Tattoo laws in South Carolina haven’t changed since 2004, and as tattoos become normalized by younger generations, some local artists have questioned these near 20-year-old laws.
Matthew “Toto” Davis, an artist at Animated Canvas in Columbia. He wears his career on his sleeve – among other places. From his roller derby coach’s phone number on his calf, to “No Regrets” with three wrong letters on his toes, he has an open view on the artform that shapes his career.
One of his biggest issues with South Carolina tattoo law is that it doesn’t match the standards lawmakers have placed on buildings that cater to adult consumers.
“The law that still bugs me to this day is that an established business of tattooing has to be 1,000 feet from a church, school or playground,” said Davis.
In comparison, a liquor store, bar or strip club only have to be 500 feet away from these locations.
Another state law prohibits artists from tattooing the head, face or neck. While the law does not limit the creative freedom of tattooists, it highlights a potential danger for those who want tattoos in this area.
“People will go somewhere out of somebody’s house, get a really badly done — very poorly done tattoo that might get infected,” said Kodi Boston, another artist at Animated Canvas. “We’re kind of exposing them to that by not letting someone get a tattoo at a place where they can trust it.”
To Davis, the solution is simple: have lawmakers ask more questions to the people who tattoo.
“If they talked to people in the profession more closely it would help bridge that gap of misinformation,” said Davis.More on current tattoo law in the state of South Carolina can be found on the South Carolina Statehouse website here.