The recent regulating of eyeball tattooing by the state government has led to a few extra eyebrows being raised, but one Penrith tattooist says the procedure is hardly an epidemic.
Wicked Ink’s ‘Karen’ said they were “all standing here laughing about [the eyeball tattooing] stories in the media”.
“It’s not like we are all walking around with eyeball tattoos,” she told the Gazette. “I’ve met thousands of people in this industry and only about four of them have them.”
She said most of the tattooing was done by international tattoo artists on visits to Australia. “There’s no-one locally doing it.”
Eyeball inking involves injecting a syringe filled with dye into the whites of the eyeball. The NSW Opposition said the tattooing was effectively legalised when it was included in a number of health amendments enacted last Friday [February 19] and has now called for a ban on the “dangerous” and permanent procedure, which they claim can lead to blindness or cancer.
“Injecting ink into your cornea is a recipe for disaster,” said Labor’s health spokesman, Walt Secord. "This is not like ear piercing, this has major health risks and the quality of the dye brings concerns of the possibility of cancer, but also there's the risk of blindness.”
One former Springwood man, Joel ‘Joeltron’ Bament, 31, has a neon yellow eyeball which was injected with colour seven years ago.
He had his eyeball inked by a visiting American tattooist – whose name he chose not to reveal – and strongly denied anyone “had gone blind or got cancer from it [eye inking].”
“It’s completely blown out of proportion [and] kind of silly. There are only about 20 to 25 people in the world with it [an inked eyeball] and we are going to ban it in a country where nobody does it. It won’t change anything.”
The ex-St Columba’s student used to work as a body piercer in Penrith, but now commutes between his two tattoo/piercing art studios, in Sydney’s Darlinghurst and Perth, Western Australia. He chose yellow for his eye because “it’s like a zombie colour”.
Mr Bament has multiple piercings and tattoos, including 70mm earlobes, and said getting the ink injected into the skin of his eye was “one of the easiest” procedure in terms of pain and recovery time on his body.
The changes were made to ensure eyeball tattooing complied with infection control provisions under the Public Health Act that governs tattoo parlours. Some tattoos were being done in prisons with a hypodermic and pen ink.
NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner is looking into the issue.
One Mountains tattoo parlour, which refuses to take part in the activity is InkFx. The owner, who goes by the artist name ‘Jezz’, says it’s off limits for his six-year-old Springwood business and a bit “freaky”.
“We’ve had requests to do it, but it’s not something I’d risk, not somebody’s eye.”
“I know one guy who had it done in navy and it makes his eye completely black. It’s permanent, you can’t laser it out.” But he added “it [the procedure] shouldn’t hurt, your eye doesn’t have any nerve endings.”