"Good tattoos aren't cheap and cheap tattoos aren't good"

Tattoo artists Kate (left) and Pixie of Ultimate Image Tattoo discuss the dangers of using backyard tattoo artists. Photo: David Nielsen / The Queensland Times
QUALIFIED: Tattoo artists Kate (left) and Pixie of Ultimate Image Tattoo discuss the dangers of using backyard tattoo artists. David Nielsen

"GOOD tattoos aren't cheap and cheap tattoos aren't good."

That's the saying often heard among those in the tattoo community.

There are, however, some who think otherwise - and are suffering the consequences for it.

Unlicensed or "backyard" tattoos are becoming increasingly common in Ipswich, putting people at risk of serious diseases.

Tattoo artist Kate Newton, who works at Ultimate Image Tattooing in Ipswich Central, said the number of people walking through the door with "dodgy" tattoos had skyrocketed.

In the past, Ms Newton said the studio rarely saw customers come in to fix a backyard tattoo gone wrong.

"Now we expect someone to come in each day," she said.

The Grandchester resident said her biggest concern was that unlicensed tattoo artists didn't understand or care about the health risks.

Since tattooists use needles to penetrate the skin, she said unsterilized equipment could spread blood-borne diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.

Ms Newton said she also heard of instances where a backyard operator had tattooed numerous people using the same ink caps.

"You're constantly dipping your needle back and forth like a fountain pen - so there's bound to be other people's blood in the ink."

Fellow Ultimate Image tattooist, who wanted to be known only as Pixie, said she had encountered people as young as 14 years old who had been tattooed illegally.

In Queensland, the legal age you can get a tattoo is 18.

As a result, Pixie said studios had to turn away anyone underage who came in hoping to get a backyard tattoo fixed.

"Some people come in simply because they have medical issues with their dodgy tattoos and need our advice on what to do," she said.

"Recently two ladies came in after a backyarder gave them butterfly tattoos on their neck which become bright red and swollen.

"It turned out the guy had sprayed Dettol straight on each tattoo and given them both massive burns. Unlicensed operators just don't know what they're doing.

"You wouldn't go to your neighbour and ask him to pull out youth teeth because he's cheaper than the dentist."

Pixie said she had heard of tattoo parties where people gathered to receive free, yet risky, body art.

Ms Newton believed the explosion of backyard tattoos was because cheap tattoo equipment was readily available online and through mail order.