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Lynn tattoo shops may soon be able to take on apprentices

Mike Matthews, a tattoo artist at 7 Deadly Sins Tattoo in Lynn, works on a tattoo for Omar Khawatmi. (Spenser R. Hasak)

LYNN — Madyson Mitchell, 19, aspires to be a tattoo artist.

She became interested in the trade in high school and when she’s not working her other job or attending classes at North Shore Community College, the Ipswich resident can be found observing tattoo practitioners at 7 Deadly Sins on Munroe Street.

Her job at the downtown Lynn shop consists of a lot of cleaning up and learning about tattooing through observation, but her scope of work is limited because the city doesn’t allow tattoo shops to take on apprentices.

Mitchell said she could probably apply for a license to become a certified tattoo practitioner, but without actually learning how to tattoo people through a hands-on, formal apprenticeship, she just doesn’t think she has the experience.

If a new addition to the city’s existing tattoo regulations is passed by the Board of Health, licensed tattoo shops and certified practitioners could add apprenticeship programs to their businesses. The idea would be to allow aspiring tattoo artists like Mitchell a chance to learn the trade, according to Michele Desmarais, the city’s public health director.

“I just want to be able to practice it,” Mitchell said. “It’s kind of frustrating to be waiting on something.”

The Board of Health will decide next Tuesday whether it wants to set down a public hearing to add an amendment to the city’s existing tattoo regulations. If a public hearing is set down, it would likely be held next month, which would also be when the three-member panel would make its decision.

“I think that to learn under a certified person is the way to learn correctly and to make sure they’re meeting all the sanitary code rules and everybody is safe,” Desmarais said. “I can’t speak for the board because they’re the ones who are going to decide.”

Part of the potential amendment would include requiring apprentices to complete courses beforehand on needles and blood-borne pathogens, such as hepatitis B and hepatitis C, that workers can be exposed to through sharps-related injuries, Desmarais said.

Desmarais said discussion on a potential addition came after some certified practitioners called requesting apprenticeships, which are not currently allowed in the city. A few months ago, a tattoo artist from 7 Deadly Sins spoke to the Board of Health about the idea.

“There’s no apprenticeship in Lynn,” said Rich Breault, owner of 7 Deadly Sins. “All the shops want apprentices. They help around the shop. They learn.”

Breault said the restriction has led to a lot of illegal tattooing practice on the street and in homes. Despite its illegality, he said the city doesn’t crack down on it. As a result, he said 7 Deadly Sins often finds itself fixing lots of botched home artists’ tattoos, which are sometimes infected.

If the Board of Health opts to allow shops like his to take on apprentices, Breault said Mitchell and others would be able to practice on themselves and friends, but wouldn’t be able to tattoo customers. They would be critiqued and evaluated until they got it right, he said.

Breault said he would be looking to take one to two apprentices at a time for a year or two, which may lead to a hire. As part of the program, they would also be learning how to sterilize.

He expects the new regulation to be passed, but is tired of waiting on it.

“It’s aggravating because it was supposed to be (taken up) in March and now it’s June,” Breault said.


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