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Home workers: Homegrown Tattoos, Fact and Fiction

There are several unavoidable elements in the tattoo world, one of them being home workers.

With the explosive growth of both the popularity and availability of tattoos it’s logical that more and more people are going to try their hand at this age-old craft.

Personally, I believe that everyone who hears the call should have the freedom to do their best and give it a go. But, pay attention, I said DO THEIR BEST.


Look, let’s be honest. In the (good) old days, it was next to impossible to get started in the tattoo world. All that your favorite tattoo artist needed to hear was that you wanted to learn the art, and you were probably banned from his shop for life. At best, you could get a tip now and then.

So practically every tattooist began at home. Even heavyweights from Henk Schiffmacher to Tattoo ’Give-it-a-name’. Almost every renown tattoo artist began in a spare bedroom or almost-clean living room.

Having thrown this honesty bomb, allow me the freedom to throw a second bomb in it’s wake: Going to a home worker in this day and age is letting your wallet make your decisions and, more importantly, taking your life into your own hands. And this is why.

In 2006 the Health Department began with a mandatory licensing of all tattoo studios in Holland. Although this has nothing to do with the talent of how a tattoo is set, it does mean that every professional tattoo shop is inspected on the basis of hygiene and sterilization of inks, needles and general studio cleanliness. The exceptions to the rule are, you guessed it, home workers.

Home workers are seen as hobbyists who set tattoos in their free time on family and friends. Therefore, there is absolutely NO control of either their materials or work methods. Only they themselves know how many times their needles have been used, if the expiration date of their inks has long passed, hoe hygienic their working space is. In a time of HIV, hepatitis and other contagious diseases, this is very clearly a naïve mentality.

In light of the fierce competition in the tattoo scene and the costs of a license (which also means that a studio can stay up and running), most studios are going to do their best to comply with Health Department rules. They want a good, clean studio and ditto reputation. But if these rules are not applied, the tattoo lover must rely on the moral mentality of the tattooist.

Just as important is the knowledge, talent and experience of the tattooist. Part of this problem is ready availability of tattoo machines and materials via internet. To put it simply, every idiot that thinks it’s a cool idea being a tattooist can get their hands on these things. With too many times disastrous results.

On an average of at least ten times a month, people come in to Second Skin with the burning question of ’Can you make something out of this? It was set by a friend, acquaintance, buddy, etc.’ Sometimes these tattoo attempts are adequate, most times they are a nightmare. The result is often an incredibly ugly image, a traumatic experience for the person that’s had it done and sometimes even permanent skin damage.

My gripe with home workers is not only their inexperience, but also their nonchalant attitude about putting something on someone else’s body for the rest of their lives. How can someone claim to be a craftsman and then permanently ruin what someone had hoped would be beautiful?

Good tattoos are not cheap. While at the same time, a good tattoo shouldn’t mean taking out a bank loan, it’s true that studios have higher costs than home workers, so they’re going to be more expensive. Maybe it’s a good idea to save awhile for your tattoo. Perhaps your tattoo can be set in stages at an hourly rate or pay-as-you-go system.

Just remember that all you want is a clean, beautiful tattoo, no more, no less.

Ashton