What tattoo artists and their clients inked, when salons reopened and the first signs of the “old” life returned
On the first day of Unlock 1.0, as the country emerged about three months from fear of the coronavirus, Karthik Bengre was delighted to return to work at his Bengaluru-based Sculp Tattoo Studio. “The previous two or three days we had spent disinfecting the studio, so I walked in so excited to open,” says the tattoo artist, who had spent confinement practicing his art form. and had also taken up sculpture and painting, because of the free time he had.
His only client for the day was a young woman who requested that a man’s name be tattooed on her hand.
âAfter the session, I asked him what the meaning of the name was. She said it was her childhood friend, who died of COVID-19, âhe says. It was with mixed emotions that he received the information, wondering if it had been with him, but also realizing that it was a moment to remember – a commemoration of a lifetime, and a time when the the whole world was united in collective stillness.
Business has dropped dramatically for tattoo artists, as people are suddenly hyper-conscious about health and hygiene, and the art of tattooing is a close-contact profession. The artists themselves like to restrict clients, and Karthik only makes one appointment a day, opening and closing the studio just for that. Many do not accept walk-in tours, and as artists struggle with the business side – paying rent, utility bills, property taxes – there is also a feeling of slowness, people carefully consider the designs and the reason why they want a tattoo in the first place. âIn fact, people are very considerate – they ask us if we are free now,â Karthik says. An older client even called him to tell him he was coming to get a tattoo and pay off part of a bill he hadn’t paid earlier.
According to Sujatha Srihari, of Studio Jade, who practices in Chennai, âThere is a kind of desperation, people want to do something. They’ve been locked up for so long, and it’s the only adventure they’ll have for a while. One person told her she never had the courage or the time, “but when the pandemic hit, she thought,” We don’t know what’s going to happen. Let me check this off my bucket list ‘. Srihari was surprised when within a week she brought eight people into the studio. Her medical tattoo segment resumed, with people with vitiligo opting for pigment work.
The day after he learned that Vikas Malani, who owns studios and practices in Delhi, Mumbai and London, had opened his studio, Dinesh Ingle responded. He says, âWhen I saw what the three months had done to us and what my Fortune 500 business was going through, I was like, ‘Let me do what I have to do.’ This coronavirus situation is not going to change. “
An automotive design engineer who lives and works between Mumbai and Pune, Dinesh has had tattoos on her shoulder, upper arm, and part of her neck and back. âIt portrays the cosmic bang – it talks about how the planet formed and its spiral in space and time, and the Earth is entering its final phase. Everything that has existed will slowly dissolve.
This discussion of philosophy is something Vikas finds a lot today, compared to before the lockdown. âBefore, conversations were about work; now it’s about memories. So there are a lot of travel symbols like a compass, maps, stars, nature, flowers and wild animals, âhe says. Their industry is also seeing cover-up tattoos, as relationships fall apart during the lockdown. These require some skill, “or else you’ll end up with a black spot.” “People have started to reevaluate life – there is no left, right, front or back.”
But first, disinfect
Most studios have the standard coronavirus protocols people demand – temperature checks; masks, shoe covers and gloves; periodic disinfection, sometimes even during the process, as some works of art can take several hours. âWe are seeing people asking for bigger tattoos now because they have the time,â says Raghav Sethi, who runs The Tatoo Shop in Delhi.
This is the best time to get a tattoo, he thinks, because the gyms are closed (you don’t want to stretch the muscles), and most people are indoors, so it’s easy to protect the body. heat and sun tattoo (it takes three weeks to heal). Per capita spending has increased as people who have work are willing to spend up to a lakh, from the amount they have saved on travel, entertainment, commuting, and all related expense costs. at work. âThe difference is that I mostly see salaried people entering; not business people or entrepreneurs, âhe said.
While artists agree that people are asking more questions about art and hygiene protocols, Vikas says there will soon be awareness about the more technical aspects of tattooing. âAsk where the needles come from, what ink they use,â he says, adding that the best material comes from the EU because the laws are strict; the worst come from China. A red flag is if the best artists charge 3,000 for a tattoo and someone else quotes a quarter of that rate. It is not only based on the originality of the design and the work, but also on the materials used – it uses an organic and vegan ink that contains thymol, a derivative of thyme that has antiseptic qualities. âMake sure the ink is from a new bottle, because sometimes a studio can use ink that’s already open, to save money. “
It is this caution that makes tattoo art a thoughtful decision, rather than an impulse today. âWe used to bring students in together; today a college student comes with a parent, who wants to ensure cleanliness and safety, âsays Raghav.
The way we are
One of Sethi’s most poignant clients was a doctor in Delhi, who felt the pressure of overwork with postgraduate exams and practice in the intensive care unit of a COVID-19 ward. Last month, she had the tree of life inked, in its roots the initials of its parents, in its leaves the words: “She conquered her demons and bore her scars like wings”.
The doctor says it was his second tattoo, symbolic of his life and struggles. It’s about tapping into your strengths and power: your family and their support, no matter what. âI’m at a point where I’ve achieved whatever I want. I have seen death up close and families losing two or three people at a time, and I am grateful for the life.
Her only request: that she be able to return to her parents, whom she has not seen for six months. “Please take all precautions so that the virus subsides and doctors can see their loved ones again,” she said.