’s really no reason not to cough up the scratch for a halfway decent machine to do so. Don’t worry; it won’t cost you an arm and a leg, at least not by tattoo standards. You’re looking at less than an arm’s worth of work. For an idea of what’s available, just Google “Best camera for under $1,000.” There are plenty of options out there.

The Camera

There’s a learning curve when using a DSLR, but it’s worth the time. Whatever camera you buy, there’ll be more buttons, switches and dials than you can shake your needle at. Don’t worry about all of that. Just set it to Manual and adjust as necessary. There are three settings you need to worry about, known as the “Exposure Triangle”:

Aperture. Put very simply, if the lens were your eyeball, the aperture setting would be the degree to which your eyelids are open. Aperture affects light sensitivity, but more importantly, depth of field, meaning how much of your shot is in focus. A wide aperture means only your subject is in focus, while a narrow aperture increases the depth of field and brings the background into focus as well. For your purposes, wide is better. You want 100% focus on your subjects, not what’s behind them.

Shutter speed. The higher the shutter speed, the better the camera can capture movement, but the less light it can take in. A high shutter speed works best in outdoor scenarios. If you’re shooting at high speed inside, you’re going to be using flash, which means a gnarly glare on your work, which means a crappy photo. The other side of it, though, is at a low speed, even the slightest flick of your wrist will cause a blur. But you’re a tattoo artist, so you have steady hands. Otherwise, spring for a tripod.

ISO. ISO measures light sensitivity. The higher the ISO setting, the brighter your picture. Again, though, there’s a rub. Set your ISO too high and you end up with a grainy photo, AKA ‘noise.’ That’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid here.

The key here is to learn to walk the tightrope, so to speak, to balance perfectly atop the tip of the figurative triangle these three setting create. The balance is tricky because these settings are simultaneously complimentary and detractory. Set one too high or two low and you must readjust the other, and so forth. Find the sweet spot. Every scenario is different and requires a different configuration, but you can minimize the toggling and fumbling by creating a controlled environment. Hence, our suggestion for a dedicated photography space.

The Space

Before proceeding, let’s address one obvious fact: The best photos are taken using sunlight. If you can’t spare the square footage for a dedicated space in your studio, this is your best option. Just make sure the sun is never behind your subject, use a bit of shade for better light diffusion, and try to find a solid, consistent backdrop. However, there’s very little control of an outdoor environment. You’re at the mercy of Mother Nature. An indoor space with consistent lighting is far more efficient. With that in mind, there are two main considerations:

Lighting. For a quick refresher on the best lighting for tattoos, grab your copy of our previous issue. That should get you up to speed. Basically, just like when you’re putting needle to flesh, you want to illuminate the work while minimizing shadows. Diffuse. Diffuse. Diffuse. There are multiple ways to achieve this. Be creative. Here’s one idea: Get two white sheets and hang them perpendicular to the wall, leaving just enough space between them to comfortably fit your subject. Point high-output lamps on the outside of both sheets to create consistent, diffused light to illuminate your subject. Basically, create a human-sized lightbox. If you can rig up something to get diffused light from the top as well, even better. A simple Googling of the concept will get the creative juices flowing. You’ll just have to figure out how to make it work in your space (hint: make it as collapsible as possible—maybe curtain rods so you can slide the sheets back?).

Backdrop. Whatever you do to achieve that perfectly diffused lighting, you’ll need a consistent backdrop for every shot. Solid colors are ideal, although, a brick wall can create a pretty cool vibe too. Planning to do some work in Photoshop? Consider the classic “green screen” background. Ultimately, a backdrop is as simple as hanging a sheet on the wall. Just make sure it goes down to the floor, so you can grab those foot tattoos as easily as a chest piece.

The iPhone: Everyone’s Favorite Shortcut.

As great as all these ideas are, most of you will probably stick with the lens affixed to the back of your iPhone. It’s understandable. For one, you’re already managing an Instagram account. Why not kill two birds? Besides, your phone’s always in your pocket, it’s easy to use, and every year, the folks at Apple use their black magic wizardry to get a little closer to making the standalone camera obsolete. The same basically goes for the Samsung Galaxy.

“But I have a Blackberry.” OK. Don’t you have some new tribal work you need to post on Myspace? Please go.
Ok, now that we’ve gotten rid of that guy, here are a few pointers.

Activate HDR. The HDR setting on the iPhone is basically how you switch the camera app from Bruce Wayne to Batman. Far more color, Far more detail, and far fewer crappy shots to delete later. It’s almost cheating.

Remember: Light is still important. Even with the magic of the iPhone, you still want properly diffused light to achieve clarity and avoid glares and shadows. Refer to the paragraphs above.

Use the ‘White Paper Method.’ The iPhone software works referentially, meaning, the color you capture is relative to the truest white in the shot. A stark, white background can really make the colors pop. When shooting a smaller piece, especially on the arm, it’s as easy as sliding a sheet of printer paper into the background.

Tweak. There’s nothing wrong with adjusting a photo in post to get it closer to what your eye perceives, and the iPhone has plenty of options here. When you’re looking at a photo, just hit the ‘Dial’ button at the bottom of the screen and tweak away. The three most useful tools are contrast, saturation and brightness. You’re welcome.

Maintain original resolution. Don’t let the Mail app shrink your pic. Always select original size to ensure the highest resolutions possible.

A Few Other Odds and Ends.

Whatever your setup, there are a handful basic rules you should always keep in mind.

Don’t photograph a tattoo the same day you finish it. No one wants to look at puffy, red, bloody skin. For the best result, get your customer to come back in a day or two. You still want it to look fresh, though, so don’t wait longer than that.

Shoot with print resolution in mind. Anyone can post their photos online. Getting them in a magazine is a different thing altogether. But print has an entirely different set of requirements than digital. The minimum resolution for print is 150dpi; ideal, 300dpi. If you can make sure your shots are in CMYK, even better.

Take as many photos as you can. Always take multiple shots and increase your odds of achieving perfection.
Learn Photoshop and Lightroom. There’s really no substitute. For visual artists of any kind, the two programs are practically a necessity. Subscribe to the programs and learn the basics at the very least.

Words by David Pogge, Staff Writer, PAIN Magazine
Co-authored by Brett Herman of Hidden Tattoo Los Angeles

Shedding a Little Light on the Subject: a Conversation About Studio Lighting

Light. According to the Judeao-Christian tradition, it was the first step in the creative process of the Divine. According to science, it’s the primary requisite for the existence of life. But let’s scale this discussion down to something useful. Light is literally the medium by which we both produce and consume visual art, and the type of light we use has a direct effect on how we perceive that art. In any other genre, this is universally acknowledged and regularly discussed. However, aside from a few amateur YouTube productions, the topic is hardly addressed in the realm of tattoos.

From these thoughts, we can reach two conclusions with relative certainty. First and foremost, this subject needs a hell of a lot more coverage. Second, prior to creation, the Christian God apparently wasn’t much of a reader. But let’s not digress. The point of this article is to start a conversation on proper studio lighting, not spark a debate on the accuracy of religious texts.

First, a word about natural sunlight: You want as much of it as possible. As far as lighting goes, it’s the healthiest, most inviting, and obviously, the most economical, at least until they manage to privatize the Sun. If you have big storefront windows, consider pulling up those blinds. However, your business doesn’t close at dusk, so continue reading.

Let’s get into overhead lighting. If you get nothing else from this article, remember this: fluorescent lights are evil. Seriously. Granted, they have their advantages. They’re cheap. They’re easy to install. Hell, they even last 13 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. But in the art world, they are the literal, glowing excrement of the entrails of Beelezebub. The light they emit is cold and unflattering. Plus, they pulsate to create an agitating strobe effect. It might be too fast for the naked eye, but the subconscious absorbs it and the nerves subsequently unravel. Plus, a million other reasons. Google it. Leave the mercury-filled tubes to the vast, corporate caverns and their soul-sucking cubicles. Go LED. It costs a bit more up front, but the long-term benefits are more than worth it. If you go with standard bulbs, make sure they’re at least full-spectrum.

Next, let’s talk about individual station lighting. There are multiple options here, but the most common are lamps that are easily movable. Again, don’t settle for crappy fluorescent or incandescent bulbs. Go LED. They’re energy efficient, well-diffused and don’t overheat. To easily illuminate any area of the body and eliminate shadows, you want to go for a lamp with a flexible neck.

One of the most widely trusted brands in the tattoo world is Ottlite, the long-standing king of craft lamps. However, proceed with caution. There have been recent complaints that the latest models have suffered a dip in the quality that made them famous. There’s the issue of the stability of the lamps’ bases, but more disturbing was a complaint of cheaply constructed wiring that quickly frayed and once even caused a fuse blowout in a shop. These complaints could be the exception rather than the rule though, so don’t rule them out; just be cautious. A promising, albeit more expensive alternative is Glamcor. They have an impressive array of LED lamps that seem to be made almost specifically for tattooing with touch-dimming technology and a guarantee of photographic perfection. Check out the unit with the dual adjustable heads; it all but eliminates pesky shadows.

If your stations have mirrors, consider framing them with linear, mountable LED lamps on either side. The result is a beautifully illuminated, shadow-free workplace. If you really want to go all out on the concept, you could spring for Glamcor’s vanity mirrors with built-in LEDs, but plan on eating ramen for a while if you do; one of them will probably cost your more than your mortgage payment.

As great as the above suggestions are, though, sometimes you still need a little more precision. Or, maybe sometimes you just don’t have the extra scratch to spring for yet another lamp, especially at Glamcor’s rates. In those cases, there’s always the LED headlamp. Given, they may look a little goofy and will probably ruin your precious ‘do, these headlamps are affordable, practical and always point exactly where you look. A solid choice is the Coast HL4. Pumping out a solid 144 lumens, the HL4 is plenty bright for any situation and nicely balanced with a top strap and a separate battery pack mounted in the back, which practically eliminates the risk of having the lamp slide off your dome mid-session.

Got more ideas for quality lighting? This conversation is only the beginning. Hit us on Twitter, Instagram or the FaceSpace and toss us your bright idea (bad pun intended.)

Thanks to the following for their input:

Josh ‘Bacon’ Erickson
Divine Moments Tattoo
Portland, Oregon

Brett Herman
Hidden Los Angeles Tattoo
Los Angeles, California

Beth Swilling,
Mom’s Custom Tattoo
Spokane, Washington

Bright Ideas: Help your clients keep the summertime blues (and yellows, greens and reds)

Summertime can be a double-edged sword where tattoos are concerned. On the one hand, warm weather is time to show some skin and flaunt that beautiful artwork. At the same time, exposure to the sun can have disastrous results on the longevity of a tattoo, and recreational activities like swimming and camping that involve water, dirt (and germs), can wreak havoc on the healing process for a new tattoo.

As a professional tattoo artist you should already know the risks. The biggest hurdle you face when a client leaves your studio is that here’s no way to guarantee how they’re going to take care of their tattoo. The best you can do is to stress the importance of following aftercare directions to make sure new ink heals correctly and beyond that, keeping it out of the sun, or at least protecting it with sunscreen.

Above all, don’t tell them what they want to hear. Give them what your professional recommendation — your work is a reflection of you as an artist, and you want it to heal properly. If it heals poorly because the client went in the water or stayed out in the sun too long, it’s ultimately your reputation that’s at stake.

Dry Up

There is a big difference between getting a new tattoo damp (during a shower) and taking a dip in a lake or ocean, and especially hot tubs and swimming pools treated with chlorine and other chemicals. Most tattoos are bulletproof after two weeks, but during the initial healing process the body’s natural immune defenses around the wound are impaired, and this increases the risk of infection. If you want to use a scared straight tactic to keep your clients out of the water, tell them about the Texas man who got a calf tattoo five days before swimming in the Gulf of Mexico where vibrio vulnificus bacteria can be found in high levels during the summer months. He went into septic shock and died a few weeks later. True story – look it up.

Made in the Shade

Tattoos – especially fresh ones, can fade in a fairly short period of time from direct sunlight. Tattoo ink is transparent, much like watercolor paint, and even just getting a tan can reveal the new skin color underneath. It’s possible to actually change the hue of the pigment as well. Kevin Read, of Sacred Art Tattoo, in Waikiki, has seen the effects first-hand where “yellows appear brown and whites can look like scar tissue.”

The best way to limit sun exposure is to wear clothing that covers the tattoo. Beyond that, use an effective protectant, like H2Ocean SPF 45 Sea Life Sunscreen, which is specially formulated with tattoos in mind. Not only is it hypoallergenic, oil free and sweat resistant up to 50 minutes, but it’s formulated with Clear Zinc Oxide which mean you’re not putting a layer of film over the tattoo that will dilute the colors as you would with other creams and lotions.

Keep it Clean

D-Lize Pro is another protective aftercare product available from H2Ocean. The thin self-adhesive sheets provides a waterproof, anti-bacterial barrier that prevents contaminants from getting into the wound. Because the film is flexible and breathable, it’s a perfect compliment to outdoors fun.

Honey, I Shrunk the Studio

Big Ideas for Tiny Spaces

Steve Villines wants to make your business tiny.

It’s not what it sounds like. In fact, in many ways, it’s just the opposite, but simultaneously, it couldn’t be more literal. OK, let’s explain. After four decades in high-end general contracting, Steve has switched to building tiny homes and he’s begun to see the concept’s potential in business applications, especially in such boutique genres as tattoo studios. He might be onto something.

Once written off as a passing trend for millennials trying to ‘out-hipster’ each other, the tiny homes movement has become a lasting and impactful accent of the modern zeitgeist. Even for the clear majority of us who haven’t stepped up and scaled down, the mere introduction of the concept has inspired us to rethink our norms and culturally manufactured ideas of what we really need and how we consume. For many, the movement’s existence has created a notion of hope, an opportunity on the horizon for real freedom; freedom from debt, freedom from clutter, and ultimately, freedom from ‘the grid.’ For a brave few, it’s been a full actualization of that hope.

But can all those warm fuzzies of neo-hippie ideals really transfer into the context of a functional business? Why would you even want to run your studio out of a space that’s roughly the size of your competition’s storage closet?

Well, why not? If the tiny home movement has taught us anything it’s that excess space is overrated. It’s just more air to heat or cool, more dusty corners your apprentice has to clean, and more square footage to drive up your rent. And if you own, don’t even get us started on property taxes. Given, if you’re packing in the chairs and expanding your staff, you’ll probably want to stick with your storefront. But if you’re keeping it lean, if you prefer to fly solo, or if mobility is a must, ‘tiny’ might be your ticket.

We’re not talking about a half-assed home-built RV here. Steve may be cutting down on unused space, energy consumption, and overhead, but he’s not cutting corners.

“I build a high quality tiny home made out of steel frame construction,” Steve asserts confidently. “My homes are built to last. A LONG time. The tiny homes I build are better quality than any RV on the market. RVs are pretty shoddily built, really. The unique thing about tiny homes compared to an RV is that tiny homes are actually built for long-term use. RVs are only intended to be weekend getaways, but people are often living in them full time.”

But while durability is crucial, it’s only the starting point. The real appeal of these limited spaces are the limitless possibilities, all while adhering to any and all health regulations.

“We can basically customize everything to the individual needs of each and every artist . . . We can get all kinds of different finishes from mica countertops to quartz to whatever a person is looking for. It’s a blank slate. That’s what our company is geared to do, to sit down with each artist and figure out what they’re looking for while staying within their budget. Most of the units will start at $50,000 and go up from there, depending on what they’re looking for. But that’s a fully outfitted unit in the sense of dump tanks, water tanks, filtration—all the equipment that they’ll need to pass the applicable codes.”

It’s hard to not let the imagination run wild with the potential. Planning a tour? Don’t worry about booking chair time; just bring your own. Looking to expand your reach? Bring your studio to the people; show up fully equipped to festivals, conventions, state fairs, even Phish lots. Seriously, imagine rolling up with a fully functional tattoo parlor at Coachella or Burning Man. Actually, probably not Burning Man, (unless you want to trade your work for a dream catcher made from aluminum foil and discarded hair scraps), but definitely Coachella. With a tiny tattoo parlor, your business is no longer an anchor. It’s a vehicle. Granted, one that has to be pulled by another vehicle, but you get the idea.

Each tiny tattoo parlor can be built out to include a small waiting area and up to two stations. Though the units are small, the meticulously designed floor plans will eliminate any possible sensation of confinement. And if we haven’t emphasized it enough, they are INSANELY energy efficient. Do it right, and you could cut your overhead in half or more.

Thus far, the concept is merely that—a concept. Steve has what it takes to create what we’ve described, no question, but he’s waiting for that visionary willing to shed their brick and mortar skin and become a pioneer in the wave of the future. Could that be you?


Becky Taylor of Idaho Vyxen tattoos

Idaho Vyxen tattoos
144 w 13th St. Burley idaho 83318

Phone: 208-219-4597 (my cell #)

My name is Becky Taylor. I was born in Brawely California and was raised in Calipatria California. My parents are Connie and Alex Nava. I was one of five siblings. I grew up with a very traditional Mexican house hold but I am also a Portuguese African and European descent. I never fit in with any crowd. I was always a lone wolf always trying to fit in but never could. So my outlet was art. I joined several art competitions in the community and always won them so I finally found somewhere I could fit in. My parents always encouraged me one hundred percent. In 1993 I moved to Tulare County. I once again struggled to fit in and never seemed to be able to. Until my high school gave me information about a graphic design tech center while I was still in high school. I immediately jumped at the opportunity and enrolled in tcove, a tech center to study the art of graphic design and I loved it. It didn’t fulfill my artistic desire for hands on art. In 1999 I decided to move to Burley Idaho to live near my mother who had since married and moved to Burley Idaho. I had never been in such a slow pasted environment . Meaning I was used to living the city life. I was employed at many jobs from management to cna work and with a small town like Burley Idaho there weren’t many graphic design jobs available. My desire for art was left unfulfilled. In 2008 I lost my sons father Alex. I realized then that life was short and I needed to pursue things in my life that made me happy. While searching for what would make me happy my mother had a talk with me one day while visiting me at my home and told me that she felt I was very talented and that I was wasting my talent and that I needed to do something with my art. And suggested that I get into tattooing. She felt that I would be an amazing tattoo artist one day. So I searched for an apprenticeship in Idaho in 2010. I eventually found an apprenticeship and decided that tattooing was going to be my future. I fell in love with it. Tattooing satisfied my desire for hands on art and it made me so happy. So I knew this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I struggled in the beginning but I was persistent but I never gave up despite so many critical remarks and hateful comments thrown at me in my community. Despite the hateful comments in my community I had a handful of supportive and positive people. Those people kept me going and they are the reason I never gave up. Eventually with enough education and research I started developing and becoming better and better at my craft. I started gaining more and more support from my clients and people in the community. I eventually opened my own tattoo shop Idaho Vyxen Tattoos in Burley Idaho and we have been a successful and thriving business. My mom was able to see me open my first tattoo shop but unfortunately passed away in 2014 from cancer. After she passed away I decided I was going to fulfill the dreams my mom had for me as a tattoo artist. I worked harder and harder everyday and I went to school to learn permanent makeup as well so that I could help cancer survivors with areaola color correction and helped with mastectomy scars with Micro needling scar management. None of this would have been possible without the support of my husband and my four children. They are my cheerleaders, my biggest fans, the reason I push myself to become a better artist. I believe my California upbringing mixed with my Idaho culture make me a more diverse artist. I’m inspired by faces by human emotion. Human emotion inspires my art. I’m also inspired by survivors. The blind, domestic violence, and cancer survivors. In 2009 I fought my biggest obstacle in life. I lost my sight. I had retina detachment and lost my sight in both eyes. There was a chance I would not regain my sight with the surgery. After 3 months I regained some sight. After 6 months I was given a pair of glasses and was able to see for the first time after many months of little to no sight. I decided from that point on that i would never take my sight for granted and tattoo as long as god would allow. Now I’m at a point in my carrier where I’m finally happy with where I’m at artistically and I encourage any artist or any person with challenges or struggles to never give up, to take all criticism and use it to fuel your inner most dreams. I also encourage children especially to not let your diagnoses define you. I also have a son with autism and me and my children never treated him different we encouraged him and supported him and he is doing amazingly well. 100% med free and is in public school. Throughout my life I had obstacles struggles and many different situations that could have stopped me from doing what I love as a tattoo artist. But I never gave up and I never let them see me sweat. And I learned that all human beings should do what they love in life and encourage each other. And that’s the way I’ll always live my life

Detroit Black Tattoo, Art and Music Expo


“I don’t want the dark canvases. They take away half your skill set.”

You’d expect a little more of the proverbial throat-clearing when a contestant on a nationally televised program dismisses an entire swath of the population based on their skin color. Yet, this comment, specifically singling out people of color and portraying them as somehow undesirable, aired on Spike’s Ink Master with barely a blink from the viewing public.

Perhaps, the use of the word, “canvas,” to refer to an actual person helped to create the disconnect needed to make the comment more palatable. That’s not a wild suggestion. Just try reading the opening quote, but instead of “canvases,” say “people.” It falls off the tongue a bit more awkwardly, doesn’t it?

Be that as it may, this general attitude has become pervasive in tattoo culture. A trade, the roots of which can be traced back almost exclusively to people of color has become one that all but excludes them.

But before you get your Clorox-treated undergarments in a twist, understand this: No one is crying racism, at least not within these pages. What is being suggested, however, is that maybe, in our evermore inclusive society, an artist who openly concedes that he struggles with the challenges of pigmented skin shouldn’t be considered a “master.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by both Mike Burnett and Jason Phillips, and it’s their primary impetus for starting the Detroit Black Tattoo, Art and Music Expo, AKA, BTAME, a convention in the old Motor City that will be celebrating its third year running this July.

“If you’re a master, you should be able to work on all types of skin,” Jason states unapologetically. Mike chimes in next.

“But are those shows created to truly look for the masters or are they created for the masses? Are we really looking for Ink Masters? Someone who is truly skilled in that field? Or are we looking for someone who is marketable on television?”

There is no anger in their voices. In fact, as we wade through the nuances of the topic, the most prominent sounds are laughter. They make it clear that theirs is not a closed fist, but an open hand.

“We’re not omitting anybody,” Jason clarifies “. . . If you are any race and you have experience working on black skin, you’re welcome here. It’s not just for black artists.

“In fact,” he later adds, “most of our attendees aren’t black.”

This is the point where one could imagine the knee-jerk reaction from white America, namely the talking heads in conservative media who perpetuate the narrative of a white culture under attack (cue Hannity): “Why does it have to be black?”

“It’s the black conservatives too,” Mike cuts in, correcting this writer’s assumptions. “Don’t just think it’s one side of the fence. That’s why we don’t play the race game in this . . . When we use the term, ‘Black,’ that term does something to people, period. It shakes people. It wakes you up. It makes you pay attention . . . So, a lot of folks, when we first started, were asking us the question, ‘Why black?’ And we were like, ‘Why not?’”

If it wasn’t already made clear, however, BTAME wasn’t formed in reactionary mode, nor was it intended to be a rebuke. It’s an outreach, a reminder to the world that art is beautiful, and that art can be applied to skin of any shade with the right techniques. As a person of color himself and the owner and primary artist at the Detroit Ink Spot, Jason has those techniques on lockdown.

“Nine times out of ten, from my experience, you get fewer passes on melinated skin. The darker the skin, normally the more sensitive it is, so you can’t do more than five or six passes before you blow it out. It’s just a little more delicate. . . I like to stick with hot colors . . . you know, your red, your oranges, your purples . . . If you print that, I want a cut.” He laughs as he finishes off his thoughts and Mike joins in.

“That’s off the record. OFF the record!” His contagious laughter peaks as he blurts out the words.

For anymore insight than what’s been given, you’ll have to come out to Detroit the 21st and 22nd of this upcoming July and experience the expo for yourself. But don’t just expect tattoos. Expect fine art. Expect amazing music. Expect an eye-opening experience that will leave you picking the gravel out of your jaw after it’s hit the ground.

But with upwards of 15,000 attendees reported last year and more expected this round, Mike and Jason need more than just more feet on the floor. They need partners. As the newest kids on the expo block, they’ve had to face the hard reality that most of their potential sponsors are already tied up in exclusivity agreements with other shows. If you’re doing business in this space and want to expand your brand, consider this an invitation, no matter your skin color.

“We welcome any supplier that wants to come on board,” Mike says in closing. Jason repeats for emphasis.

“Any business. Any supplier.”

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You CAN Fight City Hall

You have the right to earn an honest living, free from arbitrary, burdensome and protectionist regulation. We call this “economic liberty.” This civil right is protected by the United State’s Constitution. Do not let the government tell you otherwise. – “Entrepreneur’s Survival Guide,” Institute for Justice

If you’re playing hoops or inking a sleeve, being in the zone is good thing. If you’re in a business looking to settle in a neighborhood with restrictions, not so much.

Plainly put, commercial zoning laws control the type of activities a business can conduct in a specific area and the category of business that can occupy the zoned area. Zoning provides the standards and regulations that apply to land and structures, and helps a communities to function properly. It may deal with parking allocation, building occupancy, signage, even health and safety. Many of these ordinances have evolved over a great deal of time, and are often very complex in nature.

It’s common to hear about alternative businesses, like tattoo studios, that have been restricted from setting up shop in one part of town, or even on a specific street or business district. Often, the reasons cited are a result of misperceptions about the nature of the business. A perfect example is a Tennessee tattoo parlor recently forced to redraw its plans due to a law that blindly labeled the business “adult entertainment.”

So, what are you supposed to do if you’ve found the perfect spot for your new business, but have been told no-go? Before you simply give in and reluctantly relocate to location that may or may not be as beneficial to your future success, you might want to take it up with city hall.

If a business wants to do something that is not in conformity with the zoning code, whether it relates to the specific type of business, remodeling the existing space, signage, etc,. it can apply for a variance. This is a permitted exception to the general rules set forth in the zoning law. To get the desired exception, you’ll need to present your case to the zoning board of appeals.

The big guy does not always get his way – and you’ll find that the people who makes decisions are not out to get you, but rather are concerned citizens doing what’s best for all involved. As a business owner, you will have the opportunity to argue your side and members of the public can voice their opinions as well. In the end, what counts is who has the most articulate, reasonable, competent evidence, and whose presentation is most persuasive.

Dispel the Myths

Help decision makers understand the reality of your business and eliminate any out-dated impressions. Present licenses you’ve attained and awards that you’ve earned to show your commitment to bring a a legitimate part of the business community. If your clients include local law enforcement, health care workers, and other adult professionals have them on your side to help sway opinions.

Get Support

Strong support from the business community may help win over zoning and planning officials. If others can advocate the potential benefit to the community, it may be easier to generate backing for your business. Seek support from trade associations, the chamber of commerce, and a business development office in the community. This is a good opportunity to have community members and other nearby businesses offer support through a written petition. It is also effective to ward off any criticism before the hearing by reaching an agreement with those who may object to your business moving in.

It might be hard to win a fight against city hall, but with preparedness, professionalism and persistence, you’ll have a good chance of getting them to bend the rules in your favor.