‘Scratchers’ a cause for concern for SC tattoo enthusiasts

hcahill@thestate.comJuly 8, 2014 

There are few things as permanent as a tattoo.

That’s why when customers are looking for their first tattoo or additional ink to add to their collection, they should be wary about who will be poking into their skin, one Columbia tattoo artist said.

The warning came after the arrest of an unlicensed 20-year-old, who Columbia police accuse of doing tattoo work on two juveniles in his Harbison-area apartment. A parent notified authorities after one of the juveniles became ill, according to police.

Bryce Napoleon Fashaw was charged Tuesday with two counts of unlawful tattooing. He was taken to the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.

“There are good tattooers here,” said Devine Street Tattoo owner Jonathan Cheston. “But initially, all of the first tattoo shops were piercing shops and they just had to change their application forms.

“They had already gone through the zoning process for piercing, so they didn’t have to do it again for tattoos. They would hire people who said they have been tattooing for five years out of their home,” Cheston said.

Tattooing became legal in the state in 2004, and since then shops have popped up in Columbia and elsewhere. But Cheston, who for several years has owned Charleston Tattoo Co. on James Island and is a certified tattoo artist in Ohio, North Carolina and South Carolina, warns that those looking for new ink should avoid the “scratchers.”

Cheston said these fake tattooists are “people that work out of houses or have no training.” To become licensed under South Carolina law, an applicant must be 21 and “must possess a certificate of successful completion, on an annual basis, of a course in bloodborne pathology and tattoo infection control as approved by the (Department of Health and Environmental Control), a current American Red Cross First Aid Certification and Adult Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) Certification obtained either from the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association.”

Columbia police did not disclose what made one of the juveniles ill. But Cheston suggested those who aren’t properly trained and licensed may not use proper techniques regarding bloodborne pathogens and cross-contamination.

One health concern related to tattooing is a staph infection, which can occur when a contaminated needle opens the skin, allowing the infection to spread. Cheston said while such an infection can happen in established tattoo businesses, many certified tattoo artists are trained in how to properly care for equipment-disposal and tattoo-infection control.

Fashaw, who turned himself in to Columbia police Tuesday, faces a $2,500 fine and/or one year in prison for each count.

Reach Cahill at (803) 771-8305

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