Tattoo artists in Bengaluru began opening their businesses in August, when the government first announced the easing of lockdown restrictions. Like many other service providers, the tattoo industry was hit hard by the pandemic. However, tattoo artists too found ways to adapt to the pandemic.
Early this year, the artists took to visiting clientsâ€™ houses to provide their services, in order to sustain themselves through the pandemic. However, house visits meant an increased risk of infection for both parties, and the service was stopped. Pradeep, who runs Dark Arts in Bengaluruâ€™s Kormangala and is the President of Karnataka State Tattoo Artistsâ€™ Association, said that they advised members to not do house visits for this reason.
Later, when the Unlock guidelines were issued, Karthik of Sculp Tattoo Studio recounts how they resumed their operations on a bittersweet note. â€śDesigning a tattoo for our first client post-Unlock left me perturbed. She had recently lost a friend to COVID-19 and got a tattoo in his memory,â€ť he said.
The artist, who has expertise in free-hand tattoos, mentioned that before the pandemic struck, the studio saw an influx of clients from around the world who were in the city. However, with travel restrictions now reducing the clientele, business has taken a hit.
Pradeep of Dark Arts Tattoo Studio had a similar experience. He said that in a pre-pandemic world, they tended to two-three customers a day. The number is now limited to one client a day.
â€śWhen the lockdown was first imposed, people wanted to get tattoos to kill their boredom and our phone was constantly buzzing. By the time we reopened, the coronavirus cases had surged and people were scared of stepping out. We struggled to survive during the lockdown,â€ť he added.
However, for Suresh Machu of Machu Tattoo Studio, the story was different. Although they noticed a dip in customers across their various locations in Bengaluru, they saw a significant rise in student enrollment in their tattoo school because of everything going digital.
â€śThe business now is in better shape. We did online campaigns and used government aid in sanitation. This prompted people to shed their reservations and visit us. We follow all the protocols and have started giving online consultations,â€ť said Suresh when asked about how they encouraged clients to get tattoos post Unlock.
To ensure the safety of every client in Sculp Tattoo Studio, customers are handed out a consent form before an appointment is scheduled. At the studio, they are mindful of keeping a larger gap between appointments to sanitise the space.
Apart from limiting the number of clients for tattoos, Pradeep of Darks Arts Tattoo Studio has been accepting little to no clients for piercing work. On an odd day when he does, he said that they schedule the appointment at the end of the day.
Machu Tattoo Studio also limits the number of clients per day. â€śWe used to design tattoos for customers who would just walk in, too. Keeping in mind the safety of everyone, we have stopped the service. We even sent artists to clientsâ€™ places, but following the governmentâ€™s order, we halted those services too,â€ť Suresh Machu said.
The artists are bracing themselves to deal with the blow that could possibly come with new variants of the coronavirus being discovered.
â€śAlthough itâ€™s too early to comment on the situation as the government needs to do their research too, we are preparing ourselves. We just hope that the New Year ushers in with fewer worries,â€ť said Pradeep of Dark Arts studio.
Karthik, although uncertain, hopes that his business picks up in the coming year.
Suresh Machu said that they are looking forward to embracing whatever comes their way. â€śA couple of years ago, all [members of an informal tattoo artistsâ€™ club] of us were discussing how teaching tattoo art online was impossible; here we are running the digital programme. We are planning to further widen the programme. I hope that 2021 treats everyone good after the gruelling year,â€ť Machu concluded on a hopeful note.