Tattooing in a Covid climate

The current Covid-19 pandemic has devastated many and varied industries across Ireland. Tattoo shops and parlours are among the niche businesses that have suffered most under the draconian
government-enforced restrictions.

Tattoo shops have reopened now but were closed for the majority of the pandemic, while hairdressers and salons were treated more favourably by the government. For many working in the tattooing business, they feel isolated and forgotten about by the Government’s actions.

In March, when tattoo shops were forced to close their shutters, The Tattoo and PiercingFederation of Ireland created a petition for equality in the tattoo and piercing industry. To date it has received 11,468 signatures.

“Having reviewed the Government’s Roadmap, we would like to open a discussion around our industry’s placement within the Roadmap. We believe that, with the correct protocols in place to
ensure the safety of tattooers, piercers and our clients, we should be allowed to open at a much earlier stage,” says the petition. The petition highlights the frustration of many tattoo artists.

“We have a backlog of clients as well as the fact the industry is heavily reliant on tourism,” says Danny Roseman, owner of Tiger Tattoo studio in Stephen Street Upper, Dublin 8. “When we
couldn’t open for St. Patrick’s Day, we were hit hard. That would be one of our busiest days.”

Roseman’s studio was shuttered from mid-March through November. Tattooing is quite seasonal, and a lot of people don’t realise that,” he says. “A lot more people get tattoos in the
summertime because they’re showing more skin, they’re going on holidays etc. We couldn’t open at all during that period.”

Going forward, Roseman discusses what has changed within his own business as it finally reopens. “Usually, people come in with a friend when they are getting tattooed and they won’t be able to do that anymore.”

“In terms of sanitation, we would have been quite up to speed with all that. Our artists wear aprons, gloves with some wearing masks and visors as well. I think the whole social aspect of
coming and getting a tattoo has now been removed with the masks and perspex glass up”.

Roseman goes on to express his frustration at the government’s decision to allow hairdressers and barbers to open before tattoo studios. “We have to be more sterile than barbers. We operate using the same sterile equipment as dentists. Barbers or hairdressers do not need to get injections in order to work.”

Tattooing remains unregulated in Ireland. In recent years, there has been a huge increase in the number of tattoo parlours, notably in the city centre. As a result, there is a small percentage of
inexperienced artists working in unsanitary conditions.

In an interview in 2018 with Today FM, Kevin McNamara of Dublin Ink said: “If you’re in any way conscious of your customer’s health and your own health, you would welcome regulations.
Tattoo studios being unregulated puts customers and artists at risk.”

In 1988, a paper on safe tattooing was brought forward from the HSE to the government and still to this day, no one in authority has signed-off on it.

Someone who shares a similar opinion to Roseman is tattoo artist, Eimear O’ Reilly, or more famously known as SquidInk. O’Reilly set-up her own business by stick and poke and has recently moved to London to pursue tattooing there.

Speaking on whether the government did enough to support tattoo artists during the pandemic she said: “I felt like we were being left behind. I think, personally, the reason for that is because
the people who are dictating this decision are adults who grew up with a stigma surrounding tattoos. Having a tattoo doesn’t inhibit your ability to work professionally, it’s a form of expression and art. It’s difficult running your own business, in general, but it’s even harder when there’s no appreciation from the government, simply from the stigma that comes with tattoos/piercings.”

Analyzing the correlation between re-opening and hygiene issues, O’Reilly summarises her anger. “It is in our nature to be hygienic. I personally have worn a mask, tattooing, since I started
nearly three years ago. It frustrated me a lot when I heard we weren’t allowed to open and most of the reasons for that being due to close contact and hygienic reasons. We wouldn’t be in any
closer contact with a client than a hairdresser or barber. We religiously sanitize after every client. So, I knew myself there was no justification or evidence on why we shouldn’t open.”

Tiger Tattoo Studio Dublin Website:

SquidInk Instagram Page: