MANDURAH people could be putting themselves at risk of disease or permanent disfigurement by visiting tattoo artists at home instead of in a registered shop.
A rash of ads popped up recently on Facebook and Gumtree for home-job tattoos.
These tattoos are also known as scratcher work and they’ve become part of the public vernacular thanks to TV shows like tattoo nightmares and the like.
With tattoos becoming increasingly common, no longer are people being judged on simply having a tattoo, but also by the quality of the art.
West Coast Tattoo manager Jade Wignall said she’s seen many a home job.
“I’ve seen some horrendous stuff in here, people come in and we need to fix it,” she said.
“You can scar people, untrained tattooists don’t know the depths.
“But there’s money in it, they know people don’t want to pay.
“We’ve had people come in crying and the tattoo is still fresh, but we can’t go over anything till it’s healed.”
Amber-Rose Cook (22) said she’s too embarrassed to visit a tattoo shop to see if her backyard tattoo can be covered up.
She got a star sign tattoo on her neck for her 18th birthday three years ago.
“It was an old guy who my mum met in the neighbourhood, they’d been friends for a while, (and she) found out he had his own set up at home,” Amber-Rose said.
“She told me I was getting a tattoo for my birthday. I was so excited, mind you I never knew it was going to be a backyard job, I actually thought I was going to a shop.”
Amber-Rose said the tattoo was painful and that the artist used an outlining needle to colour in the tattoo.
The internet is full of guides on how to tattoo at home using India ink and sewing needles – these tattoos are called stick and pokes.
Tattoo guns can be purchased online and are usually what home based artists use.
Emma Johnson (21) has a four home tattoos that she got as a teenager – costing her as little as $25.
“I got a J for my best friend at the time eight years ago (I was 13) it was done with Indian ink from the news agency and a sewing pin,” she said.
“It was done with absolutely no sanitation and I got it on my bum because I thought it wouldn’t hurt as much.”
Emma has stars and a moon on her feet that she received around three years ago.
“These were done by a friend with a tattoo gun and no experience, luckily everything was new, so I wasn’t too scared about contracting Aids, but because she didn’t really know that she was doing she didn’t get under the skin enough,” Emma said.
“They were the most painful tattoo ever.
“I’ve had my chest done and these were still more painful.”
Emma, who has professional tattoos as well, said she will cover up or fix half her tattoos.
Jade said home tattooists usually don’t have the correct equipment and don’t have a sterilisation room.
“They could be using the same needle on different people,” she said.
“You need to ask yourself if it is the proper equipment? Does it work? Have they made it themselves?
Jade said there’s a rigour to training a shop based artist. They start as an apprentice who “might” be able to draw a tattoo under supervision.
A third year can do a tattoo, but they charge less.
Jade said home jobs can be dangerous to people’s health and shop based tattoo artists sometimes avoid touching people with home tattoos due to the disease risk.
“As far as I’m aware it’s highly illegal,” she said.
“The amount of rigmarole we had to go through to open a tattoo shop…. We are checked every year and it’s for a good reason – it’s skin penetration.
“People want to save money but it’s done really badly and it’s going to be there forever.”
Emma recommends other teenagers save up to get a real tattoo if they really want one and avoid the scratchers.
“It seems like a badass idea at the time, but you’ll just end up covering it up anyway,” she said.
“Plus so many people will ask you what it is and you will have to explain how you were young, dumb and you wish you didn’t do it looking back on it.”
What the Department of Health say:
Tattooing studios within Western Australia must comply with the Health (Skin Penetration Procedures) Regulations 1998 and the Code of Practice for Skin Penetration Procedures.
Operators providing these services must comply with these documents and be aware of the potential health risks and the importance of following correct infection control guidelines.
Local government is responsible for monitoring tattoo parlours, and taking enforcement action including prosecution if necessary.
The Department of Health recommends strongly that any type of body art is performed by professional body artists in established studios who work with high standards of infection control.
The Department of Health provides guidance for anyone considering a tattoo (and other body art) which can be found at: