This week our social meed feeds have gone absolutely bonkers with messages about E4’s show Tattoo Fixers. We felt we had to write about it.
As a tattoo blog, Inkluded was set up with a strong mission – to spread awareness of amazing tattoo art, showcase talented emerging artists and represent this artistic industry in a respectful and truthful light, educating the public along the way about what makes good (and bad) art. There’s a lot of bad press out there about tattoos, and we’ve got to start sharing the great stuff. You’re going to wear it on your body forever, you’ve got to get it right first time.
We’ve worked with many artists before, all at different points in their career. Last year we interviewed one of Tattoo Fixers‘s stars Alice Perrin, who is an incredibly lovely human and I have personally received a beautiful tattoo from her years ago. She’s a talented artist who has been establishing herself in the UK neo-traditional tattoo scene for the last few years. I’m looking at her artwork hanging on my kitchen wall as I type.
As a tattoo blog we (and I as a person) campaign to spread positivity, create a friendly community and give tattoo artists the utmost respect we possibly can. We aren’t here to gossip or criticise the work of any artists. I’m not a tattooist, I am not really entitled to an opinion, I believe.
This week, however, there has been such a large volume of comments with regards to this particular tattoo show – both online and what I have heard from almost every tattoo artist I have spoken to in the last few months. As one of the UK’s leading tattoo websites, we couldn’t NOT act as a sounding board for this discussion, for artists who want to share their views with the world. A huge (and I mean, really huge) proportion of the industry we represent is pretty pissed off, and we’re have to tell you why. That’s what we’re for. That’s why we exist.
This week, my Facebook feed has been filled with artists wearing a ‘Fuck Tattoo Fixers‘ t-shirt, and I’ve seen hundreds of different posts and comments from people expressing their shock towards a tattoo done by artist Sketch on a recent episode of the show (more on this below).
One of the tattoo artists I’ve been speaking to is Ben Doran from River City Tattoo Collective in Bath. His thoughts in particular have gone viral on Facebook – he is promoting an important message for those who have been tattooed on the E4 show.
Ben told us: “I am offering (as long as it’s possible) to execute a good, accurate cover-up or re-work for free, for anyone that is unhappy with their tattoo that’s been done on the television show. I am doing this because the public need to be properly educated that they CAN have a good, solid cover-up of a high level in the UK if you just do your research.”
Tattoo Fixers has grown a massive fan base over the last couple of series. “Reading their official Facebook page is nothing short of frightening,” says Ben. “The general public genuinely believe the cover-ups are amazing.”
“I really do think the public need to be guided (rather than educated) towards what is possible, and by whom, in the UK. Both of my studios get an abundance of messages daily, from people with horrendously designed and executed tattoos that they want touched-up.”
Ben is already speaking directly to 7 individuals who have been tattooed on the show and not happy with their cover-ups. “I’ve been told by the applicants I’m dealing with, that the producer of the show isn’t into tattooing at all, doesn’t have any tattoos and is ignorant to the process.”
Ben adds, “I don’t believe all the pieces have been horrendous. I have seen Jay put out some really nice work on occasion (like the Michael Jackson tattoo) and I was fan of Lou Hopper’s work. I have no dislike for the people who have put this show on air and I do admire them for putting themselves in the firing line…”
“But being willing to bastardise everything so many of us have worked so hard to do, by churning out work of such a low quality, is deplorable. We’ve all done questionable pieces, it’s all part and parcel of what we do, nobody is a machine, but so many people have now moaned about the programme, that it was time to stand up and do something about it.”
Another tattooist who has posted strong opinions this week is Newbury-based artist Hannah Calavera. Her own blog said the following:
“Tattoo Fixers has a lot to answer for in terms of lowering the standards of tattooing as a whole in the UK. Now the average Joe will think that this mediocre level of tattooing is the acceptable standard, when there are artists in this country who do absolutely phenomenal work being overlooked. It also gives people unrealistic expectations about what can be covered up with what, and the sort of time frame it can be expected in.”
“I am also afraid it will make people who can’t draw, think they can do the job we slave at every day, just because they think it’s cool. The fact that Sketch openly admits on the Channel 4 website to just buying a tattoo machine off the internet with no training, will no doubt inspire a new generation of scratchers.”
“This is why we are angry. This is a craft that is so beloved to us, and it is being made a mockery of by people who know nothing about it. People who wouldn’t be able to tell a good tattoo from a bad one, now profess to be experts in telling us how amazing the Tattoo Fixers are. I actually saw one woman say on an Instagram comment that Sketch was better than Kamil Mocet (one of the UK’s most renowned colour artists).”
Hannah gives some background information on why Sketch is making a bad name for himself: “in the first season he became infamous amongst the tattoo community for using other people’s designs and passing them off as his own on national TV. Artists such as Jesse Rix, Sneaky Mitch Allenden, Brian Thomas Wilson, Glen Preece, Emily Rose Murray (photo above) and Antony Flemming (photo below) have all had their work ripped off by him.”
“This has made him a figure of ridicule and dislike in the tattoo artist community as these artists are all hard-working, incredibly talented and have paid their dues in tattooing to the extent that they are considered some of the best in the world. To have the level of dishonesty and stupidity to try and pass off their work as his own, pissed a lot of people off.”
“On the show, the artists are regularly shown tattooing in unsafe, unsanitary conditions. None of the tattooists wrap their machines to prevent cross contamination.”
“The reason I am so angry is because this is a tattoo artist in the public eye, he has an ethical responsibility towards the people they put on this show, to make sure that tattooing is represented as best it can be, to preserve the integrity and future of our craft.”
Hannah explains why the below image has been shared so much this week. “His lines are shaky, the roses look at best, like cabbages, the lace looks like tangerine bags and there is a whole portion of this tattoo that is not covering up anything and looks just as dark and horrendous as the cover-up portion.”
“The jewel with the stag inside disappears into the belly button… a mistake that could have been fixed easily if he had considered for a moment that the placement was off before he even started tattooing. He also knew the lady was to get a breast augmentation at a future date and has tattooed way further up than needed. The tattoo will then cover a large part of the new breast tissue, making the new tattoo way more noticeable and intrusive than it was before.”
“Another example of his lack of knowledge and skill is the colour palette he used. Red is not a great colour for covering black. In using it, he has ensured that the client will find it very hard to laser, as red is one of the more difficult colours to get rid of. The client is left with a huge, unlaserable, masculine, dark, badly-placed mess that the old tattoo shows through anyway.”
“I finished watching the show feeling that the lady had been badly exploited. Anyone without an interesting story would have been told that the tattoo was not suitable to be covered on the show, without laser or several tattoo sessions to layer the colour without scarring.”
“The production company and tattooist knowingly set about the cover-up just to be able to feature her on the show. I believe that Sketch knew it would not be a successful tattoo, let alone a successful cover-up, before he even started, and now that person has a terrible, permanent mess on them forever. I feel like he sold her, and another chunk of his (already questionable) integrity out, to make a buck essentially.”
“We desperately need tattooing to be represented the way it really is so that we can show people the dangers of improper practice. And most importantly to re-educate people on just how amazing tattooing really can be.”
Intro: Beccy Rimmer
Words: Ben Doran and Hannah Calavera
What do you think? Let us know on Facebook.
Since this article was published, Ben Doran is now talking directly to 10+ individuals who were tattooed on the show. Some who have appeared on the Tattoo Fixers have started to speak out about their experiences, including Daniel Head.
Hannah’s original blog (linked to in our article above) has now been removed following her being contacted by Studio Lambert lawyers and legal action threatened.
(Ongoing – updates 15 March 2016)
Other articles published:
Digital Spy: Tattoo Fixers star slams “brutal” reality show