Following months where body ink fans were unable to add to their collections, one tattoo studio has given us a behind the scenes look at how they are getting ready to reopen.
Body art studios have been given the green light by the Executive to finally reopen their doors – and their books – and start inking again on July 6.
And State of the Arts Tattoo in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, are all ready to welcome customers back.
On top of the usual cleaning measures, masks and gloves, the studio’s partners have even gone as far as designing their own special tattooing screen to separate the artists from their customers, as they work.
Tattoo artist Rory O’Neill and studio manager Ryan O’Neill came up with the design together.
Rory told Belfast Live: “It’s been a long wait – 13 week wait to get the doors back open.
“Interest has been high in coming back, there’s been a lot of phone calls, a lot of text messages so we are delighted to see there’s work ahead of us.”
As for the safety measures they now have in place to keep both themselves and customers safe, the 36-year-old added: “Initially we have put up a lot of protective screens through the shop, separating booths.
“When you walk in there’s a booth between the manager and clients. Hand sanitiser everywhere and then more recently we’ve developed a screen so that hopefully we can get to tattooing without having to wear all the PPE, the masks and everything that’s really uncomfortable – so that it’s more natural and as natural as it can be in the environment we are working in for ourselves and the client.”
On entry, clients will be asked if they have a temperature or feel unwell, they will then be provided with a mask and asked to sanitise their hands before entering the locked door to the studio.
Rory also said designs will be finalised outside studio time and emailed to their clients to cut the length of time they must spend with them.
While they are pleased to get going again, State of the Arts manager Ryan O’Neill said times were tough during lockdown. They did however, get some help in the shape of a £10,000 grant while they were shut.
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Ryan added: “Being self employed, yes you were getting sort of 80% of your profit. As you can see in the studio, me and Rory have pumped all of our profit back into the studio to try and make it one of the best in Ireland.
“So 80% of very little is still very little and to help with the business we had to sort of stop a few services.
“A lot of them were very understanding and said to us, ‘contact us when you are back up and running’. That was really the only help.
“It was hard with no income and no date to know when you are going to get back open again. A lot of things had to be put on hold, a lot of bills, and the unknowing and the uncertainty of whether we were going to open up again.”
“It wasn’t until last week – that’s the sort of lifeline we’ve been given,” added the 37-year-old.
But it has been hard work getting ready for customers again.
Ryan added: “It has taken a lot of work to get back in, replacing a lot of inks, screens, printers, ink in the printers might have dried out – we don’t know, we haven’t got them back up and running again.
“It is going to take a lot of money to get this back up and running and we are not going to be able to run at full capacity that we were before we closed.
“You could maybe talk about 30 to 40% of what we were beforehand. So it’s going to take a hit then and then touch wood there’s not going to be a recession.
“But it being a luxury item, that’s one of the things that’s going to take a massive hit. Hopefully we can sustain that and get on through to the other side.”
Tattoo studios are by their nature a highly sterile environment, says Rory, where they already do all they can to keep their clients safe. They have simply added to these measures in line with the pandemic.
This means sanitising booths before and after every client – with numbers cut to just one a day for each artist.
“It’s just wait and see,” added Rory.
“All we can do is keep ourselves and our clients as safe as possible.”
Now they are working through the clients they had to cancel because of the pandemic, and said they will be open to new bookings after that.