2023: Ins and Outs
It's...our...year? <said with trepidation>
[Image: a screenshot of text messages reading “I ain’t reading all that. I’m happy that’s in or sorry that’s out.”]
A recurring theme of the last couple of New Years’ holidays has been our collective reluctance to declare it “our year.” And who could blame us? Looking ahead with optimism feels like wishful thinking after the last three years have brought us global pandemics, climate disaster weather events, insurrection, and a whole host of other year-ruiners. If you follow tarot at all you may have seen that the card for this year is the Chariot: a card of action, forward movement, and alignment with values. This feels right to me. We’re tired, we’ve gotten through a lot, but there’s more to come. The hope is that we’ve developed some discernment and supportive systems to carry us through, and left behind that which was no longer serving us, making our load a little bit lighter.
If you are curious about whether you have what it takes to achieve your aim or complete an important project, The Chariot is a sign you will be successful so long as you keep your focus and remain confident in your abilities. You need to use your willpower and self-discipline to concentrate on the task at hand. You can’t cut corners or take the easy route, or you will fail. Instead, see this endeavor as a test of your strength and conviction, and recognize that victory is within reach, but it’s up to you to follow through. -Biddy Tarot, the Chariot
Though everyone is probably fatigued by Ins and Outs at this point, I thought I’d put together some predictions and hopes for what 2023 will bring, in tattooing and in general.
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Fundraising for mutual aid ---- She was majorly in throughout 2020 but saw a decline over the last year. We saw how well it worked, we know we can do it. It’s time to bring mutual aid back to full strength. Make it a personal practice, a shop goal, a quarterly commitment… how can it become a sustainable and constant practice for us? A place to start: donating to provide stable housing for a disabled Black family in Florida. The fundraiser is halfway there!
Critical reading and media literacy ---- Social media has made it far too easy for misinformation to zip around our networks without the merest fact-checking. Reflexive reposting is OUT. 2023 is the year of FACT CHECKING, my guys! It is the year of verifying your sources and reading the full article before posting! I can name at least five tattooers I knew who listened to way too many podcasts over the last two years and ended up Jordan Peterson fans. In 2023, we’ll also be applying our critical skills to scrutinize opportunities we’re offered and partnerships we enter into. Lest we forget the tattoo fundraiser for Operation Underground Railroad (it’s founded by a white ex-CIA agent), now under fraud investigation, or the many times a bunch of tattooers traveled to Jerusalem to participate in a pro-Israel tattoo event. I appreciated this essay on critical reading by Kate Harding about the need to read and think more intentionally. Can we treat this as a collective project, a fun, pleasurable group endeavor for the larger good?
Solidly applied linework ---- Hopefully I’ve been adamant enough up to this point about how much I support experimenting with tattoo methods and application, and that I love a homemade, DIY tattoo in all its punk glory. Enough time has passed since the most recent burst of explorative, anarchic tattoo styles that we’ve lived with them and seen how they’ve aged and settled into the skin. The temporariness of certain application styles is making itself known, and I’ve heard enough people wish their tattoo was holding up better to predict a more dialed-in attention to longevity. I think experimenting will keep happening at the same pace, but adjustments made for the sake of permanence will feature more prominently in the mix.
Embracing nuance and multiplicity ---- We’re holding space for complexity, or just assuming complexity as a baseline. We’re being specific and intentional with language! We’re ceasing to chase absolutes! We’re being quiet and reflecting internally! Zoe Samudzi wrote beautifully on complexity and the Philip Guston retrospective, lamenting the ways the exhibiting museum’s efforts to preempt offense “created a one-dimensional portrait of Guston as a mere recorder of violence rather than someone who recognized the multidimensionality of his victimization and complicity.” I had a life-changing professor over the past year who asked difficult things of us as her students but brought into the classroom and its discussions such a faith that we would be able to meet her expectations that so much felt possible. That feeling, that I was being challenged in equal measure as I was being believed in, has stayed with me since and I’ve been trying to find ways to replicate that in my own relationships. I trust in our capacity to do this.
Experimental and innovative work structures ---- I see people getting creative and inventing new ways of sharing space. The pandemic shutdown provided a major shakeup of established shops and studios, and there’s no end in sight to the current wave of labor organizing victories. People who struck out on their own are lonely, people who started on their own are wanting more structure. The good news? It can look like anything we’re willing to try. I’m excited to find out what people come up with collectively. (See: “Working Alone” below.)
Youtube and TikTok algorithm binges ---- Again, if I’m hoping for anything it’s that we slow down and are more intentional with our media intake. I’m saying this just as much to myself as to everyone else. Fewer streams of background noise, less smooth-brained explore feed dissociation, fewer clickbait articles and listicles. More…sitting in silence?
Fundraising for charities ---- Hopefully we’ve all learned the phrase “nonprofit industrial complex” over the last couple of years and have new skills around discernment and effectiveness. When I see fundraisers declaring they’re giving to “vetted charities” I’m side-eyeing it. What, pray tell, does that imply? Are we here for getting needed money directly to where it’s most needed, or are we subscribing to bureaucratic definitions of need and worthiness?
Working alone ---- Private studios are great for so many reasons. I, a Taurus, need extreme amounts of alone time to feel human and be pleasant company when I do see people. But I see the coming year animating our desires to reconnect with community in intimate and face-to-face ways, something tattooing inherently facilitates. I’ve heard from a number of friends who work alone that they miss the camaraderie and creative community of collective work situations, who are overburdened by the logistics of running a solo space, and who feel that the growing they can do on their own has a ceiling. I believe learning to work cooperatively is an important skill for tattooers, and we’ll see more of it in the near future.
Artist vs. client hierarchy ---- Good personal and professional boundaries? Never left. Weird power struggles? Out out out.
Shop formations based just on shared identities ---- Commonalities can forge bonds, absolutely. I understand and feel the desire for spaces that are queer-only, or woman-only. But it’s also been demonstrated that shared identities alone aren’t something to build a work ecosystem atop without some serious collaboration on what those identities mean to us, and how they shape the ways we work and the values we enact in our relationships and partnerships. Not to mention the assumptions about who is and isn’t capable of committing harm that get wrapped up in these dividing lines. I remember very early on in my tattoo career being invited to work at an “all-female” shop whose name was a pun on “vagina.” It was clear from the get that it wasn’t a place I would fit in (for many reasons). In the same way a best friend can be the worst roommate, having dysfunctional work relationships with people we otherwise have close community and kinship with can produce disillusionment. Let’s enter work partnerships with holistic views of who we are, how we work and what we want to produce.
Wishing everyone a slow, restful start to 2023, and thank you so much for the support over the past year!
THANK YOU to everyone who entered the raffle! I’m so grateful to everyone who subscribes and reads this newsletter and sends in thoughtful questions.
🌟 Tattoo winner: coral shed
🌟 Drawing and merch winner: Corey Kuebler
I was able to contribute $171 to the F2L relief fund.
Boosting a mutual aid request: my dear friend Faith is in serious need of some financial support after a crisis. She is a trans activist and deserves all the rest and care in the world. Donate here.
Ask a question here.
My book, Could This Be Magic? Tattooing as Liberation Work is available via Afterlife Press.
Thank you Tamara! This was great to read through and a wonderful refresher to kick off the new year.
Thank you for the links as well! The one on Guston's exhibition was extremely interesting.