In his latest fireside podcast, Jake explores our future and the future of the industry and called for all of you out there to help us in this endeavor. One of the areas he touched on was the shifting of supplies to China, either due to large corporate buyouts or any of several other factors that see us finding China as a growing source for industry supplies. Jake asked, “Are you ok with buying your supplies cheaper? Does the question of quality and regulation come into play at all for you?” I myself wonder if we are seeing the tattoo industry supply chain become dominated by a Walmart mentality. However, Jake asked and so shall he receive my two cents worth as far as inks, importation and regulation go.
First, let’s talk about China. As a growing number of tattoo supplies become available from China and easily accessible through sources like Amazon, it is readily apparent that there are already sources undercutting American suppliers in price and availability. However, remember that we are in an industry that really does warrant the catch phrase, “you get what you pay for.” So does this mantra carry over into the supply aspect of the business? I think so.
First, China is notorious for its knock off products that resemble the real thing. Remember, that the Chinese government could care less about any kind of copyright laws. There you will see near perfect knock off products right down to the fake apple logo on the fake iphone. Disigner clothing to brand name golf clubs that even Tiger Woods couldn’t recognize as fake are the norm. When you order that bottle of Eternal ink, you never know if you are getting the real deal or some knock off that was shipped under extreme heat or cold.
Let’s talk regulation. If the Chinese government doesn’t manage copyrights, then you can darn sure bet that they could give a rat’s ass about regulation and safety as they have shown on multiple occasions. Think about how many times we have seen toys recalled because some factory manager in China wanted to save a few bucks by putting lead paint on children’s toys. Do you think a bunch of nontattooing business guys running a factory in China are going to care whether the ink is safe or that they have used the appropriate solder on their discount needles? You get to bare that burden when your customer comes in with a nice infection from a bad batch of needles.
I guess you have probably figured out that I am not really for outsourcing of this kind from any standpoint; be it ethically, socially, morally or economically. Most of the innovation is happening stateside and I think we should have direct access to those who are actually doing the creating, whether they are actually tattooers or not.
Speaking of stateside, I also think that the tattoo industry is not really under any jurisdiction that the FDA could or would mandate and I hope it stays that way. As someone who has watched the FDA drag its feet in passing a plethora of medications that have already been working in Europe for years for all manner of medical conditions, I have no love of their ineptitude. They block drugs that work and are safe. They regulate and categorize inappropriately, such as with the newest cigar legislation that groups cigars under blanket regulation with totally unrelated products. In a way, I think that our industry is one of the purer implementations of capitalism there is. If a product is crappy or subpar, we know fairly quickly and it is avoided by those who are conscious of their duty to provide superior service using superior supplies to the client.
If we can avoid the pitfalls of a corporate and bureaucratic mindsets, the tattoo industry has the potential for a truly amazing and innovative path of evolution. I like where Jake’s head is when he discusses the idea of getting engineers and people specialized in nontattoo backgrounds. Afterall, the tried and true coil machines of the over a century have roots from a purpose that was not originally for tattoos by a guy who was most certainly not a tattooer. However, the responsibility is on the actual tattooers to make sure they run the show. Stay vigilant. Stay mindful. Most of all, stay artists.
As always, the floor is yours. Give us your feedback. Do you agree with us or disagree with us? What are your thoughts on the future of the industry? What are your thoughts on Jake’s thoughts for the future of the industry? We value you your input and as always, thank you for supporting the tattoo improvement network.
If you want to see more of Jake’s ideas, check out his episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnMiTOehFm8&feature=share
Peace and hair grease,