Scratchers – a term universally and controversially known within the tattoo world. For those of you that are uninformed; it is a term used to label tattoo “artists” who operate from their homes without a license. The work produced is generally poor, due to the bypassing of the traditional apprenticeship and from working in an unprofessional environment. There have been scratchers for as long as there has been mainstream tattooing, so this isn’t a new revelation. With the rise in popularity concerning tattoos and tattoo culture, a new breed of “scratcher” has surfaced. Technically they shouldn’t be labelled as a scratcher considering that they are now able to work from a licensed self-made studio, but still churn out the same poor quality work where the fundamentals of tattooing obviously don’t apply and is the tell-tale sign of incompetency.
The process in order to get a legal license to tattoo human canvases is argumentatively lax, depending on location, which means that almost anyone with a machine and the funds can potentially open the doors of their new studio and start to produce work that is beneath the standard of any apprentice, nevermind a proven tattoo artist. Some people might wonder “Why would anyone willingly get a tattoo from said people?” – Money is a motivating factor here. Unsuspecting and somewhat to blame customers will look past, or be completely oblivious to the poor quality of the work and be swayed into choosing these “artists” based on the cheap price and that alone.
Despite these glorified “scratchers” being a relatively small annoyance, you will still come across their work more times than you’d like to. You’ll have met the person who got the jagged looking crucifix on their forearm from a friend of their brothers in his mother’s kitchen with a cheap machine, all whilst the “artist” controlling it ensures the customer that it will turn out great as he binged watched five seasons of Miami Ink over the Summer holidays. Unfortunately artists of this caliber are now opening their own doors to the public in order to feed off of the sweet nectar that is their customer’s blissful ignorance to their incompetency at not only applying a design to skin, but even applying pencil to paper.
Sadly, they are here to stay and there’s not a thing that we can do about it except for sit back and hold our heads in our hands, silently weeping after baring witness to a photograph on Facebook of another horrendous and downright shocking mess of ink created by a guy who has decided to bypass the years of turmoil and training in order to get on the same level as “that ‘fella on TV”.
The regulation of said studios is virtually non-existent. Here is a segment taken straight from the HSE website regarding Tattoos and Body Piercing:
“There are no registration requirements, no minimum structural or operational standards to be attained before opening such a business, no basic training requirements for staff and no age of consent/ medical history requirements for those availing of such services. Consequently these premises are not included in any inspection programme by Environmental Health Officers and receive no regular or routine visits from any statutory inspectorate
If not performed to the highest standards, tattooing and body piercing can potentially be an extremely hazardous practice. They should only be undertaken by a competent person with appropriate training in suitable premises. Members of the public should be very careful of the where they chose to avail of such services and should satisfy themselves of the hygiene practices and knowledge of those offering the service.”
This haphazard way of operating has opened a gateway for untrained persons, in both tattooing and sterilization, to legally work on paying customers despite the shockingly low quality of the work produced and the health risks due to the blatant disregard of hygiene, effective sterilization and cross-contamination.
I know what you’re thinking – “This isn’t a new thing”. While it may be true that there has always been wannabe “tattoo artists” opening their own shops and producing work of a low standard; they have become more common-place in recent years, moving with the immense rise of popularity of tattoos and tattoo culture.
The transition of tattoo culture onto TV in the form of psuedo-reality TV has been a massive factor in this. The tattoo world has been glamified and simplified for the viewing audiences, which has given a lot of wannabe tattoo-artists an askew view on what it takes to be successful in the industry.
Time and time again you will see poor quality work given an abundance of praise on the social media pages of these artists. This is what I like to call the “X-Factor Effect” and leads straight to the artist developing a bent out of shape view of their own work. Most of the glorified scratchers that I’ve come across aren’t aware of how nightmarishly bad their work truly is. This is due to being told that their pieces are “sick” and “awesome” by their clueless friends and family.
Unfortunately this isn’t a problem that’s going to disappear anytime soon. If anything, it’s only going to get a lot worse in the time to come. That being said; crap work will always be just that, and it’s the sublime pieces by talented artists that will stand out in the end.
My advice to any self-deluded glorified scratchers out there who may be reading this is to toss the machine into the trash, torch the shop and apologize to all of your friends for marking them with your designs that are uncanny to something you’d find on the back of a 9 year old’s copybook in Primary School.