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By Durb Morrison

Tattooing has always been resilient throughout history, having survived and flourished since the early days of the art form. Tattooing survived the challenging years of HIV and Hepatitis B and C. Now it’s facing another big enemy—COVID-19. Tattoo artists and collectors have just experienced one of the first times in history that tattooing and tattoo studios worldwide have been essentially shut down and not allowed to operate due to a worldwide pandemic. This has taken tattooing and tattoo studios in new directions, bringing more safety and awareness to an already safe and sterile industry. We, as tattoo artists, have always been able to control cross-contamination and the transmission of bloodborne pathogens with the education that tattoo artists have learned over the years by taking bloodborne pathogens, first aid and CPR classes. These practices have always protected both the artist and their clients against transmission while tattooing, but now tattoo artists and the clients have a new concern.

Durb Morrison and the RedTree Tattoo Gallery Crew. 

Durb Morrison and the RedTree Tattoo Gallery Crew. 

With the pandemic continuing to spread and some states going back into shutdown mode, tattoo artists are uncertain if they will be able to remain open. The pandemic has permanently closed some studios, changed the careers of some artists and really limited the number of people inside of a tattoo studio. We are all doing our best to maintain the highest in safety and health during this pandemic and many have made upgrades and changes to their procedures at their studios with the client and the artist's health in mind. Because Covid19 is a highly contagious airborne virus that we are still learning about, it creates a whole different concern that must be addressed during the tattoo process. People with the virus can expel the virus when they exhale, talk or cough. Those viral pieces, called microdroplets that can potentially travel a distance, some traveling across an entire room and others can inhale those microscopic viral particles, then contract COVID-19 and get sick.

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During this concerning time, all of us—artists, studios, collectors and enthusiasts—must be diligent about keeping our masks on every moment we are in the studio. Wearing a mask is vital in order for the studio to remain open and continue to operate in the safest manner for everybody. Fortunately, tattoo studios are not the type of place that draws large crowds. Usually, there’s only the artist, the client and possibly a friend or family member along for support.

Hopefully, tattooing can continue on this path by regulating itself with COVID-19 protocols and procedures as well as educating tattoo artists and clients with how to adhere to these procedures until we all get through this. Many studios have taken the time to prepare themselves with new procedures that will be practiced from the time the client walks into the doors, including sanitization upon entry to the studio and also within all tattoo areas, restrooms and much more.

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Clients are now required to fill out online release forms before appointments, wear masks at all times, including prior to entering the studio, provide their own masks, sanitize and wipe down their hands upon entry, take a quick temperature upon entry and to sanitize any items brought into the studio including phones, glasses, credit cards or medically necessary items. Clients will also need to arrive at the shop by themselves. Also, clients are asked to make their artists and shop owners aware if they have a compromised immune system prior to any consultations or appointments and if space is not available in a waiting room, clients must wait outside of the studio or in their car until their appointment or consultation time. Many of the new COVID-19 studio guidelines require artists to communicate with clients about their health before appointments, wear masks for every consultation or appointment, wear sleeve covers for every procedure or appointment and to wash and also sanitize hands upon entry. Artists have separate hand sanitization areas in each tattoo booth, and wipe and disinfect their tattoo booths after each client procedure and also clean and sanitize workstations all while maintaining their room capacity to meet social distancing guidelines. Artists will do daily health assessments for themselves and clients and should be given a 14-day quarantine if they are exposed to COVID-19 at any time.

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Tattooing is safer than ever with education and cross-contamination prevention at an all-time high. The tattoo studio has always been a place of sterility, creativity, new artistic experiences and new friends. Tattooing is as ancient as language and has paved its own path through history, maintaining its relevance to mankind and has become a truly appreciated artform. This pandemic hit the tattoo industry in its renaissance era and now the pandemic is inspiring artists to create new artwork, new tattoos, new imagery and an all-new awareness into the future of tattooing and the new practices that artists and clients need to adhere to until we are all through this COVID-19 pandemic. Collectively, we are all in this together, artist and client! The more we practice these new COVID-19 protocols and procedures in the studio, the quicker we can all open our tattoo studios to the public, attend tattoo conventions in person, do guest spots at other studios, have in-person seminars and workshops and everything else we’ve had the pleasure to be a part of for all these years. 

Durb Morrison is the owner of RedTree Tattoo Gallery as well as the man behind the Hell City Conventions. He'll be sharing his insight about once a month on with his Tattoo Talk with Durb.