A 'scratcher' is someone who tattoos from home or a hotel room unprofessionally. They usually profess to have worked in a tattoo shop before and some actually have. Their equipment may or may not closely resemble that used by their professional counterparts and they may even produce some sort of certificate showing they've had bloodborne pathogen control training. The truth is, unless you've been trained to know the difference, most people wouldn't know a professional tattoo artist from a fake. At least, not until the tattooing begins.
It's all too easy to fake it in front of someone who doesn't know any better. 'He opened the package right in front of me' people say, not knowing that sterilization pouches can be bought cheap and that steam will make them look like they've been sterilized in an autoclave. By the way, if you don't know what an autoclave is you certainly don't know enough to avoid getting a Staph infection or Hepatitis from one of these idiots. Getting a good tattoo is the least of your worries. There's a number of these knuckleheads working in Gallatin and the only reason they're able to continue to do so is because they are willing to lie to the people they depend on to make a living.
When asked why they don't work in a shop, most scratchers lie and say they'd rather keep all of the money for themselves instead of splitting it with a shop. Then they'll make up some garbage about being able to pass on the savings to their customers. But if they're so concerned about making more money, why would they cut their prices? The truth looks more like this: Every year there's a number of tattoo apprentices who don't make it, they get fired for some reason (usually incompetence or for being unethical) and they start scratching at home because they know enough to lie convincingly to people. They usually charge a fraction of what a professional tattooer would, otherwise no one would go to them. Since they charge so much less they have to cut corners with respect to cleaning supplies and materials. Reputable tattoo supply companies refuse to sell to anyone without a license so scratchers resort to buying knock-off, cheap-o materials off the internet, including the same inks that have been plagued recently by a rash of recalls for being contaminated with bacteria.
Without training it's impossible to learn proper tattoo technique. Anyone can pick up a machine and leave a mark, but the professional tattooer can provide a consistently high level of artwork that the novice is incapable of. Scratchers aren't interested in taking care of their customers, they're not interested in becoming legitimate professionals (in fact, being a scratcher guarantees that no legitimate shop would hire them)
Lots (lots) of people have come into Cardinal Tattoo over the past year in order to have this permanent garbage covered up and we're happy to have been able to help these people out, to educate them on why quality is more important than cost, and to grow our tattoo family. In the process we've brought award-winning tattoo work to Gallatin and helped to stop this plague of morons from ruining people's skin. These photos are examples of some 'scratchers' work. It's easy to tell the difference once the tattoos are done. Unfortunately by then it's too late.