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Will tattoo artists survive the lockdown?

Christopher Bilmes

Here in the UK a vast number of people are now on furlough - the government is paying 80% of wages up to £2,500 a month - an unprecedented and life saving measure out of the policy books of the left leaning parties never before seen. But what if you're self employed and rely on hundreds or thousands even or small jobs a year - like tattoo artists do - to bring in the bacon?

The sometimes murcky world of tax and tattoos is likely to be a major issue right now for tattoo artists up and down the land. Now, there are no doubt many artists who declare their income and pay tax on it each year and so can make at least some use of government schemes that are in place for the self employed. But by the same token, and let's face it there are few justifiable reasons only to take cash payments in the world of contactless, there are many for whom the tax return, like a new flash sheet, is something of a work of art. But if you haven't been declaring your real income it's going to be hard as hell to get some "free" money from the state coffers. So what on earth you do to survive?

We've all seen an increase in offers for the usual accessories offered by individuals and studios - tattoo tokens and tees - but the former are uncertain with no date for reopening and the latter need investment in stock at a time when cash is thin on the ground and retail sales of apparel have crashed 27% since the lockdown. It's a brave artist who thinks those two elements alone will pay for the weekly Wholefoods shop. 

What does that leave?  Something, anything, for a bit of cash. Personally I have been blown away by some of the motion capture Instagram stories and videos showing just how talented a great number of our beloved artists are - whether producing good ol' fashioned flash or branching out to different subjects and styles to while away the long hours listening to Craig Charles on Radio 6.

Take for example @dicky1981 out of The Circle in London producing incredible Disneyesque pieces for £100 a pop, @racotattoo out if Manchester with his stylised modern take on flash with prints for as little as £10, or @winkevans out of Norwich (and Dicky's brother) producing the most fucking awesome Akira pieces. 

These and many many more are not "just" tattoo artists. They are artists within the full meaning of the word producing original works for retail consumption at a time when income is fucked and for some at least the wolves are at the door. 

If you want to do one thing today to help your favourite artist, to help the industry and the culture that you're dialled into and that forms an important part of your own world view, then buy some art and proudly display it on your walls.

The arts and all culture always get the shittest end of the deal in an financial crisis, and make no bones about it that it what we are in and will be in for some time to come. Don't let tattoo culture take any bigger of a knock than is inevitable. Step up and pay out. 

CB x

 


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