Volume 91, Issue 48

Friday, November 21, 1997

party poop


An inkling behind parlour doors

©Graphic by Janice Olynich

By Victoria Barkley
Gazette Staff

The Setting: Mondo Tattoo on Richmond Street, London, Ontario. 'Mondo' in this context, is a surfer word for 'cool' or 'good'; not the instructional technique of Zen Buddhism, consisting of rapid questions and answers between master and pupil (thank you, Oxford English Dictionary).

The Players: one slightly apprehensive, self-admitted wuss, Meaghan; one confident and pleasant tattoo artist, Tess; Tess' business partner and piercer, Sage.

Regrets: None, yet.

What is a Tattoo Parlour? A memo from Ministry of Health's Public Health Branch indicates: "A tattoo parlour is an establishment which specializes in placing decorative designs or marks upon or under the skin of any person by means of needles or other instruments."

Meaghan wanted a tattoo for various reasons: "[Getting a tattoo] is a bit of a release. It's a way of asserting individuality and control over myself – a not so subtle way of saying 'it's my body and only I am going to mess with it and I will mess with it in artistic fashion.'"

In terms of design, many people have some form of inking on their person. Meaghan chose a simple Celtic design from a favourite ring to be done in black. She wants it enlarged and put on the back of her neck. Simplicity and moderate artistic merit.

Before Meaghan's arrival, Tess used the ring's design to make a stencil, which is applied to Meaghan's back with liquid soap or a deodorant stick. This makes the stencil adhere to the skin – serving as a guideline for Tess once she starts.

Tess is no stranger to her work. Originally an English and journalism student at Calvin College, she sold designs to tattoo shops in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 'Iron Dan,' of the same city, introduced her to the work itself. Tess has been in the business for four and a half years, operated a shop for three and a half years, one and a half at the current location.

Before settling into an antique barber's chair, Meaghan gets the story from Tess on some basic procedures. Public Health requires sterilization of reusable material by autoclaving for 15 minutes at 122 degrees Celsius at 103 Kpa or boiling for 20 minutes or using disinfectant solutions known to destroy hepatitis viruses and HIV. Suggested disinfectant solution is sodium hypochlorite with 500 mg of free available chlorine per litre of water, or thorough cleaning with disinfection for at least 30 minutes in a two per cent solution of aqueous gluteraldahyde (cidex).

Mondo Tattoo employs the autoclave for specially soldered needles and smaller instruments. Tess protects herself from any contact by wearing disposable surgical gloves and getting hepatitis shots. Where blood and other intriguing bodily fluids are involved, protection is desperately necessary.

A fresh batch of ink is prepared for Meaghan's tattoo. Any leftover ink from an individual job is thrown out for common sense hygienic reasons: to prevent infection transmission, especially hepatitis B and HIV, Tess explains. Health department guidelines stipulate use of non-toxic, sterile dyes and pigments. These guidelines 'strongly' recommend single-service disposable materials, such as needles, dyes, pigments and paper table covers be used in tattoo parlours.

Any item too large for sterilization is covered in plastic. "Barrier control," as Tess calls it, helps prevent disease and infection transmission. These guidelines are loosely enforced: Tess affirms the Environmental Health Division of the Department of the Middlesex London Health Unit is rather understaffed and inspections are not too frequent. As a matter of fact, she says a public health inspector has not visited her studio in its year and a half of operation.

The tattoo artist explains "all tattoo parlors must have a washable floor, running water and disinfecting-sterilization equipment." The 'non-food premises inspection protocol' document says nothing about these items, which she feels should be included in the inspection memoranda. Nor is there any mention about inspection frequency on sterilizing equipment, needles and the parlours themselves.

A sound similar to that of a dentist drill is heard from the needle as it touches Meghan's skin. "That feels kind of funky, but over the bone it kind of stings," she confesses. "It's more of a nuisance than hurt. I was expecting more pain."

A bit of soreness, a gauze bandage, minor irritation, itching, aloe vera gel and scabbing – and Meaghan's new ink art is ready. Tess offers a free touch-up in six weeks if the colour fades.

©Victoria Barkley/Gazette
REFLECTIONS OF A TATTOO ARTIST. Tess, the Mondo Tattoo artist, prepares her tools for the next victim – oops, customer.

To Contact The Focus Department: gazfocus@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1997