Few cities, if any, have helped push tattoos into the American zeitgeist more than Miami. Between Rick Ross, Miami Ink, and Udonis Haslem's Sunshine State-covered back, there's no shortage of carved skin in the Magic City. In the early '90s there were just several dozen parlors. Nowadays, there are more than a 1,000.
Naturally, lawmakers have decided to reign in the revenue-generating industry in the name of "public health" and set up licensing fees to earn a quick buck. Creating laws governing a post-fringe art form steeped in rebellion has proved as contentious as you might imagine. A fiery rift has opened between small-scale home artists and the bigger professional guild that wants to help the state shut them down.
It took two legislative sessions to pass the bill and lots of fighting among industry insiders. Only now, two years after the actual legislation was approved, are county health officials getting ready to enforce it.
As detailed in New Times' feature this week, there are plenty of underground tattoo artists throughout South Florida who seem unfazed by the law and unlikely to fall into compliance. On the other side of the chasm is the Florida Professional Tattoo Guild, a group intent on using the new law to stamp out the unlicensed artists who advertise on Craigslist and inject ink into human skin from the comfort of their kitchen.
Some call them scratchers. Others -- like Louie, a Hialeah based home tattooer -- say they're bona-fide artists.
"If you can draw and you can paint, you can tattoo," Louie says. "It all comes down to skills and your artistic ability. I understand why a lot of shop owners kind of hate the mobile artists and guys like me. They're upset that we're taking some of the clientele... I'm worried about the new law a bit; I just don't want to get screwed for anything."
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.