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Has the profession changed at all?

Updated: Apr 2

COVID-19 has impacted businesses globally since its origins in Wuhan, China, in November 2019. Besides the hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide and the millions of lives affected in general, either by contracting the disease or being forced into mandatory lockdown, many have had to close their doors to the public for months to help stop the spread and protect their customers, as well as themselves. Healthcare workers, usually overworked regularly, have been deemed the frontline heroes, selflessly putting their own lives at risk to help others and working countless hours with minor to no sleep. 

Others, deemed “non-essential” by their respective governments, have been required to completely shut down, affecting working capital, disrupting clientele, and putting their business on the line. 

Tattoo shops are especially distressed, as the artist’s work involves close contact with blood, saliva, and (on occasion) other bodily fluids for hours at a time. This put the sanitation of the shop, as well as the lives of the artists and clients, in jeopardy. 

Beginning in March, thousands of shops across North America shut down almost overnight, hoping to halt the spread of the novel Coronavirus.

How Were Tattoo Artists Affected?

Due to the speedy spike of Coronavirus cases worldwide, shops have been compelled to cancel all upcoming appointments and close down for the foreseeable future. This left millions unemployed at one time, without any reassurance for the future. The biggest fear is not just the money lost during closure. The effects will be made clear once shops reopen, but clients will stay locked at home out of fear or refuse to spend money on non-essential items or services. Getting tattooed is hardly a top priority, and this thought puts many artists in an uncomfortable situation.

So, how did tattoo artists cope with this? 

Many made it their mission to create beautiful artwork on other canvases. Drawing up flash sheets for future clients and producing and selling custom prints online or through social media became the new norm during the pandemic. This allowed tattooists to have a creative outlet while simultaneously making an income. This trend continued for months, with tattoo artists posting their designs and concepts on Instagram, working on their technique and staying connected with their clientele, allowing pre-bookings for future pieces, and working on their online presence. 

However, recently, various governing bodies have approved the reopening of tattoo shops and private studios thanks to a multi-stage reopening plan. These proposals allowed varying industries to start operating again. Still, under new terms, tattoo shops, piercing studios, and spas have been authorized to reopen their doors beginning in July 2020. 

But what does that mean for both the artists and the clients?

Tattooing Post-Pandemic 

Depending on the country and state, there are a multitude of safety precautions in place to help keep all parties safe while getting a tattoo. 

Firstly, all clients must have an appointment. Walk-ins, although a normal part of the tattoo industry, have been put on hold, as this involves dealing with too many customers in the shop at once. Walk-ins may break the mandatory social distancing protocols, which require people to stay at least two meters (six feet) away from each other. 

Besides keeping your distance, handwashing and disinfecting with hand sanitizer is a must before walking into the studio and beginning your session. This basic hygiene procedure should be followed regardless, but it is essential during these unprecedented times. 

Wearing a mask and face shield has also been deemed necessary, and many countries and states have even made it a by-law to wear one indoors, punishable by fines if caught without one. Wearing a mask is incredibly important due to the nature of infection being through close contact with the respiratory droplets of an infected person. Droplets are primarily transferred through coughing, talking, and sneezing, causing the airborne disease to impact everyone in its six-foot radius. Due to the Coronavirus’s contagious nature, shops are limiting how many people they allow in the studio at one time and discourage their customers from bringing friends and family to appointments, a practice that is usually accepted in small quantities. The time between appointments has also been extended to allow an adequate amount of time to clean and disinfect every surface that may have been in contact with a previous client. A shop’s cleanliness and sanitary standards should be their top priority, but the Coronavirus bumps it to another level. 

Pre-screenings will be the new norm shortly. Be prepared to sign forms, answer many questions, sign waivers, and get your temperature checked via contactless thermometer guns. 

Although annoying, this is a minor inconvenience to experience in the grand scheme of things, as these new protocols help save lives and slow the spread of this infectious disease. It is worth it, especially when getting beautiful, custom artwork tattooed on you forever. 

Regardless of the current situation, a client’s health and safety are always of utmost importance, and tattoo artists are doing their absolute best to ensure incredibly clean, constantly disinfected, and highly sanitary conditions for everyone at all times. COVID-19 affects us all, so be courteous to your local shops and come prepared with a mask, sanitized hands, and a good attitude.

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