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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Dodgy ink a backyard bombshell

A Shepparton tattooist has warned bad artwork is the smallest concern for people attending backyard operators, with fears low-quality ink could even result in death.

DARREN LINTON January 16, 2013 4:50am

Dale Huggard tattoos a customer at his Thinkin Ink studio. Mr Huggard is concerned about backyard operators.


 

Tattooist Dale Huggard has more than stories about dodgy backyard operators — he has photographs.

In an instant he’s flicking through files on the small digital camera he keeps in his work space at his Thinkin Ink studio on North St, Shepparton.

He brings up a picture of a tattoo he’s trying to fix; it is supposed to be of a koi — an ornamental fish — but its face looks like a cross between a monkey and a slug.

Mr Huggard says it’s one of many examples he sees of people with cheap and nasty work who come through his door seeking help.

‘‘We’re either fixing them or removing it,’’ Mr Huggard said.

‘‘Some of them you can’t fix, they are just that bad.’’

But the reality is that bad artwork is the least of the problems associated with backyard operators.

‘‘You can die from it,’’ Mr Huggard said.

Federal Member for Murray Sharman Stone is also worried about backyard tattooists who might not follow sterilisation processes and observe other health guidelines to stop the spread of infection and disease.

Dr Stone said they might also be using low-cost inks purchased on the internet, which could contain toxic materials that might cause an allergic reaction, such as lead compounds, nickel and arsenic.

‘‘If tattoo ink is searched on the internet, the components of the ink are not identified and local tattooists are worried about ink coming from China and other overseas countries where there is very little regulation,’’ she said.

‘‘We are hearing horror stories — like the tattooist who allegedly bought a kit off the internet, tattooed himself and opened a shop, which is now trading.’’

Mr Huggard said all tattoo shops were registered and the premises had to be approved by the Health Department, but Dr Stone said better regulation and enforcement was needed.

In Victoria there is no legal requirement for a tattooist to be qualified, but Mr Huggard has been a member of Professional Tattooing Association of Australia — a self-regulating industry body — for a decade.

‘‘Membership means you are working to a higher standard,’’ he said.

‘‘Ever since tattooing started getting popular in Australia, backyarders have been a problem. They will buy the $200 tattoo kit on the internet, but not the $5000 worth of sterilisation equipment.’’

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