Courtesy of Cesar Enciso

March 30, 2021

A Conversation With Medusa Tattoo Studio: COVID-19 and Ithaca Tattooing

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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the nature of every industry and field imaginable. To better understand how COVID-19 has impacted the function of our local tattoo shops, I spoke to Carol Oddy of Medusa Tattoo Studio

During the pandemic, one of the changes Oddy noticed has been the significant decrease in traffic to the studio. Oddy explained, “We used to do walk-ins, we used to be open to the public… Now we don’t do that anymore… A lot of our consultations are done by email or phone or Zoom. ” Oddy also mentioned how the studio has a gallery space, where they used to host art shows from local artists. Now, that space is closed off, as no one other than clients with appointments comes to visit the shop. 

However, having the shop closed to the public has kept Medusa Tattoo Studio quiet in a good way, allowing them to focus solely on tattooing while they see their clients. “We don’t answer the phone anymore while we are tattooing. So there are no interruptions… It keeps us focused and it’s great for the customers because they don’t have to keep taking breaks.” Even after the pandemic dies down, Oddy hopes they can maintain that structure or hire someone to work the counter so they can continue to give artists the freedom to focus on tattooing without outside interruptions.

Beyond that, Oddy explained that Medusa Tattoos did not need to change many of their practices in order to comply with CDC recommendations. “We require people to wear masks and disinfect everything between customers… We didn’t have to change much of the day-to-day routine because it’s all done in a way to minimize cross-contamination.” Oddy discussed how whenever there is a large health crisis, people tend to blame tattoo shops or view them as unsafe and unhygienic — a Hepatitis B outbreak in 1961 that led to a 37-year ban on tattooing. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears that tattoo shops have largely escaped that stereotype; shops’ emphasis on maintaining a strong standard of cleanliness and avoiding cross-contamination has helped them have a smoother transition into a world governed by CDC COVID-19 guidelines.

One thing that has changed, however, is the workload for tattoo artists. While Medusa Tattoo Studio has the same demand for tattoos as before the pandemic, they have less time to fulfill requests. “We are basically working reduced hours because we have to keep the numbers down. It’s one or the other of us in the front station and one of us in the back station, instead of being able to have 3 people working at once.” This strain is only increased by the need to schedule an appointment through emails and phone calls that can’t be answered during work hours. As a result, there is a long waitlist of people looking to get tattooed. “On behalf of most tattoo artists, if people are wanting to get tattoos, just be patient with us because we are all restricted in how much work we can do. We are literally working half the hours but the same amount of people are still calling.”

While the pandemic has put a lot of strain on tattoo shops, tattoo artists’ resilience and adaptability have allowed them to step up to the challenge and continue spreading their art through dedicated clients.  

Christina Ochoa is a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].