This article written by Theo Priestley originally appeared in Forbes.  To read the article on that site, please click here.

Are tattoos considered a form of art now ?

“Tattooing has always been deemed as somewhat taboo, but in recent years the success of numerous tv shows has brought tattooing, quite literally to a whole new audience. From the comfort of their front rooms people that would never have have set foot in a tattoo studio have seen into a world that had always been unavailable to them. Many of the best and most imaginative ideas are coming from these same people and tattooing has benefitted greatly. Movie stars, Musicians and Sports figures are more and more often seen to be heavily tattooed. These same people are looked up to by young and old alike and, as has always been the case, they try to emulate their heroes. An industry that had always been small and select has grown exponentially due to demand from an ever growing public so naturally public perception has been forced to change.”
Many businesses worldwide now allow visible tattoos in the workplace and their are rules in place that those with tattoos cannot be discriminated against. – David Corden
“Our clients are highly skilled and highly respected men and women from every walk of life. They can be hard working Mums and Dads, they could work in healthcare, in education, in the rescue services and even in government but the one thing they all have in common is that they are proud to wear the art that they collect.”
How Technology Is Helping The Shift

Out with the old behemoth thermal copier

Equipment that had stayed the same for many years has seen more changes in the past few years than ever before and this is due to the greater demand within the industry. Artists want the very best tools to do their jobs to the highest levels of detail possible and they are willing to spend their money on a product that aids them in producing the best work possible.

David works in realism so uses Photoshop in the design work because working from photographs produces the best results when it comes to creating the tattoo. “One of the pains on the day is getting a carbon I am happy with. You can have the best machines and ink in the world but if you have a lousy stencil its all for nothing as it will add delays to what may already be a long day ahead.” he said.
Many artists hand stencil due to the unreliable nature of the stencil machine and this too takes time. In fact, the technology and design behind the stencil machine, a thermal copier, has not changed in years until now. Old stencil machines are not only ridiculously expensive but also often unreliable. Settings that produced the perfect transfer the day before can give you a blurry image the next day or one barely visible and should the machine break the replacement parts are extortionate as there is only one supplier.

“If I don’t have the best carbon transfer possible it can greatly effect the outcome of the tattoo.”

In with the new tiny PJ printer

Which is where Brother Europe accidentally stumbled into a market they had no idea was waiting for technology to advance. The PJ-623 wasn’t designed to be the tattoo industry’s weapon of choice but it quickly grew in popularity when a famous artist called Paul Talbot began to use them over the older, larger thermal copiers whose design hadn’t changed in years. Word quickly got out and insiders at Brother Europe took notice, who have begun working directly with tattooists about further requirements and refinements to the printer hardware itself.

Matt Condon, product planner for Mobile Solutions at Brother Europe said: “Although the tattoo industry was an unexpected market for us – our PJ thermal printers are now being used by tattoo artists both in Europe and stateside.

“As a print technology specialist, we design versatile products that are used in mainstream offices as well as more niche applications. The PJ series is popular with those who need a full A4 page mobile printing solution – such as field workers in a number of vertical markets. We have been really interested to see the demand for our products within this entirely new market for Brother evolve. We have been working with some of the most respected people in the tattoo industry to understand requirements for future products. We will soon be launching our next generation PJ line-up, which will have enhanced features and connectivity options.”

Not your average tattoo studio, which also helps change perceptions towards the industry

Corden agrees, seeing the PJ as the next step towards increasing the detail in his work, a major factor in changing perceptions towards tattoos. “I use the Brother printer because it prints directly from the laptop and in so doing it picks up every pixel and doesn’t rely on my having gotten the temperature settings right.” said David as he printed off another piece of Alex Ross art for my sleeve. “The printer is so compact that I take it to conventions with me and so don’t have to queue with the other artists waiting to use an old fashioned stencil machine that will likely have overheated by the time its my turn.”

The fact that Brother is working alongside tattoo artists to make future printers even better is invaluable for both the tattoo industry but also in changing perceptions of tattoos themselves. By allowing artists to work with increasing levels of detail tattoos are being appreciated for what they really are: Art.
“The level of cooperation is something that other businesses could well take note of and seeing as we have often been an industry that has been overlooked it is a breath of fresh air to be taken seriously by such a successful company as Brother”, David added.
And as David said as we wrapped up another session another 8 hours later, “Just because you can’t hang it in a frame does not make it an any less viable piece of art.”
I’d like to thank David Corden for his thoughts (and exceptional work on my sleeve!) and Brother Europe for providing a PJ printer for this article.
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