Tattoo Artists Fight For Their Right to Ink at Home Under Restrictive New Florida Laws

Categories: News
photo by Chris Sweeney
Home tattoo artists like Louie in Hialeah are fighting new state laws and a professional guild.
Few cities, if any, have helped push tattoos into the American zeitgeist more than Miami. Between Rick Ross, Miami Ink, and Udonis Haslem's Sunshine State-covered back, there's no shortage of carved skin in the Magic City. In the early '90s there were just several dozen parlors. Nowadays, there are more than a 1,000.

Naturally, lawmakers have decided to reign in the revenue-generating industry in the name of "public health" and set up licensing fees to earn a quick buck. Creating laws governing a post-fringe art form steeped in rebellion has proved as contentious as you might imagine. A fiery rift has opened between small-scale home artists and the bigger professional guild that wants to help the state shut them down.

It took two legislative sessions to pass the bill and lots of fighting among industry insiders. Only now, two years after the actual legislation was approved, are county health officials getting ready to enforce it.

As detailed in New Times' feature this week, there are plenty of underground tattoo artists throughout South Florida who seem unfazed by the law and unlikely to fall into compliance. On the other side of the chasm is the Florida Professional Tattoo Guild, a group intent on using the new law to stamp out the unlicensed artists who advertise on Craigslist and inject ink into human skin from the comfort of their kitchen.

Some call them scratchers. Others -- like Louie, a Hialeah based home tattooer -- say they're bona-fide artists.

"If you can draw and you can paint, you can tattoo," Louie says. "It all comes down to skills and your artistic ability. I understand why a lot of shop owners kind of hate the mobile artists and guys like me. They're upset that we're taking some of the clientele... I'm worried about the new law a bit; I just don't want to get screwed for anything."

Check out our full feature on the new fight for tattoo rights in Florida.

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2 comments
Jules
Jules

Scratchers need to exist. Who else would take on the task of labeling the idiots?

By all means do your Tatz in your home kitchens.

" Bro, I got this I know how to draw, and I saw two full seasons of Miami Ink"

Rio
Rio

While I don't think just anyone who can draw or paint can tattoo, I do agree that allowing people to tattoo out of their home should be something they have the right to do.  However, having said that I believe that there needs to be some checks and balances associated with "at home" tattooing such as formal training in Bloodborne pathogens, cross contamination, proper sterilization, etc etc.  Just because someone tattoos out of their home, doesn't mean they are a scratcher or are unqualified to be tattooing, but with anything involving a health risk, they should have to have some sort of qualification and training and must be held accountable in the event that something goes terribly wrong.  

In a perfect world, everyone who tattoos would have a license and would have apprenticed for at least a year and would have received formal training. What the Florida Professional Tattoo Guild isn't telling the general public is that breaking into our industry is extremely difficult, very competitive and working knowledge of our art is highly guarded.  The tattoo industry in fact creates these at home artists, scratchers, and unqualified tattooists by making it so difficult to learn and get the proper training. So, instead of opening up the doors and training people properly, they would rather have legislation put in place to stamp out the very problems that they have created.

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