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When Tattoos Get Dangerous

by JasonLambertArtist

June 23, 2005

Think about the future for a second.

Think of flying cars, alternative fuels, and medical miracles and then, think of cockroaches. Yes I said cockroaches. Sure the future will be bright and shiny with hovercrafts and cyborg gerbils, but we will also still have our little six legged buddies feasting on a crumb of cornflake or pooping behind the hovering La-Z-Boy. Cockroaches will be with us no matter the strides we make, and unfortunately, so will scratchers.

What is a scratcher?

In short it is a person who tattoos badly, in unsafe conditions, and without proper training, materials, or ability. Like roaches they live off of crumbs, doing work that a legitimate tattoo shop wont. Things like trading tattoo work for drugs, tattooing minors, or simply doing work cheaper than a quality shop will work for. A scratcher usually works out of their home studio, which is a fancy way of saying "kitchen". Scratchers tend to have a "real" job and simply tattoo "on the side", this of course leads me to wonder how many people would go to a dentist who only filled cavities "on the side", but I digress.

Most scratchers fall into two categories, there are those who simply are looking for fast money and there are those who believe that scratching is the way to become a legitimate professional tattooer. Sadly, both types typically find that their notions are wrong, but not before doing terrible, unsafe work on people. The amount of money to be made tattooing is never what you hear about on MTV, and when you factor in things like no vacations and no healthcare all that "easy" money goes up in a puff of smoke. For the scratchers who think that they will "get good" scratching and then go work at a shop often seem surprised that they never actually "get good" (or even "get better than shitty" in most cases) since tattooing almost never can be "self-taught". But you can't tell a roach that the donut he's trying to single handedly lug under the couch wont fit any more than you can tell a scratcher that their notions of tattooing are unrealistic.

A scratcher will often find equipment from ads in the back of tattoo magazines. These companies offer numerous "kits" which contain everything needed to tattoo from home... everything, that is, except an autoclave. For those of you who don't know, an autoclave is an extremely expensive but absolutely necessary sterilization device that every tattoo shop should have. The people in tattooing who make quality equipment will sell only to professional tattooers, so the scratcher must make due with sub par supplies from shady manufacturers that do more scarring than tattooing generally.

Also as one might imagine, tattooing is not something that one can simply start doing well, it requires training both technically and for safety standards. Pity the poor scratcher when they realize this "training" doesn't come with the kit ol' scratchy orders from the back of a magazine. Instead he begins "practicing" (otherwise known as "fucking up") on the first victim and just goes on from there, usually with the same needle.

Consider this idea for a moment, if a person is willing to ignore legal regulations about zoning, I.D. requirements, and age limits, what makes you think they will decide to abide

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