The tattoo industry and its culture have evolved over the years. You can see tattoos in the mainstream, tattoos becoming fine art, and generally growing in social acceptance.
In this article, we’ll look at reasons why the tattoo paradigm has shifted. We’ll also talk about how tattoo artists are benefiting and enjoying this global interest in tattoo culture.
Society’s attitude toward tattoos has changed. It shows in the changes of stereotypes and the art’s rise in popularity. Tattooing has entered the fine art world and carved out a niche.
To say exactly when public perception of tattoos shifted is subjective. Still, there’s a noticeable change in how people wear and regard tattoos.
In an interview with The Atlantic, 15+ year veteran tattoo artist and studio owner Michelle Myles talks about how tattoo culture has changed.
Myles talks about “a 57-year-old woman (that) came into my shop yesterday for her first tattoo.” The patron was a BBC employee and she got a giant snake tattooed on her forearm.
The clientele Michelle serves has evolved over the years. Her doctor has a full sleeve tattoo. She knows a successful lawyer with a full body suit. Myles feels that tattoos and body art have “crossed over into every class, age, gender, and background.”
Myles thanks a recent boom in New York City’s tattoo culture for helping tattoos into the spotlight. Maybe it has something to do with tattooing being illegal in NYC until 1997. Or it could be because New York City is the fashion and entertainment capital of the world – where styles and trends are born.
It might also help that the New York Historical Society sees tattooing as the fine art.
Tattooed New York was a new museum exhibit hosted by the New York Historical Society. It focused on the self-presentation of tattoos – the aesthetic of the person as much as the tattoo. Not only that, the exhibit examined tattoo culture, from its origins up to today.
From the outskirts of society to outsider art, tattoos have come a long way. Museum curators like Lee Anne Hurt Chesterfield, curator at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, see tattooing as the “outsider” art form it once was.
“If you look through art history,” says Chesterfeld, “there’s always an art form that’s emerging that’s not as accepted.”
It seems that this art form has gone beyond its emergence and is now established.
Now, that people are more appreciative of tattoos, they see the artistic value of tattooing. The medium presents a challenge to the traditional art world, but photography is helping to bridge that gap.
When you use the skin as the canvas, you create an interactive, breathing piece of artwork. But the human body is impermanent, and thus the art is too.
In an interview with The Japan Times, Horiyoshi III states, “This is why I never show my designs as so-called art.” He’s effectively summed up the challenge in considering tattoos as pieces of art.
You can’t display a tattoo in a frame. You can’t buy, sell, or trade tattoos like you can other works of art. Tattoo artists get paid for their labor, but there isn’t an easy way to attach commerce to the work itself.
That is, until, you take some amazing photos.
Thanks to photographers and museum curators, tattooing can be showcased as the fine art it is. Just look at how one museum in California and a photographer present Japanese tattoos as fine art.
Japanese Tattoo: Perseverance, Art, and Tradition was an extremely popular exhibit curated by the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, CA. It featured a collaboration of many world-renowned tattoo artists.
Kip Fulbeck documented the traditional Japanese body art in his photography series and book Permanence: Tattoo Portraits. Life-sized versions of his work were exhibited and sold at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Tattoos may be an impermanent art that can’t be placed on your wall, but that doesn’t mean people don’t see and appreciate them.
Tattoo culture has entered into the mainstream. You can see it in the way the media looks at the tattoo industry and artists.
Look at some of the headlining entertainers that proudly wear their tattoos. Read about some of the many celebrity tattoo artists and the professional lives they lead.
Americans are in love with celebrities. Many movie stars, athletes, and even politicians are known for their awesome tattoos. Here are just a few inked celebs:
– With his coming of age, teen idol Justin Bieber went all out with his tattoos.
– Did you know that many of America’s founding fathers had tattoos? Read about these world leaders with tattoos.
Tattoos used to be on the fringe of what’s considered socially acceptable, but today, all kinds of people have tattoos. You can see tattoos on display in the workplace. The tattooing market continues to grow and tattoo popularity keeps rising.
Having a tattoo no longer automatically disqualifies you from getting the job you want. Huffington Post has the most recent word on tattoos in the workplace:
– Young people don’t worry about their tattoos or piercings while seeking employment.
– During the hiring process, proper business attire, good grooming habits, and hygiene are more important visual attributes.
– While tattoos are much more socially acceptable than they were, some workers may benefit (or need to) cover up their tattoos during a certain job.
How popular are tattoos today? Consider these statistics published by Business Insider:
– People do their homework before getting a tattoo. “First tattoo” is the 2nd most popular global search term. The first is “personal health.”
– Tattoos continue to be popular with the youth. More than a third of all millennials have at least one tattoo.
– People with tattoos are passionate – and they want more ink! 92% of people with one or more tattoos are looking to get another. There’s even a social media platform called Tattoodo. It’s designed just for tattoo lovers and professionals.
It’s simple, but it’s not easy. With the right training, dedication, and hard work, anyone can become a successful tattoo artist.
According to Business Insider, the global tattoo industry is worth about $50 billion USD. All kinds of artists learn how to tattoo, so they can earn a piece of that market.
Graphic designers can work on their portfolios by practicing tattooing. Learning how to actually create tattoos can become a second source of income. Likewise, a talented visual artist can draw (and sell) sketches for tattoo artists to use with clients.
College students with the right skills can use tattooing to pay their bills. Tattooing allows artists to translate a talent for drawing into a viable career path. Students can use tattooing as a “side hustle” while they pursue their higher education. It’s more fun and more rewarding than driving for Uber.
Tattooing amateurs and body modification enthusiasts can take their hobby and make it their job. Turn your passion into your profession. Take your personal interests and make an investment in yourself.
Body Art & Soul Tattoos provides training in the arts and a trade, all at the same time. We teach you a craft you can use for a lifetime and most of our lead artists today started as art students then came to us to pursue their dreams. After you complete your tattoo apprenticeship, we guarantee you a job offer in one of our shops.
You get to practice the art you love while building your career. Become a professional tattoo artist and develop a skill set you can take anywhere in the world.
Start a chat with an advisor to find out how to get started.