JoJo Ackermann: Take Back Tattooing? How About ‘Give Back to Tattooing’

By JoJo Ackermann
I usually have a box or small pile of old tattoo magazines I’ll stumble upon in my shed or in the back room at my place. It’s always fun to flip through and see what’s inside from the years past, like old favorite tattoos that stick in your mind or maybe even seeing some old friends in the pics from a convention or something.

Recently, I reached down in the pile and pulled up an old magazine from 1994, this magazine no longer exists, but this article I read was a kick in the nuts. The article was on a tattooer from the east coast named Ron Lopez. This is a quote from that interview…

“I’ve got mixed feelings about the popularity of tattooing today. It’s done the trade a world of good in terms of bringing in business, but it’s attracted a lot of people just looking for fame. They want to be rock stars and turn to tattooing for fame and recognition without taking it seriously. When the magazines hit the stands I get four or five kids bringing me the same picture from the same magazine asking for the same tattoo. I think tattooing is about originality and to just repeat the same image over and over again is mindless. I prefer to work with people who are thinking seriously about their work.”

There is a lot to be taken from this statement, as it is almost 18 years old, and not much has really changed as far as how tattooing is being viewed by the community of professionals. I was amused and humbled to read this because it made me realize that my generation were the “fame seekers” that he was talking about.

Some words that were told to me when I first started tattooing were, “Tattooing will always give back what you put into it.” It’s true and I do my best to live this philosophy everyday in my life. If we conduct poor business practices then it always churns up shit, but what happens if we conduct good business and reap the gravy?

Who knows? As an onlooker from inside tattooing I know that integrity and hard work always pays off. Also, respect and ability to communicate with others is more important now than ever, in the sense that real tattooers acknowledge real tattooers.

I have a friend who is a traveler of the world. He told me that in China they paint these amazing scrolls right on the street, amazing large paintings that are done masterfully and efficiently. You can buy one for around $50 bucks! That made me think, there are so many people tattooing that don’t posess a fraction of that kind of talent or commitment to the craft, and they are making a damn good living at it. How is this happening? And why is it not stopping? My friend then answered me, “You can’t have winners without losers.”

It’s true that we all gotta start somewhere and it’s what we choose to do with it that makes us what we are, or strive to be. The gifts we are given to guide us and help shape us is usually the blunt honesty and constructive criticism you may receive from a person you admire or hold in high regard, or even just a client trying help tell you do something that they want to get tattooed.

As for myself, I signed up to be a tattooer. I tattoo whatever people want and that’s pretty cut-and-dry, in this business. I don’t claim to be the best at anything, but when I do something I do my best and it’s that mindset, even after 20 years tattooing, that keeps me growing as a perpetual student.

“TAKE BACK TATTOOING” is a phrase I hear a lot, but really the only way to take it back is to GIVE BACK TO TATTOOING. Be the tattooer you want to be or try to be the tattooer you most admire. Take criticism and advice, people wouldn’t give it if they didn’t care.

We all know we can’t really stop the water from leaking from the dam. The Internet, supply companies and endless bottom feeders who are grazing on our sweat and blood seem to be ever-present in our already heavily stressed lives. However, I’d like to say, “Fuck them all.”

We need to become that change we want to see in tattooing! We need to lead by example and “GIVE BACK TO TATTOOING.” Some of that old magic is still around and I’ll be damned if they are gonna take it away from me…

JoJo and Lex Winter. Lex's tattoo by Cliff Raven.

(JoJo Ackermann is a tattooer and contributing blogger for Tattoo Artist Magazine. JoJo can be found here: American Made Tattoo in Rosamond, CA.)

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12 thoughts on “JoJo Ackermann: Take Back Tattooing? How About ‘Give Back to Tattooing’

  1. Very well said. We definately need to lead by example!! I feel that there are those who treat this profession as a cushy easy job, and those who have made it there life. If those of us in the craft put forth a good example, and use our influence over the younger, and new tattooers, then there can defineatley be a change! Great article JoJo!!

  2. As a tattooer of 20 years I loved this blog.
    It rang true & I believe it will resonate with TATTOOERS maybe not the arty fatty types but tattooers who have a soul, it will strike a cord with. I believe there is still a magic in tattoo shops & it will grow as long as the “magicians” keep the show moving.

  3. JoJo’s blog is a great representation of what we NEED more of in the tattoo community right now- Tattooers willing to ‘give back’ by taking the time to contribute their unique perspectives to the dialog and, in that way, pass something important on. In other words, a very simple way to GIVE BACK what was given to you! (AND it’s worth the effort.)

    *This is important:
    Notice that JoJo’s blog (like the others) was written with true conviction while STILL showing respect to others…(even the ones who don’t think or tattoo like him, folks!)

    Every tattooer here is taking the time to lend their voice, their art and their experience to this dialog. (Where’s yours? If you see something missing, bring it.)

  4. hellz yea i couldnt agree more its really sad that just anyone can pick up a tattoo machine and do damage im with ya lets take this art form back from the scratcher world were breeding with all these reality shows

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