I did a question and answer session with Laura Philomin from the National University of Singapore last year about the Singapore tattoo scene. Here it is...
1. To what extent is the government involved in the tattoo industry? (in terms of censorship and safety regulations)
My answer: My answer: As much as I would want the government to be heavily involved in the Singapore tattoo industry, they aren't. Or at least it seems that way. But in 2007, the National Arts Council organised the first tattoo community event at Sentosa called SKIN : Intimate Canvas. The event failed to get the support that it badly needed and we were suddenly back to square one.
I understand the Health Promotions Board has been studying proposals to implement regulations and maybe laws that is already practiced in the United States. That's exactly what the industry needs if it's to be taken seriously.
There seems to be this unwritten censorship rule which till this day, I'm trying very hard to understand. Take for example the internet show I hosted earlier this year. I tried very hard to get the media involved and was willing to be interviewed at any time of the day. But each media representative I spoke to mentioned they couldn't run a positive article about tattoos. I swear, that's exactly what was said! From the biggest local news channel to the various newspaper, they all said the same thing! But what's strange is that I've been interviewed by the Malaysian media twice! Weird but true...
2. To what extent do YOU think the government should be involved? What can they do to better the industry?
My answer: My answer: Like I mentioned, the Ministry of Health needs to implement regulations. This in turn will help promote professionalism. It would also help prevent diseases such as Hepatitis-B. I'm talking about proper sanitation and the right equipment such as autoclaves and covered waste bins. Having a minimum age to get tattooed law would do some good too!
3. How do you think censorship has affected the turnout at tattoo conventions? (there was a huge drop in attendance from the 2009 convention to the 2010 one)
My answer: My answer: I know for a fact we used every medium on the internet to promote the 2010 show. But even after doing that, a whole lot of people didn't know about the convention till after it ended. It's hilarious that while Channel News Asia blatantly ignored our convention, they did a piece on a tattoo convention in Bangkok days after ours ended!
4. Do you think studios without high walk in clienteles can survive in the industry? (there are lots of smaller shops popping up everywhere)
My answer: Unless the artist is really good, I find it hard to believe that a studio would survive without high-walk in clienteles. I only know of a handful of local artists that can boast that they solely depend on walk-in customers. Heck, they could be tattooing in a small box in Tuas and their clients would still go to them!
I love the fact that a growing number of tattoo artists are using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to their advantage. With social media, one has the ability to reach out to thousands if not millions of potential customers. If an artist can do that, they won't have to bother about walk-ins.
5. Should the government open the market, and let tattoo studios freely advertise, what do you think the effects would be? How would those effects affect the competition in the industry?
My answer: If I'm not wrong, a studio can advertise if they want to. I've seen classified announcements in various newspapers and advertisements in magazines by my cousin's studio. I've had my blog since 2005 and I've not had a single studio in Singapore advertise on my blog. But I've done lots of work for studios in other parts of the world. I just don't think the boys here are into advertising.
But even if everyone decided to advertise one day, it'll come down to whom does a good job and who doesn't. It's as simple as that. Word of mouth is the strongest and best form of advertising and if an artist's work is lousy, you'll hear about it in no time! Same applies when an artist's work is nothing short of awesome!