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I believe it was the legendary punk rock band DOA who once said “Talk minus action equals zero.” A wise adage if ever there was one and an adage that can be meaningful in so many different situations. Well, the particular context I’m referring to happens to be (surprise!) tattoos and how they are perceived by others. Yes, there are many stereotypes and negative opinions of tattoos, tattoo studios and tattoo artists, but there is only so much complaining about it that can be done before one starts to think Well, why don’t I do something to change things?
Which is precisely what Mark Walters of Living Canvas Tattoo in Tempe, Arizona has done. When he first opened up his tattoo shop in Tempe, residents like Steve Tseffos were none too pleased. Having zero experience with the tattoo industry, Tseffos relied on the same old outdated stereotypes of tattoo shops that never seem to die. So concerned was Tseffos about the inevitable decline of the neighbourhood due to Walters’ presence that he even went to the city council to try to stop Walters from moving in. Thankfully it didn’t work.
It is now 17 years since Living Canvas first opened its doors and Mark Walters has proven both himself and his business to be professional, safe and entirely reputable. In fact, residents like Steve Tseffos have entirely changed their opinion of Walters and his tattoo lifestyle:
‘Now, Tseffos is the shop’s landlord, and he calls Living Canvas, under the leadership of Walters, one of his best tenants.
“There’s not one person in the neighborhood who would complain about Mark,” Tseffos said.’
Being one of the stars of the neighbourhood however, doesn’t change Walters’ desire to clear the air surrounding tattoo artists and educate the uneducated, so to speak. This past Wednesday, Walters and his Living Canvas staff headed up a Diversity Community lunch, speaking to Tempe community members about the negative stereotypes attached to the tattoo industry.
‘Walters said tattoos are becoming more acceptable, particularly among young people, but for many people, the stigma attached to tattoos still remains.
“Even for me, growing up, it was like, ‘you don’t get tattoos,’ ” he said. “But now, it’s completely different. The art and the industry are completely different.”
Another recurring theme in the meeting, conducted in an informal question-and-answer format, was the difference between safe, reputable tattoo shops and unsafe, low-budget shops – often referred to as “scratchers.”
Walters said he would like to see more regulation of tattoo shops, which could not only get rid of unsafe practices but clean up the industry’s reputation.
“In Arizona, you need to have a license to cut hair, but you don’t need one to have a license to give a tattoo,” he told the audience of about 20 at the meeting conducted in City Council chambers.
They also had advice for people hoping to get tattoos.’
This is really cool. A perfect way to get out and make a change in people’s perceptions. If more respected artists took the time to talk to the people in their communities about tattoos and the realities involved, then things would move that much faster in a positive direction. I’m not trying to suggest that everything rests on the shoulders of tattoo artists, but I think that ever little bit of good publicity helps in the long run.