The problems written in ink

Usually when discussing tattoos, the first opinions that we gravitate towards are whether or not you should get one. Some say you will regret it, others say it is incredible art. But I am not interested in adding to this debate. Rather, I want to talk about a new problem that has arisen from the undeniable rise in popularity of tattoos. To illustrate this, I would like to use a personal story. A person I knew once found a tattoo design online of a rose made out of staff paper. They promptly took the picture to a tattoo shop and had the tattoo artist copy the exact design from the picture. As tattoos rise in popularity, so too is a culture of copycats on the rise.

Theoretically, there is nothing wrong with copying works of art. Some people might even consider it a compliment. However, this habit of repetitive Pinterest tattoos does a lot of damage to both the client and the artist. First and foremost, it insults the artist’s creativity to just copy another’s design. If you bother to find a really good artist, bringing in another artist’s work is just saying loud and clear that you would prefer to get a tattoo from someone else but you guess that they will have to do. Especially if that tattoo is not their style, it has sent a clear message that all you want is someone who can very clearly copy and paste some ink into your skin. But chances are it will also be less personal. Say the person I mentioned decided to show off their new tattoo to their friends. Imagine their surprise if one of their friends then rolled up their sleeve to reveal a nearly identical design! (A friend not too long after told me a new tattoo design idea of a rose made out of staff paper so it could definitely happen.) I am sure that to both people it has a personal meaning, but that meaning is rendered meaningless because it is not a personal design. It could have all the meaning to you in the world but when it is generic it is no longer personal.

But it is not just the client and the artist that are hurt. The people on the receiving end are hurt just as badly if not worse. The artist who was ripped off put a lot of time and effort into constructing and designing an amazing tattoo which they then spent quite a bit of time putting on someone’s body. They post a picture of their hard work only to then find a couple months later that someone has taken their idea and passed it off as their own. They receive no compensation or recognition for their work and there is no way to protect themselves without destroying the only way of marketing themselves. For the people who are being ripped off, it also feels terrible. If you spent any time or effort thinking carefully about what you wanted on your body, it probably has a great deal of meaning. Imagine your horror if it then becomes a trendy tattoo that is repeated over and over again on thoughtless people who thought it looked pretty or cool or exciting. What was personal and special has suddenly become generic.

In the end, your body only belongs to you. If you wanted to you could go out tomorrow and get a copycat tattoo on every inch of clear skin that you have. You might be turned away by some artists and might also end up with some truly terrible copycat jobs but you could do it. What it comes down to is the reasoning that you have for the tattoos and whether you let your artist have a say. Inspiration is great and it can spark ideas for great tattoos, but a copycat will just never be as good as the original. I myself intend to get my first tattoo soon having discussed a design that is very dear and personal to me. It reminds me of my heritage, good times in my life and the people I love. I think it is beautiful so I want to share it when I finally get it. And at the end of the day, people might copy my design. But I know that no matter how many people copy it, they will never actually know the true beauty of my tattoo. Though I really would appreciate it if people would just think up their own, I also feel bad for the people who feel that they are not creative enough to dream up something awesome.