Previous - Next Page 

1.3.11 Commentary on Techniques (Sentences numbered for reference)

Techniques used in tattooing and body piercing
[Sentence 1] Over centuries, the basic aims of inserting pigment and jewelry into the skin have hardly changed and not withstanding general overarching equipment and practices for infection control, health and safety purposes, and cultural variations (for example, in patterning), only the sophistication of the instrumentation has differed over time (di Folco, 2004; Rush, 2005). [Sentence 2] For tattooing the skill is in avoiding taking the pigment past the epidermis and it is said that the greatest challenge to achieving accomplished art is to avoid diffusion of pigment through perforation of the dermis.[Sentence 3] With body piercing, the skill is in avoiding blood vessels, dictating the need for a thorough working knowledge of anatomy.

Examination of [Sentence 1].

Chalmers begins

Over centuries, the basic aims of inserting pigment and jewelry into the skin have hardly changed…

I disagree. Chalmers confuses aims with technique and forgets her original definitions.

In tattoo, the aim is the creation of a meaningful mark (tattoo) by means of inserting pigment into the skin: a finished product.

In body piercing, the aim is to create a hole in the skin to hold decorative objects.

“the perforation of the skin and underlying tissues in order to create a tunnel in the skin through which jewellery may be inserted” (p102)

Now, it is not a mere semantic objection to point out another similar instance of the misuse of language when Chalmers writes that Aztec and Mayan torture and human sacrifice are examples of body modification (indeed, body art) because they pierce the body. This is not just a moot point. Chalmers has a word-fixation that supercedes logic. Words become flesh, reality fits into the words. Here she writes that: because the aim of piercing is to insert jewelry, then because tattoo also "inserts" pigment into the skin, inserting pigment is the aim or purpose of tattoo.

I am sure we would all agree that the purpose or aim of Rembrandt was to create a picture. The means was putting paint to canvas.

Because Chalmers has no background or experience in this field, no years of study or exposure to the culture of T&P, no "feel" for this worldly activity, it's no surprise that she she misses the significance of the technological development as she writes incorrectly

…only the sophistication of the instrumentation has differed over time.

The electric tattoo machine was a revolution, not a mere sophistication.

Going from hand-poking to an electric tattoo machine was a quantum leap that put tattoo within reach of all. It turned a painful and long hand-poking tattoo process (120 pokes a minute) into a fast (3,000 strokes a minute) endurable experience; from an obscure practice to mass consumption. The electric tattoo machine changed everything. It is akin to the automobile compared to the horse and buggy. No one would say: “only the sophistication of transportation has differed over time.”

As Camphausen identified the need for a deep understanding of the historical ebb and flow of art and history, it takes time, wide reading, experience, and years of contemplating a subject to develop a feel, a second sense about a subject. Chalmers article is premature.

The error in teh following sentence, (sentence 2) presents a good lesson: don't write if you don't know the subject.

Chalmers gets the basic technique, the fundamentals of tattoo -- wrong.
The error jumps off the page for anyone familiar with tattoo. 

di Folco's somewhat in-expertly written description is the source but misunderstood.

Di Folco writes

The epidermis is the outer layer which, when marked, receives the design or inscription (painting, pouring, transfer, etc.) tattooing or branding, and consists of a layer of horny tissue above a rough, ridged layer which retains the tattoo artist’s pigments, just above the dermic membrane. (di Folco, 2004:12)

Chalmers incorrectly writes, [sentence 2]

For tattooing the skill is in avoiding taking the pigment past the epidermis and it is said that the greatest challenge to achieving accomplished art is to avoid diffusion of pigment through perforation of the dermis.

Multiple gaffes in one sentence is becoming a hallmark of Chalmers' writing.

First, the phrase “it is said” is an invention as if she read this or heard this from multiple sources. No tattooist said such a thing.

Secondly, I am sure Chalmers knows the structure and functioning of the skin but her failure to apply that knowledge to this subject is an indicator of disconnected thinking. She doesn't  understand the tattoo process.

It is laughable to assert in the next sentence that practitioners therefore must have a thorough working knowledge of anatomy.

Chalmers disqualifies herself.

To  digress a moment, this obvious “nonchalant attitude” points out an injustice by regulators, or hired bureaucrats, who don’t know or understand -- nor want to -- know T&P. They consider T&P as little as possible "...because of the pressure of important business..." The rules and regulations then rely on a few sources, hastily reviewed. Regulations source teh internet and tehn neighborhood T&P practitioners who are in favor of more stringent regulation, confirming the sponsors intentions, but T&P practitioners want regualtions because they would limit entry into the field by would-be competitors. They use the bogus "scratchers-spreading-infection" argument. Bureaucrats pick this right up, not knowing anything different, parrot these "same-old" arguments about infection without study. Some tattooists, not knowing their own history, are even heard to argue that it is the "scratchers" who give tattoo its bad name (a good joke that is, as if tattoo has had a sterling hisotry, and now in danger of being smeared).

A) Chalmers surely knows that the epidermis is constantly shed and anything within the epidermis is eventually shed as well, a splinter or an ink mark. It is not the object to get pigment into the epidermis and avoid getting it into the dermis. Ink must get into the dermis where it will stay for a lifetime. Pigment is retained in the dermis layer not the epidermis.

B) Di Folco writes that the epidermis, the outer layer, is the “horny tissue” above what he calls a “rough, ridged layer” and it is this “rough, ridged layer which is the dermis, which retains the tattoo artist’s pigment. The  dermal layer is separated from the subcutaneous fat by the dermic membrane which is the lower boundary of the dermis.  It is the more or less permanent phagocytosis of ink particles in the dermis that causes ink to stay in the skin.

You would think that some peer reviewer for the Journal of Infection Prevention would  notice that Chalmers contradicts medical science. It jumps off the page.

Chalmers sentence 3.

With body piercing, the skill is in avoiding blood vessels, dictating the need for a thorough working knowledge of anatomy.

Wrong, on two counts.

There are no likely risks (meaning 5 - 10% of the clients)  within the vicinity of the navel, nose, lip, or ear that would require extensive courses in anatomy and physiology and months and months, if not years of effort memorizing the systems and parts of the body, virtually all of it of no application for T&P, that is to say,  irrelevant. This is as absurd as requiring all applicants for a driver's license to taken courses about the combustion engine, the fuel system, and the electrical systems of cars.

The only commercial piercing that may have an issue with a blood vessel is the tongue which anyone can be taught to avoid in one minute: what to look for by looking beneath the tongue and how to avoid it, or recommending against it. This training does not require anatomy and physiology courses. A drop of blood on the eyebrow or nose requires knowing that the gauge of the jewelry must be as close as possible to teh gauge of the needle. A pamphlet on general first aid would be sufficient.

Chalmers does not know these things so she cannot determine or even know what piercers should or should not know. Her advice at this stage must be discounted completely because without knowledge she pretends to have the knowledge. An arrogance trying to fool the reader. I have demonstrated convincingly that this article must be rejected completely. She does not know the subject. Policy makers must look broadly elsewhere for advice if they think there is a problem.

What is needed are not courses in anatomy but instruction in preventing blood borne infections that hospital volunteers quickly understand, and practice, which does not require advanced college courses. T&P is not open infection-prone surgery.

To set the record straight, the skill in body piercing is 1) straight placement, and 2) not missing the connection. 

These are more good reasons to reject this article.

Updated 06-22-2011