The British Tattoo Artists Federation was founded in 1975 by Jim Mager. You can read about its history below.
Recently resurrected, the BTAF is now active in promoting tattoo safety and protecting the public from dangerous amateurs. Whilst the recent explosion in tattoo popularity has been welcome in business terms, it has brought with it some problems. As professional tattoo artists, there is not a day that goes by that we don’t see yet another Facebook photograph of a badly executed tattoo or, even worse, someone being tattooed in unsanitary conditions in someone’s home. We also see this damage in our studios regularly. The damage being done by unqualified amateurs is unacceptable.
Whilst it is possible to to build a safe treatment tattoo room within a home, the same strict rules need to be in place that apply to be in regular tattoo studios. As well as the person getting tattooed, the tattooist , the homeowner and their family are all at risk of blood borne disease and infection from environmental pathogens. This is not a hobby to be attempted without the proper knowledge, qualification or training. Our aims and objectives are listed here. We exist to protect the good name of tattooing and our trade from the unscrupulous unhygienic practitioners, no matter from where they operate.
History of the BTAF
The BTAF was founded by Jim Mager in 1975. Jim had a shop in Fenton, Stoke on Trent. It is still there today at 301, King Street.
Jim spent some time in hospital and one of the doctors got talking to him about his tattoos. He felt that tattooing then was misunderstood by the medical profession, due to some of the practices carried out by tattooists of that period, and earlier.
Many tattooists had seen the importance on changing needles and colour for each client, and using an autoclave to sterilize the tubes and needles before use, but this was not widely known, especially by the medical profession.
In those days an autoclave was very expensive, so a lot of tattooists bought secondhand autoclave from a man called Towes just outside Blackpool, he had a medical supply company and sold secondhand autoclaves sold off as surplus after the Korean War, they came from field hospitals.
So in 1975 Jim registered the name British Tattoo Artists Federation and began to contact other tattooists and invite them to join, every member was required to use new needles, and colour, and have a working autoclave in their studio, he then set about publicising these requirements. Many also used ultrasonic cleaners to clean the needles and tubes before sterilizing in the autoclave.
Jim organised a meeting in Ashton Under Lyne to invite more tattooists to join, sometime around 1976. In 1977 or 78 Lionel Titchener organized the first BTAF meeting in Oxford, in attendance was Ronald Scutt, author of Skin Deep and Dr. Dawber who was a consultant dermatologist with an interest in tattooing. Also there was Lionel’s Health Inspector, Alan Longford, who was made an Advisor to the BTAF. Another meeting took place in 1979 with about 75 tattooists present.
Lionel’s involvement started when he appeared on the BBC 6 o’clock News on Jim’s behalf, as the BTAF secretary and from then on he helped Jim to organize and run the BTAF.
The BTAF was involved in drawing up rules under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982. The Barbour Index, used by many health authorities as a guide when inspecting tattooing establishments, was based on BTAF Code of practice in place at that time. Credits to BTAF are found in the back pages.
The BTAF was also invited to comment on the http://www.pass-scheme.org.uk, another government scheme. There was a period when a lot of fake ID was being sold on websites. On this occasion we were invited to have a BTAF representative attend, during discussions by a parliamentary committee.
The BTAF were also involved in Parliamentary discussions on introducing plastic tubes and banning the use of stainless steel tubes. This was discussed with a representative from the Heath Minister, and various others in attendance, the health inspector that wanted to introduce these changes, doctor from medical devices agency, and other government department reps. The B.T.A.F. gave a good argument against this and the changes were never introduced.
When Jim retired, Lionel carried it on, although he has now handed it over to younger tattooists, asking that everyone do their best to support the new committee, in who’s hands he is confident that the BTAF will move on to better things.