My name is Lori Leven. I own New York Adorned, a tattoo shop in the East Village that will celebrate its 20th anniversary next July. Over the years, Adorned has been home to several of the greatest tattooers working today. Being in the tattoo business for this amount of time and being a tattoo collector personally for even longer, I would like to relay my experiences.
A few weeks ago, a blogger from Millihelen came into the shop on a busy Saturday looking to get her daughter's name tattooed on her neck. After explaining to her that we do not tattoo the necks, hands or faces of people who are not heavily tattooed otherwise, she left very upset, questioning our right to tell her what to do with her body.
Hand, neck and face tattoos on lightly or untattooed people has forever been a discussion in the tattoo industry. Many tattooers feel that tattooing these areas is ethically questionable and in fact they are commonly called "Job Stoppers." Of course, it is not my position to tell someone what to do with their body -- but that does not negate the fact that there are social ramifications to having visible tattoos that you are not able to hide. Tattooers also should have the right to have our own professional standards and turn down work that they are not comfortable with.
It is true that having a few small tattoos generally gets no response from today's public. But get that little tattoo on your hand and shake the hand of the co-op board president who is deciding if you're right for their building, or the hand of the Admissions Director when you're trying to get little Goldie into Spence or Dalton, and you will quickly see what it feels like to realize that you are no longer on an equal playing field. These are the complications we are thinking about when we decline to tattoo your neck.
I have never sat for a job interview in my adult life. I live in a bubble called the East Village and will never have to attend a PTA meeting. Yet I can can tell you with 100 percent certainty that there have been several times in my life and career that I have had to climb out of a "tattoo judgement hole" to get to ground zero when dealing with people such as loan officers, landlords and potential mother-in-laws. There have unfortunately been people who do not want to look beyond my skin and who think I am not as smart or worthy because of the tattoo work that they see on me. I've always felt strongly that it is not necessary to conform to society's expectations if they do not work for me, and in having my own neck and hands tattooed I can see where a feeling of hypocrisy could be felt. It obviously would be best if each person was judged on their individual merit, but we do not live in this utopia. Therefore, I set this policy in my tattoo shop.
Tattooers are artists, the medium is skin, that is already a big enough responsibility. Tattooers do not take their profession lightly and we ask that our clients do the same. Remember! It is a permanent change to your appearance that will alter both your life and experiences. As professionals, our advice has your best interest at heart. We will only be with you for a short time, but the work we create will be with you forever. Please choose wisely.