In the United States, an estimated 15 percent of American adults have a tattoo, and approximately 88 percent of Americans say they personally know someone who has a tattoo, according to a survey of 1,010 people conducted in May 2003 by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University. The same survey said that about 28 percent of adults younger than 25 and 30 percent of people between the ages of 25 and 34 also have tattoos.
Mainstream television shows like Inked on A&E and Miami Ink on TLC have helped improve the image of tattoos and the people who get them. Bikers, sailors and inmates are no longer the only individuals who come to mind when people think about tattoos.
As tattoos have gained more acceptance and popularity, people from all walks of life have turned to them as a form of expression. Like the variety of people who get them, the reasons for getting a tattoo are just as varied. People get tattoos to remember a loved one or to remember a particular time in their life, to forever carry their motto or words of inspiration with them or to express a specific passion in their life.
Although it seems like tattoos themselves are more accepted these days, Deep Ink, the local tattoo shop in Woodland, isn’t so welcome.
Deep Ink first opened its doors in June 2006 and has been spreading the word of its services ever since. Besides being the only tattoo shop in Woodland, one other factor sets Deep Ink apart from its neighbors on Main Street: the shop is not allowed to have a sign specifically stating its services.
Glen McLaughlin, owner of Deep Ink, was told by the Woodland city council that he could not have a sign that said “tattoo” or “body piercing” on it. The city council believed that it would not be in the city’s best interest to have a sign advertising “tattoos” and “body piercings” in public view.
Since the shop is located in the historical Odd Fellows building in downtown Woodland, the council also decided that it especially did not want “tattoo” or “body piercing” to appear on a historical building.
“Even if I owned the building, I couldn’t have a sign that said ‘tattoo’ on it,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin, however, found a way to deal with the ruling. He decided to have a sidewalk sign made that reads “body art,” instead of “tattoo” and “body piercing.” But the city council still had to approve of the design before it could be put on the street. After a few design drafts, a permit, and an insurance policy, the sign was ready to go. Like all sidewalk signs in Woodland, it can be displayed only during business hours and must have a specific amount of clearance around it.
“It took me six months to get the sidewalk sign. They gave me the runaround at first, but I played their game and got the sign.”
The former owner of the shop, Mark Freitas, encountered the same problems. Called Dark Sun when it first opened three years ago, it was the first tattoo shop in Woodland. Just like Deep Ink, Dark Sun had the same sign restrictions, as well as a few others.
In the official Staff Review for the business proposal for Dark Sun, besides the exterior sign restrictions, the company display area could not be used for “displaying tattoo art, manikins with body piercing and any other tattoo or body piercing paraphernalia.”
The council also specified that the shop’s official name had to be Dark Sun Art Studio and was only allowed to be open Monday through Saturday.
Unlike Woodland, Davis tattoo and piercing shops do not face such sign restrictions. Urban Body on 2nd Street has “tattoo and body piercing” listed right below its name on their company sign, as does Icon Tattoo on B Street.
Although tattoos have been used for many years, many people still view them as unusual. It took a long time for massage parlors to overcome the stereotypical images of 60s and 70s. In the same way, tattoo studios are gradually overcoming their negative connotations.
Besides prejudice, tattoo shops also get a bad rap because many people believe that getting a tattoo can give you HIV or hepatitis. According to 1997 HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, published regularly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC has no documented cases of HIV transmission through tattooing since it began tracking the spread of HIV in 1985.
Even though hepatitis can be transmitted through tattoos, people are more likely to get Hepatitis from their dentist. In the 1996 Hepatitis Surveillance Report Number 56, the CDC found that of the 13,387 annual cases detailed in the report, only 12 were associated with tattoos shops. On the other hand, 43 cases were associated with dental offices.