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May 3, 2014

Tattoo artists tailor art to suit wide range of clients

By Cathy B. Koplen Contributing Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Many people have tattoos, and body art has become more acceptable in recent years. The methods used are more sanitary and the equipment is more precise than many might imagine. 

“People get tattoos for a lot of reasons,” said tattoo artist Joe Hamilton, who works at Indelible Ink Tattoo and Body Piercing Studio at 141 Main St. in Oneonta. “Lately I have been seeing a lot of quotes using script. It seems to be a trend, and I think it is partly because we don’t write in cursive any more. With computers and people just printing everything, there is not a lot of people writing in the old-fashioned script that people used to use.”

Hamilton said he has seen a lot of different trends in the industry in the more than 20 years he has been a tattoo artist.

“Yeah, people aren’t getting so many names anymore,” Hamilton said. “Unless they are the children or in memory of someone who has died, people are not getting names tattooed so much anymore.”

The trend for personal tattoos is not just something for the young. According to PRNewswire, in an article published in February 2012, 38 percent of adults living in the state of New York between the ages of 30 and 39 have a tattoo. This is up from 28 percent in the year 2003. Meanwhile, the number of people ages 25 to 29 who have a tattoo has dropped from 36 percent in 2003 to 30 percent in 2012.

The poll, conducted by The Harris Poll, found that one out of five adults in the United States has a tattoo, with more adults on the West Coast reporting that have at least one tattoo. For the first time since the poll has been conducted, women are more likely to get a tattoo than men.

“This is my mother’s favorite flower,” said Jody Bosley on Friday as she showed off an intricate design that includes a flower, fairy and frog. “The fairy on the mushroom is for my daughter.”

According to Hamilton, many people are requesting complex designs that reflect their personality and their interests.

Bryan Wheeler pulled the sleeve of his shirt up to the shoulder Friday as he explained what the tattoos on his arm mean. He has a flaming clef note and the Muppet Animal tattooed on his arm. Wheeler is a drummer.

“The most unusual request I got was when a woman brought her friend in to get a tattoo,” Hamilton said. “The woman was a self-described shopaholic. She felt compelled to get a tattoo because her friend was getting one. She decided to get a small shopping bag on her deltoid with the words ‘shopping arm’ written in the bag.”

Because equipment has made tattooing more exact with digital patterns and vibrant colors, intricate designs are attainable.

According to the state Health Department, each tattoo artist must obtain an individual permit before embarking on their craft. Tattoo studios are also licensed under a separate permit process. The profession is a unique mixture of art and science, Hamilton explained. 

“I joined the Alliance of Professional Tattooists and I have taken the training in Florida about how to prevent blood-borne pathogens,” Hamilton said. “The industry has changed over the years, the equipment has evolved and the color pigments are better.” 

But it’s not just about the technical know-how for Hamilton. 

“My favorite part of the job is building a relationship with people,” he said. “When someone walks in as a customer and then comes back for three or four tattoos, you really get to know them. I think tattoo artists are right up there with hair stylists and bartenders; we should get our sociology degree.”