Portland tattoo artist Dustin Ranck at work. // PHOTO COURTESY OF ICON TATTOO
Oregon’s tattoo industry has flourished in the past few years despite the bad economy, with the number of licensed practitioners growing 350% in the past decade and the number of schools almost tripling.
“When the economy is bad, people want to do little things for themselves,” says veteran tattoo artist Dustin Ranck of Icon Tattoo in North Portland.
In 2000, there were 173 licensed tattoo practitioners and 101 tattoo facilities in the state. In August, there were 779 practitioners and 323 tattoo facilities. In 2000 there were about 10 schools, last month there were 29, with most of that growth occurring in the past two to three years.
“We’ve seen an explosion,” says Oregon Department of Education spokeswoman Susanne Smith.
“Tattooing has mainstreamed a lot since shows like L.A. Ink came along,” Oregon Health and Licensing Agency (OHLA) spokesman Kraig Bohot says of the reality TV show about a Los Angeles tattoo shop.
Tattoo conventions are also on the rise in the state. Thanks to a 2009 law allowing out-of-state tattoo artists to practice in Oregon, Portland and Eugene were able to host tattoo conventions last year. In October, the tattoo convention Portland Tattoo Expo will host more than 300 artists.
There is debate about whether non-Oregon artists are regulated enough at these conventions, but most welcome the exposure. “It makes tattooing more of a publicly accessible thing,” says Ranck, “It brings out the talent pool in Oregon.”