How do we handle controversial tattoo requests?
Sometimes, a person requests what some might consider to be an outlandish tattoo idea. As artists, it’s our job to help navigate the how’s and the why’s of these requests. For example, here at Cardinal Tattoo, we have a “no hate” policy with regard to the tattoo work that we provide. No swastikas, or hate speech, no gang tattoos, we won’t even do your girl’s or boyfriend’s name, it’s just not a good idea.
Another symbol that we won’t tattoo is the Confederate Battle flag. It means a lot of things to a lot of different people and while we recognize that not everyone who flies the flag is racist, we also understand that the meaning of symbols change and out of a sense of responsibility to our younger customers who may not fully understand the impact of their decisions, and to those professed white supremacists, we make a clear stand...Cardinal Tattoo will not tattoo Confederate Battle Flags.
But what if the tattoo request isn’t a “hate” tattoo? What if it’s a tattoo with taboo connotations? In plain speak...what if it’s naughty? And possibly needs to be censored for view? How do we respond to that request? Simply by listening to our customers. It is not unusual for us to have a solid rapport with our clients - we quite prefer it - and in the case where a request for an explicit tattoo is made, we have to rely on that relationship as well as have the conversations surrounding the desire for the tattoo. We understand that tattoo regret is a REAL THING and we do not want to be factoring contributors so WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO SAY NO if we determine that the request is frivolous and without thought or meaning.
Which leads us here...what did Will tattoo at the Pit Row Expo in Atlanta? A very large thigh piece of a woman performing fellatio and y’all, there was nothing left to the imagination. This was not the first piece for this particular client that is sexual in content. He has a sleeve on his arm that pays homage to the BDSM lifestyle that has grown meaningful to both he and his wife. Which is exactly why Will did not have a hard time making the decisions to do this particular tattoo - he knows his customer and realizes the significance.
Would people disagree? Possibly. But tattoos aren’t for other people. They are for the ones who wear them. Would tattoo colleagues disagree? Once again, possibly. But for us at Cardinal Tattoo, a new idea is exciting because we like to be challenged and honestly, new ideas can be refreshing. And the tattoo certainly got a reaction. People actually stood in line to take pictures of it. It was posted on several social media accounts as well as talked about throughout the entirety of the convention. Because while it may have been a shocking tattoo to some, artistically, which is what the artists were judging, it was flawless. A large black/grey piece that literally STOPPED. THE. SHOW. not only for the content but because of the Artist’s ability to bring a picture to life. This one will go down in the books as controversial for sure...but worth it. Well worth it. A happy Customer + A happy Artist = A Win in our Books.