Where are we? I guess the answer depends on our age. I don’t mean how old we are; I mean how long we’ve been into tattoos. I think we all start off considering what we can get out of it. Then, we look to the future and where we can take it. Eventually, we look back and reminisce about what we did with it. So where are you? Are you attached like a remora taking the scraps from the current feeding frenzy? Are you an entrepreneur, capitalizing on the gold rush of tattoos, selling your lotions, your sunscreen, your pigments, your T-shirts? You know that, in 1851, during the California Gold Rush, people were selling common, everyday items for astronomical prices. Consider the cost of one, single chicken egg: $3.00. That would translate to $83.94 in today’s money. Eighty-four bucks for a single egg. A pound of cheese would cost you nearly seven hundred bucks at today’s currency rate―$699.53 to be exact. A shovel would set you back $36.00, which equates to $1,007.33 in today’s money. It doesn’t seem possible, but people wanted to be a part of it so badly that they’d pay almost any price to stay in the game. Did you also know that today, in 2010, you can get your very own Horiyoshi III, long-sleeved T-shirt from Yellowman for a mere $888.00? Some things never change. Guess that would be human nature.
You might be like me, excited about where things are and wanting to steer toward higher ground. I figure if we don’t, some TV producer or cheesy promoters will. If you don’t think some corporation is gonna take our culture and exploit it, you are kidding yourself. I had a friend request me for―if you can believe it―“America’s Next Top Tattoo Artist.” Un-fucking believable. Three choices, folks: (1) Sit back and watch, (2) join in and start blowing holes in the bottom of a sinking ship or (3) build bunkers out of whatever we can get a hold of and fight. Why not rebel? I’d rather be a part of the uprising than a victim of circumstance. Where do you draw the line? Good question. Sure, I sell stuff: tattoos, paintings, prints and DVDs of my work. In the past, I’ve even had some T-shirts, but I draw the line when my integrity demands it, when I can still feel good about things, when I am consciously contributing to our culture. Pushing things forward. Raising the standard. Inspiring you to do the same.
Am I saying I have it all together and always live in a perfect Eden of pure intentions, raking my Zen garden on the highest plane of consciousness? Of course not. Yes, a man’s got a living to make, but I never forget that I play a small part of a bigger picture. Don’t get me wrong, I’ not trying to make tattooing into some noble calling that changes lives but, to be honest, it sure has changed mine. Ten all-consuming years. And I love it.
I’m not there yet, but I’m working at it. I just hope to look back with my friends and have some good things to say, and not a bunch of grumpy complaints about how the “man” ruined my precious little oasis. I want to talk about how we quietly led the rebellion through the years, under the radar, and every once in a while, like this column, out in plain sight for everyone to see.
Remember, work hard at it.