FK Irons has checked in with several Pro Team members and four have replied to let us know how they are faring during the shutdown, re-opening and a possible re-closure. We'd also like to take a moment to point out a movement that supports local arts and, of course, that includes talented tattoo artists.
#supportyourlocaltattooartists #supportgoodtattooing #supportgoodtattoos #supportgoodtattooers
La Mujer Barbuda Tattoo Shop
Las Vegas USA
Miguel Del Cuadro
San Juan PUERTO RICO
Cristian Marin, aka Honart
Ganga Tattoo Studio
How have you been faring during Covid-19, shut-down and reopening?
Some studios have actually seen an increase in work. Find out who! Those who have seen a decrease have had more time to develop themselves and projects.
For me, it was a strange experience. At first it was nice because I always work super hard and I felt like I was on holiday. I started to work for many charity projects, trying to help people and I was painting and doing yoga every day.
The second month I lost a family member and it was super hard. I was depressed and super sad.
The third month was the hardest because we were worried about when we could start to work and I was super frustrated, artistically, so I stopped painting. Finally, we opened the shop again and returned slowly to our lives.
During the shelter-at-home months of the pandemic, our situation was complicated because we couldn’t work. Tattooing is my passion and motivation, so it was difficult.
Luckily, the work hasn’t decreased, in fact, we’ve noticed an increase in people who want to get tattooed, so I’m really happy.
Miguel del Cuadro
I’ve been dealing with the whole situation pretty well I think; trying to eat healthier and do some exercises. Tragedies always make us reflect on certain things and that could be very useful to keep growing as a person and artist. I tried to take advantage of the quarantine. I had had the chance to truly spend time with myself, like I said, reflect on my art and go back to the basics:
Sketching a lot, painting and some reading, trying to reinvent myself. I’m still in the process but thanks to the quarantine I started to see things a little differently within me, like a lot of people, I guess.
Businesses reopened a couple weeks ago here in Puerto Rico and I think it was a good choice. “Knock on wood,” thankfully here the spreading of the virus wasn’t that terrifying, like in the U.S. or Peru, where I’m from.
I’m not saying that we are exempt from hitting crazy numbers of cases, but because people follow the quarantine rules, the numbers stayed low in comparison to other countries.
I started working about two weeks ago under the new restrictions that the health department requires. Nothing that the majority of the tattoo artists are too far from; we’ve been always following the asepsis protocol. We’ve just had to add a few more rules.
For the tattoo industry here I feel it was actually beneficial at some point because tragedies always make people want to get tattooed as a breakthrough moment to initiate a new period in life.
In addition to that, we are all getting government incentive checks, so there is some cash flow here now.
But if a second wave comes, like we are seeing in the U.S. or other countries, I believe it’ll hit the island worse the second time.
Not too bad, Once we shut down, I tried to find tools and help with the unemployment for artists. Whether the artists had a business or worked under 1099’s [self-employed] we looked into ways they could use the government assistance that was becoming available. I would get a text at five in the morning from my SBA friend to ‘sign up for this assistance,’ and I would relay that information to artists. This industry is all about friends and I want to protect my friends; just trying to make sure they’re ok and able to stay afloat.
This has actually been a really hard time for Revolt, with our shop being in a big mall on the Las Vegas strip. We only opened this shop at the end of November and in March we were closed. Although the governor makes the mandates, during the re-opening the mall has reduced our hours.
Before, we were open from 10 – 9pm, but now with the mall limiting the hours by 3 hours a day, we’re losing a possible 30%. But the landlord is still wanting us to pay the full amount of rent, and also the back rent.
I’m a worker by trade, a hustler, so it was difficult to adjust at first. I have worked 6 days a week for years, and now I found endless hours of free time. So I instantly found stuff around the house that I needed to do. 😂 Years of stuff that I thought I would eventually get around to.
It has been stressful, but because I was working on home-improvement, painting the cabinets and other stuff, it was keeping my mind off of things.
Personally, I enjoyed the time off. That’s the longest I’ve never taken off in 20 years. I didn’t tattoo once during the shutdown.
What has worked and what hasn’t worked for you during COVID-19?
I don’t think the government tells us the truth and for that reason we were and are still scared. There is a lot of disinformation and I think the countries should have taken steps earlier so that the consequences were not so radical.
In my country we were inside our homes for two months and were prohibited from going outside. In my opinion, there could have been other solutions.
For tattoo artists, the best strategy is to continuously better yourself.
Clearly, the fact that I’ve had the privilege to tattoo the people that I have and that I was scanned for the video game NBA2K have been positives in my career, but none of that would have been possible if I hadn’t been focusing on bettering my tattoing.
Miguel del Cuadro
Believe it or not, it worked out almost in every aspect. I’ve been always complaining that I never had time to paint or draw for myself or even spend good, quality time with my girlfriend due to tattooing and traveling. Then all of a sudden, I had to stay home with her, so looking at it from a different perspective, I got what I had been wishing for for a long time.
What I think I didn’t work out for me is that I had many trips planned, trips to guestspot and conventions, trips to go see family and all that is canceled until further notice.
We had many plans this year and we already got an ‘ok’ to tattoo again during the hockey playoffs. During the Vegas Golden Knights' first year we tattooed for them during the playoffs out in front of their arena. We had a lot of things in the works, including working on our brand recognition. We had deals set up to tattoo at live events and different trade shows. Now that is all on hold.
Have you been working on any hobbies or other work?
I discovered yoga, which was great for my mind and my body. I started to paint again. I love painting but I never have time, so that was a great opportunity to do that.
And… I also had time to play video games.
I’ve had the time to design a lot. Although I’ve been in in the industry for some years, I’m still searching for that style that personifies me, so quarantine has been a good time to design and see what I feel more comfortable with and what I don’t. Aside from playing COD WARZONE 😂 😂 😂
Miguel del Cuadro
Yeah, since I had to take breaks from doing art, I got into cooking with my girlfriend. I never thought that I’d enjoy it so much, to the point that we have many options in our menu. 😂
Also, before the quarantine I was getting very curious about how to incorporate pre-Columbian culture into the language of tattooing. For that I had to read and watch documentaries in order to do it right, so it turned out almost like a hobby watching documentaries or reading about it. Also, like I mentioned, I did a few paintings and lots of sketches.
My hobbies are guns! I wanted to go out and shoot!! I love to go out by my house to shoot; there’s desert land close and you can fire off a couple of rounds. I’m ex-military, so shooting guns is a nice stress-relief.
Besides, I have a two and a half year-old son. I got to see him a lot more; he’s at a very pivotal age. He was learning stuff every day. A lot of times tattoo artists don’t get to see that because they work so much. I got to spend some much needed time with my wife. It was a huge blessing to spend time with my family.
Do you have any projects brewing that you’d like to tell us about?
Everyone's got exciting projects! Tell us about your projects.
I would like to paint more. My project for this year is to not stop painting and start new, big projects, but when I’m working in my studio is very difficult to take time off to paint (in my time off I always try to play some sports).
Yes, yes, I have a project in the works. My manager is arranging it, so I can’t say much, but it’s regarding tattooing, so I’m just dying to reveal it.
Miguel del Cuadro
I have some interesting tattoo projects that I’m excited to work on, other than that I’m starting a clothing company with two friends in Peru. It's a slow process, since production is almost paralyzed there, but we are pretty happy and confident about our new project.
Being in a mall, we are seeing other things that we can do as a tattoo shop that’s not normally done. Seeing first-hand marketing done by other stores. Giving us different ideas for our marketing concepts.
We’ve started selling some art-related merchandise. Trying to keep it more exclusive and limited runs. Making it more about the art. We are also working on some projects that can generate some small profits for the shop.
We are rolling out a t-shirt campaign that says ‘make art not war.’ We are also designing face masks with different designs on them.
How are you preparing for a very likely re-closure of the economy?
I’m not ready for that. I never think in negative, so I try to live within my means. I’m working hard to save money in case we will be in lockdown again.
Yes, I think that we’ve all been put in that situation that if this should happen again, I have an online solution in mind.
Miguel del Cuadro
Actually, I haven’t even thought about it. I guess I’ll do what I did in the beginning: I’ll make sure that my basic needs are fully covered ahead of time so I can be ready to be home again if I have to. This time I may come up with a series of illustrations to try to generate some income if the next wave gets worse...I really hope it does not. The only thing that I’d be worried about is that since lots of people are underestimating the situation it may be more chaotic this time. For example, here, some places started to get packed again and that’s not supposed to happen.
Nobody knows what’s going to happen. You can’t dwell on that fact.
Sure, you can come shut me down, but being ex-military, it’s easier for me to think: ‘ that’s what has to happen ’ and deal with the circumstances.
Taking the opportunity to expand is an option, but how can I think about expanding when there’s no guarantees?
Two of my artists left. I’ve been open for five years and lost only a handful. My shop is not a high-turnover shop.
One artist in our Lake Tahoe shop was commuting from Texas. We’re actively looking for tattoo artists to be work in the mall in Las Vega, but we are worried about getting someone and what if we get shut down next week? If the artist has relocated I would feel responsible. So, we’re just taking it day by day, giving the artists the best options, best choices.
Is there anything that you’d like to talk about with regards to Covid-19 and the tattoo community?
I want to be in more solidarity my friends. We are lucky people and only with our hands and our intention, we can donate many artistic projects to help people in worse situations.
Nothing, simply to say that this is the moment for all of us to do our part and try to follow the norms of hygiene and sanitation to the letter so we don’t end up seeing us take two steps back.
Miguel del Cuadro
I don’t really have much to say because my position is way different from the majority of people around the world that live off of 1 or 2 bucks a day. Definitely, you can’t tell those people to stay home, you know what I mean? I know people that have kids and they struggle to put food on the table... imagine another quarantine for them. I’d just say: stay healthy, save some money, find a new hobby or passion and learn to spend time with yourself.
Patience. And be prepared! You have to understand that the pandemic is going on for an undetermined time, so just be prepared.
If they shut you down, you have to be prepared for when you do finally get to open. We were open the first day, and I saw shops that took two or three weeks to open.
All I can really say is: try to take the time and if you’re going to make moves, make sure they’re calculated with minimal risks.
That’s where I’m at with my mindset. Next week, I don’t know if the shop is going to be opened or closed. I can’t let that cloud my judgement.
If tattooing is your ‘number one,’ then how can artists survive if they are completely shut down?
Step back and look at what type of artist you are. What can you do to get support from people who like your work? What can you produce for your clients? What can I give them that’s nominal, but that I can get something in return. But it also works as an advertisement for you?
These are trying times for everyone, so if you take the time for you and your family or take it to work on your art and business just make sure you use your time wisely. We will be back to normal one day and you don't want to look back and regret you didn't do anything with it.
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