08:05 AM
Dietzel tattoo by Clae Welch .png
"Would you be cool with getting 11 tattoos in one week?"

Casey Lubin of Ohio was down, especially after learning that the concept would be a piece of tattoo art from an iconic artist of a certain decade. A video of that tattoo project, entitled "100 Years of Beauty," is embedded below.

Tattoo Artist Clae Welch chose some beautiful flash for Casey's body, starting with a floral piece by Charlie Wagner from 1910, then Amund Dietzel flash from1920 (shown above), moving through each decade. I liked the choice of the famed Lyle Tuttle tattoo bracelet on Janis Joplin for 1960, and the bio-organic work by Guy Aitchison circa 1990. It was an interesting choice to end on Nikko Hurtado for 2010, considering there are so many innovating artists in different styles, but Nikko inspired color realism with his exceptional work, so it makes sense.

Naturally, there will be naysayers complaining that their favorite artist was not presented or nitpicking over timelines. My own critique is that I wish there was at least one woman artist in that project. I also would have loved to see Leo Zulueta flash, which made many artists much money from Neotribal work in the 90s. But overall, I think it's a well executed concept and tribute to tattoo heroes. Most important, Casey looks happy with it.

Behind the scenes and close-up tattoo images are posted on Pinterest. Also, check more of Clae's work on Instagram.

07:12 PM
tattoo trends 1.jpg tattoo trneds 2.jpgtattoo trends 3.jpg"I spent a lot of time thinking about the long-lasting effects of this tattoo. I'm not careless," [17 year-old Kevin] Dolce said. "But I still can't decide which one girls will like more: hands or neck?"

This quote is from The Hard Times humor piece "17 Year-Old Undecided Whether First Tattoo Should Be On Hands Or Neck"  but I gotta admit that it took me a minute to realize it was a parody.

Tattoo artists have long been mocking the visible-before-covered tattoo trend, even with some great illustrations like those above, but it's interesting how the joke is being played out beyond the tattoo community.

"One of my older brother's friends got his first tattoo of a swallow on his hand and he really regrets it," Dolce said. "He wishes he went for something more conservative, like a snake with a dagger through its head, dead-center on his throat. You know, something easily covered by a modest turtleneck during job interviews."
This faux conversation from the article above came painfully close to one I actually had with someone who had his hands tattooed, with nothing more.

But I'm not going to go into tattoo artist ethics again, as discussed in the Don't Tell Me About your F**king Neck Tattoo post and the recent post in which Paul Booth talks about breaking his facial tattoo taboo. How many times can I say "back in the day" tattooers would only tattoo the most visible body parts once the rest were all covered?

What I'm scratching my head over is the tattoo fashion trends with visible tattoos -- like the lettering over the eyebrow look, sported by waaaay too many boys & girls before they're of legal drinking age. I have friends with really beautiful unique facial tattoos, fitting them perfectly.  But that tired LA-styled script blasted across foreheads in selfies warrants more of a #fashionvictim than #tattoocollector.

I know. Don't judge, Marisa. People were #smh at my sleeves at a time when women were only getting lower back tattoos. But if you're gonna put something on your face in people's faces, you have to own it -- and not everyone is going to click "Like" and tell you that you should be on the cover of Inked.

They will mock you. In memes. In parody news. In #dumbass hashtags.

And so, I guess I'm just hoping that people who make those extreme visible-before-covered tattoo decisions have a sense of humor.

[Thanks for the Hard Times link, Jenni!]
03:21 PM
Tattoo by Sua Suluape Peter.jpgTattoo by Su'a Sulu'ape Peter. Photo by John Agcaoili.

tatau.jpgTattoo by Su'a Sulu'ape Aisea; Photo by John Agcaoili.

Despite a long history of attempts at eradication, Samoa's tatau has persevered and played a pivotal role in the preservation and propagation of Samoan culture. "Tatau: Marks of Polynesia" explores the history, identity, beauty and bond of the indigenous art form. The exhibition is set to open on July 30, 2016, at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) in Los Angeles; however, it needs support from the community to achieve the goals it has set to best educate and inspire.  

Donate to JANM's Indiegogo campaign today. [There are only 14 days left to meet the goal.] Your funds will go directly toward the costs of producing Tatau: Marks of Polynesia, from photographing the work to installing the exhibition at the museum to publishing the full-color catalog.

As with most crowdfunding, there are perks -- and there are particularly stellar perks here, including 3 hours of tattooing by tatau masters, private tours and VIP opening invites, photo prints, catalogue copies, and noted support in exhibit materials, among much more. All donations are at least partially tax deductible (if you decline perks, 100% of your contribution is tax deductible).

You can learn more about the exhibit from the video (embedded below), and from the campaign site. Here's a bit from that:

Through photographs taken in the studio and on location in Samoa, Tatau will showcase the work of traditional tatau masters alongside that of younger practitioners and artists who are adopting tatau's motifs and styles for new media and art forms. Viewers will be able to appreciate the sheer beauty of Samoan tattoos while at the same time learning about what they signify in Samoan culture, and how they help Samoans and other Polynesians living abroad stay close to their identity and their heritage. Public programs during the run of the exhibition, such as panel discussions and workshops, will help the public to further engage with the material. Tatau will also be accompanied by a full-color catalog that includes a scholarly essay.

Tatau is organized by the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) and curated by Takahiro "Ryudaibori" Kitamura, the master tattoo artist and author who previously curated the successful exhibition Perseverance: Japanese Tattoo Tradition in a Modern World for JANM in 2014. Kitamura is collaborating with John Agcaoili, photographer; Edward Danielson, MA, lecturer in the Department of Indo-Pacific Languages and Literatures, University of Hawai'i; Sulu'ape Steve Looney and Danielle Steffany-Looney of Pacific Soul Tattoo in Hawai'i; Sean Mallon, author and Senior Curator of Pacific Cultures at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa; and Sulu'ape Si'isi'ialafia Liufau of A-Town Tattoo.

03:48 PM
mummy tattoo.jpgPhoto credit of Otzi: South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/EURAC/Samadelli/Staschitz).

Very exciting news on the tattoo history front: the oldest tattoos known to date do, indeed, belong to "Otzi the Iceman," whose frozen mummified body, with a total of 61 tattoos, was found accidentally, in 1991, by two hikers in the Otztal Alps along the Austrian-Italian border. It is estimated that Otzi died between about 3370 and 3100 BC, and so many deemed him to be the OG of tattooed mummies; however, there was debate among tattoo scholars that Otzi may not have been, and instead, the title could belong to an unidentified South American Chinchorro mummy who was found with a tattooed "mustache." There were a number of questions surrounding the identify and age of that mummy, and so to put the debate to rest, scholars Aaron Deter-Wolf, Lars Krutak, Benoit Robitaille, and Sebastien Galliot collaborated to uncover the identity of the Chinchorro specimen. And they did. But they didn't just stop there. They also compiled a reference list of tattooed mummies from across the globe, demonstrating that Otzi wears the oldest tattoos identified to date.

Their findings were recently published online in Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, and can be downloaded here.

Lead author
Aaron Deter-Wolf also wrote about their research for Redorbit. Here's a bit from that article:

Before officially declaring Otzi to be the oldest tattooed individual, we double checked our data by compiling a list of tattooed human mummies from around the globe. This catalog included at least 49 sites spanning the period between around 3370 BC and AD 1600, and spread throughout the American Arctic, Siberia, Mongolia, western China, Egypt, Sudan, the Philippines, and Greenland in addition to Europe and South America. Some of these finds, such as the Princess of Ukok, the men and women from Burials 2 and 5 at the Pazyryk burial ground, and the woman from Grave 50 at 3-J-23, et-Tereif, Sudan have been well-publicized outside of academia. Others are mentioned simply in passing in early archaeological reports, or appear only in regional and hard-to access journals. A number of sites include multiple tattooed individuals, sometimes numbering in the dozens. In all we were able to identify eleven tattooed mummies greater than 4,000 years old (about 2000 BC). In addition to Ötzi and the Chinchorro man these include seven individuals from Egypt, and two from Russia. To date, Otzi is the oldest of these finds.
As noted in the journal, while Otzi is the oldest of the finds, it is unlikely that he's the first tattooed person on earth. The report explains:

[...] Otzi's 61 marks represent physical actions performed on his body as part of established social or therapeutic practices that almost certainly existed within his culture well before his birth. While other lines of archeological evidence hint that permanent body marking may extend significantly earlier into human history [...] conclusive proof of the antiquity of tattooing has yet to be uncovered. We anticipate that future research including new archeological finds, reanalysis of existing collections, advanced dating techniques, and the application of new imaging technologies in the study of mummified human remains will provide additional data through which to further evaluate this ancient and global practice, and likely provide direct evidence of tattooing antedating 3200 BC.

I highly recommend reading the report. In addition to their findings and tattooed mummy table, there are some great links and references to further reading.
08:01 AM
Whole Glory Scott Campbell.pngScott Campbell tattoo.pngScott Campbell tattoo above on Sophia Amoruso.

Tattooer and fine artist Scott Campbell is co-owner of one of the most respected tattoo studios in NYC, Saved Tattoo; however, his popularity extends far beyond the tattoo community, particularly, for his A-List clientele. You can also see him on TV dancing with his actress/filmaker wife Lake Bell for an Apple Watch ad, and he was the best man at Justin Theroux and Jennifer Aniston's wedding.

It's the pop culture celebrity pedigree that often precedes discussion of Scott's artwork, as is the case in this NY Times piece on his latest work, Whole Glory, an exhibition and performance at Milk Gallery. The exhibition opens today and runs through Sunday, from 10 am-6pm. The closing reception on Sunday is from 6-8pm.

As Scott wrote on his Instagram, "At the center of the installation will be a hole. On the other side of that hole will be me. I will tattoo (for free) any arm that comes through. There is no communication. I tattoo whatever I am inspired to do, and recipient doesn't get to see until it's finished."

The Times interviews Scott on this performance aspect of Whole Glory. Here's some of that talk:

How will you decide what you'll give to each person?

I almost feel like there's a bit of a palm-reading aspect to it. I don't really know the person, but I'm physically touching them, reacting to them subliminally. I have a bunch of designs sketched out. Some of them I'll pull from books of mine, other ones I'll make up on the spot. The freedom is the most exciting thing to me, so I'm trying not to plan it out too much. I'm doing this large painting that has a bunch of drawings and sketches and things on it, so you'll get a sense of the world that it's coming from, but no, it could be anything.

Do you feel a big burden of responsibility giving someone a surprise tattoo?

Of course. I'm probably as nervous, maybe more nervous, than they will be, because I never want to do a tattoo that someone regrets getting. But I think there is a bit of magic there in the exchange, the drawing-a-card-out-of-the-deck dynamic. Some people are asking, "How conservative are you going to be?" If I put a rose on every girl's arm and a skull on every guy's arm, it's not going to be an interesting project. It's not a real leap of faith. To do this performance justice, I'm kind of obligated to take liberties and push boundaries. The risk is what makes it interesting.

Read more here.  To RSVP for the reception on Sunday, email

Scott Campbell tattooing Marc Jacobs.png

Scott Campbell tattooing Marc Jacobs.

01:17 PM
Alex Kass military tattoo.png
Tattoo above by Alex Kass.

Mario Desa tattoo Nick Colella flash.pngMario Desa tattoo above based on Ralph Johnstone design from a sheet by Nick Colella.

J Shaw marine tattoo.pngTattoo above by J Shaw.

In honor of Veterans Day here in the US today, I'm sharing the fantastic @Americanatattoos Instagram account, which is dedicated to traditional tattoos and includes history takeovers, so that there's some learning associated with the images posted.

They've been posted military themed tattoos for Veterans Day and the the 240th birthday of the US Marine Corps. Check more here.

Scott Ronin marine flash.pngFlash sheet honoring the US Marine Corps by Scott Ronin.
12:17 PM
Horiyoshi III art.jpgArtwork by Horiyoshi III.

Thomas Hooper art.jpgArtwork by Thomas Hooper.

Titine Leu shirt.jpgApparel artwork by Titine Leu.

This Friday and Saturday, November 13 & 14th, more than 1,000 artworks by international tattoo artists will be sold at The Peter Mui Collection of Original Tattoo Art Auction. This is arguably the largest collection of tattoo art to ever go up for bid, created by some of the world's most renowned artists, such as Horiyoshi III, Filip and Titine Leu, Horitomo, Bob Roberts, Thomas Hooper, Robert Hernandez, Guy Aitchison, Michelle Wortman, Leo Zulueta, Roger Ingerton, Kim Saigh, Stephanie Tamez, Jondix and much, much, much more.  

The auction will take place in NYC at 22 Little West 12th Street, and bids can also be made via email, phone/fax, and online. Bid online via Liveauctioneers, and also via Invaluable.

On Liveauctioneers, here's a list of items for bid on November 13th, and items for bid on November 14th.

Peter Mui was a musician, actor, and designer, who founded the tattoo clothing brands Yellowman, Misplaced Cowboy, Samurai Surfer, and Mui Mui. It is because so much of the artwork from tattooers was sought for apparel that the majority of the items for auction are torso-sized original paintings -- some crafted on templates for sleeves, and others as tank tops, as shown here; however, there are also original flash sheets and paintings on canvas, board, and paper, among other mediums.

Mui died in 2009, leaving this massive collection to his family, who chose Guernsey's auction house for this sale. In this CBS TV piece on the auction, Guernsey's President Arlan Ettinger states, when asked who potential buyers are, "You know, I get asked that a lot, who is going to be the big buyer in this auction or that auction. And the answer is, you never know. It's always a surprise," adding, "I'll bet you that 50 percent of the work will get sold to people who don't have tattoos, probably never had interest in it, but see the excitement, the beauty in some of these works." He also anticipates that some works will go in the tens of thousands, "30, 40, 50,000, we think."

Also in the CBS report, tattoo historian Dr. Anna Felicity Friedman is interviewed, although, on Facebook, she makes it clear that they did not consult her on the weak pop tattoo history lesson that is thrown into the piece. On social media, she also notes that it will be interesting to see what the sale prices end up being. If you look at the starting bids, some start as low as $200 while others start at $6,000. Dr. Matt Lodder commented that, from a tattoo art collector's perspective, some pieces appear to be highly undervalued while others significantly overvalued. He noted that some original flash sheets have minimums that go for not much more than prints sold at conventions or online.

Personally, I think there are a number of factors in the valuation of the pieces -- including how much artwork is already in the market by a particular artist, and let's not forget an artist's "platform" and notoriety, which can be derived from those reality TV appearances, can also play into the bidding.

There are some concerns I have with the auction: first, Dr. Lodder pointed out that, on Twitter, Valerie Vargas, stated that none of the works listed as hers were created by her. How many other artists are incorrectly listed -- and is it by mistake or fraud? Also, I question the fairness to the artists.

Over ten years ago, Peter Mui contacted blackwork tattooer Daniel DiMattia (whom I was married to at that time), sent him these clothing templates to design, and offered a one-time flat fee for them. I thought the fee was significantly low for the market, and Dan did not participate. I wonder what deals the other artists were offered. I don't think it was in the "30, 40, 50,000" range.

That said, it is an impressive collection, and assuming that most are works created by those they are attributed to, it can be a great way to get your hands on originals by one of your favorite tattoo artists. I'll be seeing how the auction plays out online this Friday and Saturday.

Bob Roberts shirt.jpgApparel artwork by Bob Roberts.

Filip Leu shirt.jpg Apparel artwork by Filip Leu.
Jondix art.jpg
Artwork by Jondix.
07:40 AM

[Photo: Spike TV]

The tattoo community is mourning the recent loss of 41-year-old Scott Marshall of Roselle Tattoo Co. in Illinois. Scott was also the winner of Ink Master Season 4, and so his death was reported in the tabloids (like TMZ and US Weekly).  The media reports stated that Scott's death was under investigation, but that, on October 23rd, he had called his wife Johanna to tell her that he wasn't feeling well and would stay at a hotel near his studio; the next day, police officers informed her that Scott passed away in his sleep. Media coverage wrapped with a condolence Tweet from Ink Master host Dave Navarro.

Yesterday, more information was shared online by Marc Lescarbeau, with permission from Scott's family. He spoke of Scott's life, and shared some details on his death that were not reported. He also shared ways to support Scott's family, such as donating to a GoFundMe account and purchasing shirts and prints with Scott's artwork.

Here's what Marc wrote [links embedded]:

I want everyone to know why Scott Marshall died last weekend. I am not sure how, or if I am even fit to be the spokesman, but the story needs to be told. More importantly the story needs to be heard by a great many. There are a lot of people that think Scott was just a cocky TV star that had it easy. That is the way it appeared to most of the world. Scott did learn things a bit faster than most people, but he also put in a tremendous amount of work to accomplish just about anything he put his mind to. He did whatever was needed in an effort to take better care of his clients, friends, and most importantly his family. Most saw him as being hilariously funny, and he usually kept everyone around him endlessly entertained. I now believe that this was because he did not want anyone that he knew to feel the kind of pain that he felt inside on a regular basis, only to feel joy. The people that really knew Scott knew how hard he has always been on himself. He was never satisfied, overly critical of himself, and plagued with exponential guilt that he felt over the smallest mistakes that he may have made in his life. I now know that he actually suffered from depression, and has for a good number of years. I also can now see that the over indulgence was not for enjoyment or a lack of self control. It was simply to self medicate for this disease he had that I was not aware of. I just spent some quality time with his family, friends and the community in which he lived. I met some really amazing people that surrounded him every day from all walks of life. Everyone was just as impressed with Scott as I was from the first day that I met him. He had the ability to connect with just about anyone and was very sincere in his interactions with everyone.

My message is simple. Now that you may have a little more insight into what really happened, I hope that you can all stop and take a look around you, maybe even take a look at yourself. Look for symptoms of depression and the traits exhibited by those who might be depressed. If you feel depressed please find someone to talk to. We all have people that love us and would love to help you. If you know someone who is depressed just talk to them and let them know that they are loved. Do not wait until it is too late because the pain of losing someone you love is tremendous. This is especially true when it is something that can be avoided with something as simple as a smile, hug or few kind words.

I am also writing this on behalf of his family. They have just suffered a huge loss. They need help. I know that they would never ask for it, but they need it. Many think that because Scott was on TV that he somehow becomes magically wealthy. That is not even close to the reality of it. Even the winnings from the show do not go far after taxes with the traveling to keep in the public eye and meet all his fans on the road. When you work for yourself, there aren't a whole lot of benefits and there is a lot of struggle. We take care of each other. Please help me take care of my family.

There are a couple ways to help the woman he loved and their three beautiful children. The first is a direct donation via a page that was set up for them and here is the link. Give what you can, and if you cannot give please share the page so that others see it.

My company (Needlejig Tattoo Supply, Inc.) is also working in conjunction with Chris Collins (Steadfast Brand) and Tom Ringwalt (Tommy's Supplies) to produce a shirt design that Scott had in the works with Chris, but they did not get it finished. All proceeds from the shirt sales will go directly to the family to help them in this time of need. The shirts are now available for pre sale. Once the shirts arrive you will be able to get the shirts though any of our three web sites. Chris also still has prints that he produced for Scott, and he agreed that all proceeds from the prints he has and all future prints produced will go directly to the family. The prints are available here


Marc Lescarbeau

08:33 AM
Whang-Od Oggay.jpgPhoto of Whang-Od Oggay by Lars Krutak.

I had to weed through the muck of dumb celebrity tattoo gossip and features focusing on the bad rather than beauty of tattooing, but I did come up with some gems. I also threw in a few that made me mad but were noteworthy. Here we go... 

One of my favorite recent features was this Guardian photo show "What lies beneath: people with full-body tattoos bare all." Cheezy title, but great photos of a diverse group of collectors, including our friend Drew Beckett.

I was also so excited to read that the Philippines' oldest living mambabatok (tattoo artist), Whang-Od Oggay (shown above), has been nominated as a "National Living Treasure or Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA)" for her role in perpetuating the traditional art of Kalinga tattooing. I first learned of Whang-Od through Lars Krutak's writing "The Kalinga Tattoo Artist of the Philippines," and through the work of the Tatak Ng Apat Na Alon Tribe, who are reviving the ancient tattoo arts of their Kalinga ancestors here in the US. Hers is an amazing story and truly deserving of such an honor. Also check this video profile on Whang-Od (from 2013).

Lars' work is also discussed in the Smithsonian Science News article "Is tattoo ink safe?" The article explores a paper that Lars co-authored entitled "A medical-toxicological view of tattooing," which looks at the toxicological risks of the ingredients used in tattoo inks and also what happens to the pigments during tattoo removal. Lars is quoted in the article explaining further:

There are no regulatory requirements concerning the production and sterility of colorants, which can carry multi-resistant bacteria and carcinogens and trigger serious allergic reactions and viral infections. [...] New research is needed to contribute to the future development of safe tattooing, and this article is a first step in the right direction.
In Australia, plastic surgeons & tattoo removal specialists want greater regulation of the tattoo removal industry, especially considering the damage that is being done by those with a laser machine and little experience.

On the US legal front, a federal judge tossed a lawsuit challenging the visible tattoo ban of the Chicago Police Department. In July, three Chicago police officers, who served in the military and have symbolic tattoos, filed the suit claiming that the ban violates their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and expression. However, U.S. District Judge Charles P. Kocoras ruled that "the city's goal of having a professional-looking police force trumps the officer's desire to express themselves by keeping their tattoos visible while on-duty." We've been seeing more and more challenges to police department tattoo policies, with different results, but it appears that the legal tide is still with upholding these bans.
It was painful for me to read the TechInsider article on "trendy sacred geometry tattoos" -- which is anything but sacred. It features work from some good artists, but throwing it together in an Instagram Listacle format was tacky and lacked respect for patterns that should be taken as something more than the next cute Pinterest tattoo pick.

Thankfully, I felt better reading this profile and Q&A with Paul Slifer, the Massachusetts native who owns Red, Hot and Blue Tattoo in Edinburgh, Scotland. A few years ago, when I was visiting that fabulous city, I stopped by the studio, and they were really warm and welcoming. Plus the artists there know how to put on a beautiful tattoo. Check 'em.

One of the biggest stories in recent headlines was the tattoo of Justin Trudeau, Canada's new Prime Minister, which is a Haida-inspired raven with a globe as part of the body. As noted by Radio Canada International, the tattoo was done by Robert Davidson, an artist of Haida and Tlingit descent. Interestingly, the article brings up cultural appropriation and tattoos:

There has been controversy in North America over cultural appropriation-the fashion industry and non-natives using aboriginal symbols. But Peter Lantin, president of the council of the Haida Nation, told the National Post "when Justin Trudeau visited...again in 2013, he seemed to take an interest in the culture and, of course, his father was technically family."
Read more on the issue of appropriation and Haida tattooing here.  As a follow up to the Trudeau tattoo story, the BBC has this article on tattoos of other world leaders.

Aaaand let's wrap up this news review with some quick & dirty links:

* An Australian man with a Hindu goddess tattoo angered a crowd in Bangalore, India.

* Patrick Thomas of OC Tattoo on Pet Portraits, Graphic Design, and Tattooing his Sister.

* "My Life with a Face Tattoo" is an interesting BBC video profile of one Dundee man. 
* And the most tattooed city in the UK is ...  
07:11 AM
tattoo machine low copy.jpgPhoto by Edgar Hoill.

Tattoo artists on TV have not just shone a spotlight on the artistry within the industry but also some of its business practices. Putting on a pretty tattoo, pocketing the cash for it, and staying under the government radar doesn't work any more, at least not for very long, and especially not for those with sizable client lists. It's not just about complying with health & hygiene laws and making sure to pay the tax man. Studio owners and individual artists need to be aware of the full spectrum of government regulations that impact tattooing.  [I won't even get started about artists not having health insurance.]

One issue that's been a topic of increasing discussion is whether tattoo artists are independent contractors or employees -- a question that has a huge impact on costs and benefits to studio owners and individual artists and also legal liabilities. I've gotten a few calls from tattooers with tons of questions because they have gotten calls from their state labor departments with their own list of questions. [I don't practice employment law and so I don't advise on it. And this post definitely shouldn't be taken as legal advice.]

Insurance companies are also paying more attention to these employee issues in the industry. I was sent a link to an article, written by attorney Einhorn Harris, that talks about the tattoo artist as employee or independent contractor question from Professional Program Insurance Brokerage (PPIB) (who are Needles & Sins sponsors). PPIB offers workers compensation coverage and wanted to put the article on my radar. Although published in 2013, it is still a good read for how it breaks down these labor issues in the tattoo industry.

Harris explains how tattoo shop owners are responsible for withholding income taxes, withholding and paying Social Security and Medicare taxes, and paying unemployment tax on wages paid to an employee. However, if the tattoo artists who work at the studio are considered independent contractors, generally, the responsibility to report income and pay taxes falls on them and not the studio owner. The IRS doesn't take too kindly to having businesses misclassify their employees, so tattoo studio owners who do so may find themselves staring down an audit and some hefty penalties. Determining that proper classification really depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding each shop, but the key factors are about control. Here's how Harris sets it out:

1. Behavioral control - Which, for Tattoo Shops, would include such inquires as whether the Tattoo Shop Owner controls, or has the right to control, what the Tattoo Artist does and how the Tattoo Artist does his or her job. For example, when to work, where to work, what tools or equipment to use, what routines or procedures must be used, and requiring use of specific tools, equipment and supplies;

2. Financial control - Are the business aspects of the Tattoo Artist's job controlled by the Tattoo Shop Owner? Such as, how is the worker paid, whether expenses are reimbursed, and who provides the tools, equipment and supplies; and

3. Relationship of the parties - Are there written contracts between the Tattoo Shop and Tattoo Artist? are there employee type benefits? (insurance, vacation pay, etc...), what is the intent of the parties and how do they perceive their business relationship to each other?

Based on these, and other factors, if artists are employees, they can be covered by workers' compensation. Taking the definition from NY's Workers' Comp Board, "Workers' compensation is insurance that provides cash benefits and/or medical care for workers who are injured or become ill as a direct result of their job. Employers pay for this insurance, and shall not require the employee to contribute to the cost of compensation. Weekly cash benefits and medical care are paid by the employer's insurance carrier, as directed by the Workers' Compensation Board. The Workers' Compensation Board is a state agency that processes the claims."

Tattooing requires a physical ability to do the job; when hands, eyes, and backs are out of whack, tattooers may not be able to make a living, so being protected by this type of insurance can be a pretty big deal.

In the end, studio owners and artists should be having serious conversations about their work relationships. It may not make for flashy reality TV, but it can avoid real life drama in running a business.
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