Save My Ink: Tattooed Skin Preservation
08:34 AM
preserved tattoo skin.pngPreserved tattooed skin. Artist: JR Tubbs.

What will you do with your tattoos once you're gone?

It's a question quite common in the tattoo community, particularly among serious tattoo collectors worldwide, and one I've personally been asked during too many awkward dinner party conversations. 

In an answer to this question, a new tattoo preservation service and association has launched, debuting in Las Vegas at The Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth last Friday. The National Association for the Preservation of Skin Art (NAPSA) is a non-profit membership association, with the goal of providing certain services to members, which include "preserving skin art on a wide scale with the ability to pass it on to loved ones." In addition, through its site, NAPSA seeks to create an online community site via artist and collector galleries, and discussion groups, among other features. To join NAPSA, the initiation fee is $115, plus yearly dues of $60 (dues cover preservation of one tattoo (about the size of a chest piece), and each additional tattoo is an additional $100 one time initiation fee depending on size).
To me, the tattoo preservation service makes more sense as a for-profit business model -- as offered by Dutch tattooer Peter van der Helm -- so I was curious how it would work as a non-profit membership benefit, and also how the community would provide benefits beyond other existing online tattoo communities and social media. For example, these days, Instagram is a tattooer's default online portfolio and promotion, so there has to be more in order to get artists to pay for something they already get for free.

So, I hit up NAPSA with some questions about their community and services, and Allison Peltz of their PR agency responded:

On your site, under member benefits, it states the following: "Promotion of tattoo art and tattoo community through advocacy, support, exposure, education, and more." Could you give specific examples of the advocacy and support component? I understand that is a community site, but beyond the website, what services do you offer?

As our membership numbers of our association grows, our list of benefits will as well. We plan to be an advocate for the community whether it involves zoning issues or the rights of artists and enthusiasts. Another focus of ours will be lobbying to protect the preservation of art. Also, we will listen to our members and build benefits around their feedback.
The Tattoo Preservation Benefit is for one tattoo (chest piece size) but there are those, like myself, who have full body suits of tattoos (or working towards them), which most would considered one unified piece. With regard to your services, what would constitute one tattoo if we are talking about tattoos that are not single designs?

The first membership fee covers one chest-sized piece, which can be expanded to the whole body. A member is able to pay for a tattoo expansion to include the entire tattoo(s) of their choice. Each registered tattoo expansion is roughly the size of a chest piece.

As the Final Wish Fulfillment Benefit is secured by a warranty purchased from Continental Heritage Insurance Company, does this mean that the benefit is guaranteed even if NAPSA is no longer a legal entity?

The warranty guarantees the payment of a valid benefit if NAPSA is unable to fulfill the Final Wish Fulfillment Benefit.

What happens if the mortuary service of the deceased member refuses to use the service?  What active steps are being taken to ensure preservation is honored?

We have a master embalmer on staff to advocate on behalf of the member. He is currently working to advocate for our service in the funeral industry and will be able to provide support as needed to the mortuaries. We are in the process of building a preferred recovery provider network.

I'd be interested in learning more about the first preserved tattoos, specifically, your founder's  "KPMG" and "Mom" pieces. How many other tattoos have you preserved?

We have preserved 21 tattoos to date. The hard part was actually perfecting the process of preservation.

Charles [Charles Hamm ] had lost a large amount of weight and was visiting the plastic surgeon to have skin removed. He asked the plastic surgeon to mark where this procedure would take place, and then informed him that he would have tattoos put on those spots. The plastic surgeon removed the tattoos, the process on those pieces worked, and we were ready to go.

Why chose a non-profit, rather than for-profit, model to offer these services?

We constructed NAPSA as a non-profit because we wanted to create a membership association. As a membership association, we can provide a host of benefits and foster a community of like-minded individuals, whose membership dues directly support the provided benefits and the furtherance of all association activities and our community at large.

I appreciated the response, but I'm still skeptical about a number of the claims. First, in my experience working with the tattoo industry for almost 15 years, I can say that it is an incredibly difficult task to properly represent the interests of artists and collectors across the country, as the laws (such as zoning) differ, not just from state to state, but among local jurisdictions. Especially as it is collecting fees for membership, NAPSA should be cautious about making certain promises that it may not realistically be able to properly fulfill.

I also personally don't see greater membership benefits beyond the preservation and wish fulfillment service. If their method of tattoo preservation is proven to be a good service, then I would rather pay for it, straight out, working with the mortuary services I contract with, rather than pay dues every year until the end of my life for an organization that may not be around as long.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in our N+S Facebook group or Tweet at me.

Read more on the tattooed skin preservation business here

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