Wednesday, June 4, 2008

All Tatted Up: For whatever the reason, tattoos = popular form of expression

by Joey Rinaldi

Historical Overview
Tattoos are nothing new. They've been around for centuries--a popular way for early cultures to practice everything from art to magic to medicine.

Vanishing describes some of the earliest instruments used for tattooing. They typically consisted of a clay and red ochre disk with sharp bone needles that are inserted into holes on top of the disk. The disk served as reservoir and source of pigment, while the needles pierced the skin.

A Bronze Age tattooed man around 5,500 years old was found in 1991 in the Tyrolean Alps. "Oetzi" is the oldest known human to have medicinal tattoos preserved upon his mummified skin.

Who gets them and why?
Locally, there are several shops licensed to operate. In Athens, Art Apocalypse and Decorative Injections can handle designs as simple as a set of initials or as complex as a depiction of Saint George slaying the dragon. You can also get ink done at From Soul To Skin in Nelsonville.

Jim Warner, an artist who works at Art Apocalypse, says there's not a very specific demographic of people who get tattoos. "It really kind of runs the gamut, we get everyone from kids that are under 18 who come in with their parents to... the oldest person I think was a 65-year-old-lady," he stated. Warner added that he does tattoo a fair amount of college students, but they're not the only ones who enjoy getting inked. The shop's busiest weekend for business? Mom's weekend! "When dad's away, moms will play I guess," Warner says.

Warner has been a tattoo artist for two years. He says in that time he's heard too many reasons to even remember for why people get the ink that they do. Athens resident Jason Riling was getting his fourth tattoo done at the shop. He says, "I just love the feeling. I'm addicted to it."

Warner discusses a few reasons why people get tattoos.

Safety Risks and Health Precautions
The number one piece of advice Warner has for people considering a tattoo? "It is permanent. Don't just get a spur of the moment tattoo. Removing them isn't cheap and it's not exactly painless. You don't want to end up paying a few thousand dollars down the road to get a $40 tattoo removed."

In addition to longevity, there are some health risks associated with getting tattooed because it involves both blood and needles. There's always the possibility of diseases like Hepatitis C or HIV spreading through bloodborne pathogens.

The state of Ohio regulates tattoo parlors Athens City-County health administrator Charles Hammer says the health department performs inspections "at the very least once per year." Shops have to pass an initial inspection before they can become registered to do business in order to ensure that they have the proper sterilization equipment, which includes hospital grade autoclave cleaners. Artists must also go through training in bloodborne pathogens from the American Red Cross.

OU senior Jesse Seabrooks displays and discusses his tattoos.

Consumer Beware
Despite all the regulations, both Hammer and Warner stressed the same point: it's up to consumers to be informed before allowing someone to stick them with a needle. Ask questions if you have concerns. If something doesn't look as sterile as you'd like, ask for different equipment. Warner says, "If it's a reputable business they shouldn't have any problem sharing their sterilization methods or showing you anything you might have a question about."
Hammer added, "It's not worth your health. If you're not satisfied, there's no shame in getting up and walking out."

A word of advice for anyone considering a tattoo from Charles Hammer

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