Getting ink done: the culture behind tattoos

Jill Courtney, Features editor

Needles and ink have become something TLC viewers are used to seeing. From seeing the antics of Kat Von D and her crew over at LA Ink, otherwise known as High Voltage and its spin off shows, including New York Ink. But how has the industry changed?

Some people will always view tattoos as sinful or immoral in some ways, but it seems that a majority of the population have accepted the needle and ink phenomena with open arms, as tattoo shops open and make business with a variety of customers ranging in age and ethnicity for the last 20 years.
Dave McCabe, the owner over at Kreative Khaos, has seen his share of the beautiful to the downright silly art in his 22 years of tattooing. The artist, who had his start in his house about 20 years ago, has always owned his own shop, starting at 53 Colbourne Street before moving a block over and staying there for 18 years before moving to 298 Colbourne Street East two years ago. The shop has done fairly well in the downtown core since its humble beginnings and McCabe has held true to his passion, caring more for his customers than making money.

Dave says that he has turned away customers, which tend to be younger and more green in the ways of tattooing, who want overly visible tattoos (think hands, neck and arms) because they weren’t sure what they wanted to be when they grow up.

“I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up,” Dave laughs.

The artist admits that there has and always will be a stereotype against those who tattoo and those with tattoos, but its especially hard against those trying to make some sort of a living.

“I wouldn’t probably be the guy you let into your house to clean the carpets just because of my appearance. Meanwhile, I could do a great job cleaning your carpets,” he explains.

It’s hard to say where the prejudice comes in, as Dave notes that he has had clients who are elderly care workers come in who love their tattoos and even the elderly he has had come in don’t seem to care as much anymore. So why are there still groups who are apprehensive?

Dave even notes that he hopes legislation changes against those running shops out of their basements, as the Health Ministry can only inspect if there is a complaint. McCabe says that this may change as attention has been drawn to public health in recent years. He says that his shop is inspected yearly, meaning sanitizer is changed biweekly and everything is kept up to code.

Something that those who oppose those with tattoos seem to miss out on is the fact that these people are artists. Dave, who has seen the evolution of the culture of tattooing, says that “you have to be more of an artist as opposed to a tattooist.” This comes with the demand of more customized tattoos, whereas 20 years ago the only thing anyone could get was what was posted on the walls of the shop.

It seems that the culture has evolved, although it may take some convincing of certain groups to get full acceptance of the tattoo culture. It is nothing more than self expression and should not be discriminated against in the work place. What is a little ink under the skin if they don’t have a criminal record? It’s hard to say how it came about, but if it’s not hurting anyone but the “canvas” per say, then why are some groups so reluctant to accept such a harmless act? 

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