Despite not having income of their own coming in from tattooing, artists around the world are stepping up to help out those most affected by COVID-19. One of those artists is BJ Betts, who gathered up fourteen fellow tattooers to design a t-shirt that will donate it's proceeds to helping those in need. Betts brought together world renowned artists for this project, including Mister Cartoon, Grime, Big Sleeps, Big Meas, Christina Ramos, Em Scott, Henry Lewis, Orks One, El Whyner, Dan Smith, Eric Marcinizyn, Huero and Flaks32G.
The shirts are available in both black and white, each selling for $25. Take a lok at our interview with Betts to learn how he came up with the idea, where the money will go and how he thinks the tattoo industry will be impacted by COVID-19 in the long term.
What inspired this project?
I thought it was a very fitting and relevant phrase with the state of the world being what it is right now. I always liked the homonym “know” vs. “no”... so wanted to put something together with a few tattooers that are primarily known for lettering (and a few that aren’t). I thought that with just a few minutes of our time, we can really help people and potentially make a change for the right cause during all this craziness
Why Know Hope?
Well, when you hear it, it really denotes a negative thing, but the spelling says otherwise. I tattooed it on my friend and incredible tattooer Brian MacNeil about 20 years ago. I’ve done other “know” phrases as tattoos as well over the years and always loved the meaning.
How did you go about getting different artists together for this project?
I reached out to a few friends that I thought could get the artwork done sooner than later and get their take on the lettering. It’s rare to get many of us all together on one project, let alone all of our artwork on one shirt! Everybody came together without hesitation and crushed it.
This is from ALL of us, not just me or the artists on the project; it’s from everybody that bought a shirt that might have otherwise never donated anything. It’s been amazing seeing everybody come together for this.
What causes are benefited by people buying this shirt?
ALL the money will be donated to the Red Cross, Food Bank and Covid-19 relief fund. I didn’t want to be state specific, I wanted to make sure the right people got the assistance they need.
How are tattooers holding up during COVID-19?
Everybody seems to be doing OK. It’s tough when we’re all used to working five to seven days a week and tattooing all damn day. Transitioning to no tattoos at all is a tough pill to swallow. However, I think we all realize that we’ll probably never have this much free time available and better make the best use of it. We’re all ready to get back to work!
How do you see COVID-19 impacting the tattoo industry long term?
That’s a good question and it’s a tough one since there are still so many unknown variables.
I’d say it's taught us all a few things, that we need to take it easy and really respect the fact that what we do isn’t an essential thing. Tattooing is a luxury item and we’re super fortunate to be able to do what we do. Also, it’s made tattooers realize that we can actually take a few weeks off and still survive, and if not, to budget a little better when we’re all back to work.
One of the best bits of advice I’ve received in my career came from Mike Malone (R.I.P), and that was “remember December.” This means, when we’re usually so damn busy in the Spring and Summer and don’t even have time for lunch, “remember December” when it’s not as busy and put some damn money away.
How else can people help out during COVID-19?
Well, staying home as much as possible if it’s required in your state or city. It definitely seems to be working in my area. Donate whatever time you can to help make masks or whatever else you can do from home. Even a simple phone call to family and friends (especially your older/elderly family) can make a world of difference. There seems to be a huge increase in mental health issues since this has been going on, so check up on anybody you know that has any serious depression. And, if you have the financial means, donate what you can.