As Americans continue to get vaccinated every day, they're rushing to get back to pre-pandemic activities, from eating out at restaurants to going back to movie theaters.
Many are also rushing out to get a new tattoo.
The pandemic proved nearly fatal for many businesses across different sectors. Anything that brought a worker and a customer into close proximity was especially challenging to reopen.
Tattoo shops checked all of those shutdown boxes, and getting a tattoo is one of the most pandemic un-friendly activities out there. The close contact, the collaboration with the artist, and of course the needles going in and out of your skin for hours on end.
The pandemic itself has been unfriendly to the tattoo industry. Lockdowns forced artists to cancel months of appointments and created industry-wide chaos.
Hannah Everhart, a Maryland tattoo artist, is among those professionals rocked by the pandemic. Once the shop she worked in reopened, she was limited in the number of people she could see each week. And since many of the 30,000 tattoo artists in the U.S. are essentially independent contractors and don't own their own shop, they need regular business to get by.
Everhart knew the pandemic would forever change the industry, so she started thinking seriously about opening her own studio.
"A shop was always the long term goal with tattooing," Everhart said. "It's something that I was really thinking for the five-year plan. But during the pandemic, everything was shut down. It gave me time to sit down and evaluate my situation as far as, like, money, and would this be something I could make work?"
It turns out opening her own shop in a year when small businesses faced a major downturn wasn't as hard as she might have expected. She opened Raven and Rose Studios in Savage, Md., in January.
"When I started running the numbers, it kind of made sense," she said. "It was like, oh, I could actually make this work. I could make this happen."
Everhart's move has proven to be an opportune one as the tattoo industry is seeing incredibly high demand. She has seen so much interest that she's booked until October.
(Note: I got to jump the line for my new ink, as you can see above.)
"Everyone's getting tattooed. This is honestly the furthest I've been booked out ever in my eight year career," Everhart said. "I have never been booked out this far so, and a lot of other artists are also experiencing the same thing."
The surge in interest has kept up even as Everhart and other tattoo artists across the industry shifted to digital consultations and appointment-only tattooing.
While she says the increased demand will eventually plateau, some things from the pandemic will stick around. Everhart plans to continue wearing masks while tattooing so she and her customers don't get even a little bit sick.
"I just don't have time to get sick," she said. "People are scheduling appointments three months in advance. And if it gets to be the week of their appointment, and I have to call and reschedule 'cause I have the sniffles, that's not a good look. So, I'm definitely going to keep wearing masks."
Post-pandemic realities aside, Everhart's work isn't stopping any time soon.
"You have people who have been wanting to get tattooed for a really long time. And now they're just like, I'm going to pull the trigger on this. Life is too short. I've survived this pandemic. I can't stay at my house anymore. I need to get out. I want to do this thing," she said.