|Action||General Review 2017 | Tattoo and Body-Piercing|
|Comment Period||Ends 9/20/2019|
response to newly proposed tattoo legislation
I believe that I can speak for some, if not most professional tattooers and shop owners in virginia, in saying that I think these new proposed regulations are a step backwards.
Although it may not seem so to you, we are a group of motivated and driven individuals, who have worked our way through many an obstacle, to get where we are in our careers, and more than that, we are very self governing and self regulating.
The common sense rules of tattooing, technical and artistic advancements, universal precautions, and aseptic technique have been handed down for generations. We don’t need to be micromanaged, in the process of our process. We don’t need our lives and livelihood complicated with more rules and laws to follow. We don’t really need to know what the DPOR, DOLI, or the commonwealth of virginia thinks of what we do, or how we do. It’s the DPOR, DOLI, and the commonwealth of virginia that really needs to know our perspective on the way things are, or should be.
With all that said, I am sure that we all understand that there must be laws and rules and regulations to abide by, as nobody really wants for a lawless society. Nor are we looking for a situation in which we can do whatever we want to do, however we want to do it. As that would lead to chaos and anarchy, the compromise of public health and safety, and tattoo studios who are not operating properly, to getting away with unsafe standards of operation, and sub par quality tattooing (which is actually happening anyway). Without proper enforcement of DPOR regulations, and better communications with local health department and police, the rules and guidelines of our industry only apply to those who are correctly licensed...and that doesn’t do anyone any good.
What we need here is an actual middle ground, where the information exchanged between the DPOR and our elected upstanding professionals in the community, are validated and taken into real consideration. We want to work with you, we need to work with you, and I do believe that you want and need to work with us, so that we can land on compromise, everyone is satisfied, and the public remains safe...while our ways of being aren’t hampered, and our livelihoods aren’t affected.
Our concerns lie in all of the procedure that is required to obtain proper licensing, yet there are still people tattooing out of their houses, or in a shop where tattooers aren’t actually properly licensed. We also have issue with complicating the process to obtain a temporary tattooer license, instead of simplifying it. We have major concern that “tattoo schools” are not held to the same guidelines and expectations that mentors are. And finally, we’d really really like to have a set of forms that actually work online, and a customer service oriented staff at the DPOR call center, who are knowledgeable and helpful when we call...as opposed to sometimes rude, inconsiderate, and inconsistent in their answers as to what it is that we are supposed to do, in order to become legal licensed tattooers, stay current, or obtain temporary tattooer permits.
1...we all know of a handful of people tattooing out of their homes, yet nothing is done about it. This is an age old problem, as we have to be licensed, but there are so many people getting away with this, that we have to question why it is that we bother doing the right thing. Not only that, but, I’m sure we all know of many “professional” tattoo studios, operating with one or more people tattooing inside of them, who aren’t properly licensed. In fact, I know of one who had an “apprentice” for quite some time, where nobody in the shop was even a licensed tattooer.
2...the proposed regulation for a guest tattooer license and a convention tattooer license further complicates an already complicated process. We need one license, 2-4 weeks at a time, up to 3 or 4 times a year, where an out of state tattooer can go to as many shops or conventions as they please. Once they are licensed through the DPOR, there should be no need for an itinerary that shops need to sign off on (before submitting the application), just a list of places the tattooer is intending to go to...and then phone calls from a representative of the DPOR, to confirm that they will be where they say they’re going to be, when they are saying that they’re going to be there. Furthermore, all out of state certifications in first aid, cpr, and bbp should be accepted, regardless of whether or not they meet the same exact standards that we must abide by as residents of Virginia. There’s really no reason to split hairs on this issue, online training is just as good as in person training, and people shouldn’t be limited by what their home states require. Lastly on this point, nothing has been said about shortening the lead time it takes to process an out of state license application. We are looking for 2 weeks, instead of a minimum of 30 days.
3...Tattoo schools are something that most reputable tattooers and tattoo studios don’t agree with, but, we are resolved to an understanding that they exist, and will continue to operate. Many of us would never hire someone who was taught at a tattoo school, and that is our last line of defense. But, we are all in agreement that tattoo schools should be held to the same curriculum, guidelines, hours spent, and amount of students that one instructor should have. One teacher or mentor, a maximum of two students or apprentices each, 1500 documented hours, fair and balanced.
4...the DPOR website situation where forms aren’t available online has been in a state of disrepair for far too long. It’s nearly 2020, and the process of online applications and paying for things as such, is a globally streamlined operation. We should be able to find a form online easily, download it, print it out, fill it out, and email it back without any issue. Your email servers should be secure, so that we can send back credit card information without worry. Beyond that bare minimum, there should be an option to just fill the form out online, and pay for our licenses without emailing or snail mailing anything. Furthermore, license specialists should have consistent answers when people call to get information or apply for whatever license they need...there should be no confusion as to what an individual is supposed to do, depending on what time they call, or who they talk to.
Also, I suggest that everyone who has a valid tattooer, piercer, permanent cosmetics, or studio license get direct email notifications when proposed new legislation is going through its process. If we are licensed, you should have our email addresses, and it would just require a mass email to all of us, with links to what we need to know. I have to assume that not many are linked up to the online town hall site, so most don’t know what’s going on with the DPOR, despite our best efforts to keep everyone informed.
Lastly, I again officially request a specific board of tattooers, piercers, and permanent cosmetic tattooists. One person representing all three of us, among 11 cosmetologist, isn’t a fair and balanced way to take everyone’s everything into consideration, when creating new legislation. This request has nothing to do with representative Gilda and the job she is doing. Rather, there are 11 other people on that board that don’t have anything to do with tattooing, piercing, or permanent cosmetics. I would suggest that there be a board specific to us, with 3 or more representatives each for tattooing, piercing, permanent cosmetics, and even tattoo schools...so that we can all be heard, from our very different careers, and we can sort out regulations for all of us, that are fair, balanced, and informed. If that isn’t an option, then we need more representation on the board or barbers and cosmetology, so that at the very least, our concerns and requests aren’t being outweighed by the other 11 people, who aren’t in our field of expertise, and shouldn’t be governing us.
In closing, I do believe that the DPOR has improved a bit in the last two years, communications have improved some, and its greatly appreciated that you have taken the time to talk with us...using some of the information we have shared to better the way things are. We hope that you will continue to let our voices be heard, to find a balanced compromise on all of the regulations. We look forward to spending more time going over things with a fine tooth comb, to work out all of our differences, and land on a set of rules and regulations that take everything into consideration on all sides of the situations. I especially look forward to the next hurdle of sorting out the apprenticeship guidelines, and avoiding the involvement of DOLI.
public town hall meeting 8.12.19
Abigail Bowen/Under The Sun Tattoo
I have five topics I’d like to comment on.
The first is the “convention tattooer license” and the “guest artist license.” Traveling tattooists often want to do a guest spot in a local shop before or after a convention for financial or marketing purposes. I feel they should have the option to attend a convention AND do a guest spot without having to apply for two separate licenses. A tattooist should be able to obtain a “temporary tattoo license” that is valid for 2-4 weeks and they should be able to tattoo at any licensed parlor, permanent or temporary, in that time frame. A simple itinerary of where the tattooist plans to work, dates coinciding with the shop and/or convention they are attending, as well as a name, phone number and/or e-mail address of the responsible management that can confirm their travel plans. A couple of phone calls or emails from DPOR employees to confirm that the itinerary is correct should suffice in processing their application.
The second is in regards to the tattoo schools. My personal feeling about them is similar to a lot of professional tattooists in that it lowers the quality of tattooists coming into the industry. A lot of the graduates that come out of these schools are not always being trained properly in cleanliness, technique, or artistry, which is usually filtered through the apprenticeship method. Obviously, there are outliers because no system is perfect, but the general consensus with Tattoo Schools is negative in the community. However, we know that Tattoo Schools are here to stay and of course some are going to be better than others.
At the 8.12.19 Town Hall Meeting I witnessed a Tattoo School owner who appeared, to me, to know little to nothing about tattooing. He didn’t even take the time to read about the proposed changes beforehand to be fully informed on what was going on at this meeting. His statements were ignorant in the ways of tattooing that it reenforced my feelings that Tattoo Schools need to be held to the same standards and potentially more scrutiny since there are many stories of fully-licensed tattoo school graduates who were not trained properly.
That is my main issue; tattoo schools are not held to the same standards as an apprenticeship. The instructors can be less qualified with only 3 years experience, have an unlimited number of students, and their required hours are literally half of an apprenticeship. I feel one-on-one attention from a mentor who has a personal interest in how their apprentice performs, and a 3 year tattooist with 10 students that can “teach them how to tattoo” in a 3 month course is not comparable. It’s a step in the right direction that DPOR requires tattoo schools to submit a curriculum, but I’m not sure any tattoo school curricula has been reviewed by an experienced tattooist. They may follow the basic guidelines set in the regulations, but those are only categories with no real definition of how in-depth these subjects should be taught. Only an experienced tattooist knows what is and isn’t important to teach their students, and a 3-year tattooist often does not have the experience, knowledge, or humility to be able to properly train students.
The reason, I believe, the apprenticeship method is superior to a tattoo school is because even though an apprentice may be fully “qualified” with their hours and trained to properly draw and apply a tattoo, the mentor is still very involved in their education. Those first two years of tattooing are full of learning curves. The scenarios are vast and it would take years of classroom work to try and cover them all, and you have an experienced mentor who can guide you through the process while you’re still under their tutelage. A tattoo school student passes their 3-month tattoo course and then are sent out into whatever shop will take them or, god forbid, they open their own shop; their education stops at 3 months. Tattoo schools are putting out people with a 3-month course who may or may not have the proper training with no one to guide them through the real part of their education, which is experience. A true tattooist is not out to create as many tattooers as possible to make a buck because we understand the ramifications of such actions.
My proposal is that tattoo schools should be held to the same standards to the apprenticeship. Tattoo School Instructors should have equal experience in tattooing to an apprenticeship sponsor (currently set to 5 years), equal required hours, and limiting the number of students per Tattoo School instructor.
The fourth issue isn’t really addressed in the regulation changes, but we would like to see it happen, is raising the permanent cosmetic tattooing required hours to match that of a standard tattooist (currently set to 1500, proposed to increase to 2000). I feel that all forms of tattooing should be equal in standard because it is inevitably making a permanent change to someone’s body. The clients are trusting that their tattooist has the proper knowledge and training to perform these changes and by raising the required hours could help ensure that. With the rising popularity of permanent cosmetic tattooing and the high-risk factor of damaging eyes and ruining people’s faces I see that as a reasonable request.
Lastly, I am with Gabe when I ask that at least all tattoo parlors (ideally all active tattooists) in Virginia be notified either through e-mail and/or letter of any regulation changes as well as relevant upcoming meetings. Most tattooists in Virginia don’t know that they have to sign up in order to receive these notifications and I feel it’s DPOR’s job to keep them up to date. We’ve tried to keep the ones in our circle in the loop, but ultimately a direct e-mail or letter would get their attention and ultimately more participation.
Thank you for your time.
-Abigail Bowen Thomas
Under The Sun Tattoo
I would like to comment on tattoo schools. It is a scary realty that the tattoo schools are not training their students properly. We’ve all seen tattoo school graduates, who are fully licensed and are incapable of tattooing. Many of which are incapable of following basic guidelines for sanitation.
Tattoo schools students should be held to the same standard that tattoo apprentices are, including hours. I never understood why tattoo school students had less hours than a traditional apprenticeship. Tattoo school educators should also be licensed tattoo artists. It doesn’t make sense for anyone else to train future tattoo artists.