Skin Deep 187


The behaviours of an egocentric person are much of the time compulsive.” Without ropes they bind themselves” said Lao Tzu. They see themselves in competition with others and since the ego is so vulnerable and sensitive they are compelled towards defensiveness and self-justification. They are compelled to impress others with their talents - meaning their looks, machismo, charm - much more so than someone who is focused on external things such as a helping profession. The egocentric is shallow, often lacking the staying power to achieve long-range goals. Defensive, easily angered, jealous, they suffer living in the comparatively small world of fragile ego.” 


An attitude is a hypothetical construct that represents an individual’s degree of like or dislike for an item.

For years now I have been coming across ads in tattoo magazines by studios looking for tattoo artists. The usual lines are, “no drugs, no attitudes...” I think all artists (tattooists, or not) have an attitude. Having an attitude is probably what keeps them going through the tough times when nobody believes in them. Maybe an artist’s definition of standards can be confused for an attitude. For example, a tattooist of the likes of say, Bob Tyrrell is unlikely to be seen tattooing in a small town studio that specializes in flash... if he rejected such an offer, he might be portrayed as having an attitude... too good to work in a small studio. Or maybe it’s just common sense. A small town studio probably has small town customers who are on a tight budget and are not used to paying high rates for outstanding work. I myself have fallen victim of this situation. While I was working in a small studio in Scotland, I was unable to take the time I needed to focus on my work and the people that were coming in to get tattooed wanted a lot for nothing. I eventually realised that I was in the wrong place and moved on. (But not without being accused of being a Diva and having an attitude). 

I think one has to make a clear distinction between a ‘tattooist’ and a ‘tattoo artist’. In my humble opinion a ‘tattooist’ is somebody you might find in a small town, working on his own (or surrounded by apprentices or wannabes), with limited or no artistic abilities, working from off the wall flash. Or licensed to work from his kitchen and taking on work well out of his or her league.

I have seen a lot of these so-called studios pop up over recent years (riding on the back of The Miami and London Ink Fad) and some even expand!

Of course, there are (thank God) plenty of reputable small town tattoo studios that cater for everyone’s needs very competently... but these ARE few and far between.

As I pointed out earlier, I myself have been accused of having an attitude... the truth is, it doesn’t bother me at all. I believe that the most important thing is to have high standards and to be realistic about what you can and cannot do. A clear understanding of your customer’s needs and the limits of what is possible with their budget. I sit down with all my customers and have a coffee and a chat. It’s really more about getting to know them than it is about discussing their tattoo. Think of it as Xmas shopping... how hard is it to find the ideal gift for somebody you don’t know? And how happy are they going to be if you actually find them the perfect gift? None of this is really possible in a Flash studio... and let’s face it; the sole purpose of a flash studio is to make money. As someone once told me... ‘I’m in this to make money - not friends’. 

I’m not saying you can’t make friends in a flash studio environment... sooner or later you will build a rapport with your repeat customers, not unlike the builder that walks into the same greasy spoon cafe for bacon and eggs every day...

There are a few studios that specialise in flash but also do custom work (black and grey, portraits, etc). Again, a studio that has a reputation for doing flash is unlikely to attract the likes of Bob Tyrrell. Some might waive a commission in order to attract the right artists and crowd, all in the name of good publicity. Some flash studios are lucky enough to have a decent artist that is in no rush to move on. But there’s that bottom line... A monkey dressed in silk is still a monkey.

Gavin Rodrigues, The Inkspot

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