Forget what your grandmother said about tattoos being taboo. Body art is mainstream now. A Harris Poll published in February 2012 showed that one in five U.S. adults has at least one tattoo. That means if you don't have one, you know someone who does — even if he or she keeps it well hidden.
Do your homework
Tattoo artist Steve Anderson, owner of Custom Body Art in Medford, has been applying tattoos professionally since 1988. In the past few years, he's seen the competition grow, but not from other licensed professionals like himself. "One of our biggest competitive factors is people doing it out of their houses that are totally inexperienced," he observes, explaining that novices can buy equipment on the Internet and watch "how to" videos on YouTube.
Anderson's advice to people who want to get tattoos is to do their homework and visit several shops. First, ask the artist if he or she is licensed by the state of Oregon. Second, ask to see the sterilization equipment. (Anderson's autoclave is tested monthly by an independent laboratory.) "An experienced artist isn't afraid to show you his equipment," Anderson says. The artist should also use pre-sterilized pigments and needles and wear a fresh pair of protective gloves. Third, look at the tattoo parlor itself to make sure it is clean. Fourth, look at the tattoo artist's portfolio. "That speaks volumes," Anderson notes. Finally, don't be a bargain shopper when it comes to tattoos. "Don't shop by price," the artist warns. "Shop by quality."