CONCLUSION

The tattooist is. on the one hand. a commercial artist. a worker involved in exercising (ideally) a unique skill while creating (again. ideally) for profit a product that contains elements of beauty-however that is defined by the various interactants in the commercial exchange. Understanding the problems and rewards encountered by the tattooist as he or she moves through the career process aids in understanding the experience of commercial artists generally. At the same time. the tattooist is involved in proViding a decorative service; his or her occupational activity is. to a large degree. shaped by subordination to the demands of a particular clientele. The tattooist's ability to ascertain client characteristics. define client needs. develop viable commercial relationships. and control clients' demands is similar to that encountered in a Wide variety of service work from providing medical care to supplying janitorial services.

While examining the work and experience of the tattooist helps to enlarge our general understanding of commercial art activities and service work. the unique features of tattooing imbue it with a special sociological interest. Tattooing is. in Hughes's (l971c) term. a «bastard institution» supplying what is still a semi-legitimate service/product to a limited but increasingly diverse «taste public:' A diachronic analysis of tattooing demonstrates that services and products have social careers. Distinct stages and factors can be identified-alterations in the cultural context. the incursion of producers with established social legitimacy. changes in the status of the members of the consuming group. and so forth-that characterize and shape the product's career. In its movement from being Widely regarded as a tarnished good (Shover. 1975) to becoming a marginally accepted form of artistic decoration. the tattoo and the social world that surrounds its creation and consumption have undergone significant change. Support personnel have arisen. technological innovations have been made. practioner/merchants have organized. various aesthetic perspectives and related „schools“ have coalesced. and agents of social control have altered or. in some cases. abandoned their regulatory efforts.

This change in the cultural and organizational context has been paralleled by significant alterations in the careers and occupational experience of tattooists. An enlarged and diversified client pool has increased tattooists' occupational opportunities and enhanced their financial security. As tattooing has begun to enjoy a modest level of legitimacy within the larger art world. tattooists' positive self-definitions as creative artists and/or skilled technicians have been bolstered and enhanced. In turn. the technical and artistic quality of the tattoos being produced has risen significantly.

The previous chapter examined the tattoo experience of the consumer while this discussion has focused on the career and occupational experience of the tattoo practioner. We turn now to enter the tattoo studio. the immediate interactional setting in which the major actors meet and the tattoo encounter takes place. It is here that the tattooist employs his or her acquired social skills. places customers into definitional categories. and attempts to exercise control over the commercial and creative exchange. In turn. the tattooee attempts to communicate his or her desires and construct an understanding of the unfamiliar and often anxiety-producing situation. Like all social settings in which the collective action of cultural production is played out in a structure of unequal power and knowledge. the situated interaction of the tattoo event displays as much conflict as it does cooperation. This is what makes it especially interesting and sOCiologically significant.