Tattoo artists quit after claims of inappropriate behaviour to women
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Two Norwich tattoo artists have quit suddenly after allegations were made on social media about their behaviour towards women.
Brad Ward and Andrew Balls announced on their Instagram accounts at the weekend that they were leaving the industry and apologised for their behaviour.
It came after another Norwich tattoo artist published claims on the site about how the two artists allegedly treated some customers.
That artist claimed he had been sent a “heart-breaking” number of testimonials, pictures and videos from women about Mr Ward and Mr Balls.
“These poor people who were just booking a tattoo have had to endure so much,” he wrote on Instagram.
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“(I’m) Reading screenshot after screenshot and hearing people tell the same awful story over and over again.”
He claimed he had been sent over 20 messages containing allegations, but did not wish to comment further when contacted by this newspaper.
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After the artist went public with the allegations on Saturday, both Mr Ward and Mr Balls wrote on their Instagram accounts that they were quitting and apologised.
Mr Ward said he was remorseful and wrote: “Some things have come out that I can no longer brush under the carpet and act like it never happened.
“In the past I’ve been a really ****** person while being under the influence.
“I’m ashamed about my behaviour and am putting my hands up and publicly saying nobody should have to put up with such behaviour.
“It’s totally unacceptable. It’s something I’ve been working through for a while now with help and support of friends and family.
“People deserve better. I’ve extended heartfelt apologies and know that it’s not enough but to all concerned and extended friends and family I’m sorry for the shame I’ve brought.
“I only hope you can find a little space to forgive me as I embark on a journey to heal the damage done. I’ll be stepping away from tattooing for good.”
That message was posted on an Instagram story meaning it was deleted after 24 hours. We have approached Mr Ward for further comment, but he has not responded.
One woman, who did not wish to be named, told this newspaper that Mr Ward had sent her inappropriate videos around three years ago after he tattooed her, which led her to blocking him on social media.
“I think the industry has always been a boys’ club, but it is no different across the country,” she said.
Mr Balls, meanwhile, apologised for messaging clients “inappropriately”.
He wrote: “I put aside other people’s feelings for the sake of my own pleasure and it’s totally out of order.
“I’ve disgraced friends, family and loved ones.
“It was brought to my attention about how I’ve made people feel uncomfortable whilst getting tattooed and I was honestly never aware of this, but to say it’s untrue would be to dismiss it entirely which would be out of order too and people are allowed to tell their story. So for that I apologise also.”
He added: “I’ve acted terribly and I’m being honest now out in public. My deepest apologies to all those concerned. I will not be returning to tattooing and hope that the industry is a better place for it.”
Mr Balls has also been contacted for further comment.
The two Norwich studios, where the men worked, both quickly acted. They wrote on Instagram that the men would not be working with them anymore.
They said the alleged behaviour did not take place in their studios.
“This behaviour has never been done in front of us in the studio and if it had done it would have been dealt with then and there,” one staff member wrote on Instagram.
Neither studio wanted to comment further when asked.
One Norwich tattoo artist, who did not wish to be named, said the allegations should not put people off having tattoos.
“Since this all came out there is concern for the other male tattoo artists in Norwich because we don’t want them to be tarnished with the same brush,” she said.
“A lot of guys I work or have worked with have messaged me saying they’re worried they won’t get as many bookings if girls are now afraid to book in for tattoos which is really upsetting.
“All the guys I’ve ever worked with or been tattooed by are lovely.”
The tattoo industry has been going through its own Me Too movement in recent weeks under the hashtag on social media of TattooMeToo.
The Me Too movement, to tackle sexual harassment, spread across the world in 2017 after women came forward about film mogul and convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein.
The Tattooists Sexual Assault Survivor Support (@tsass_uk) was set up on Instagram in March to address attitudes in the industry.
One of its most popular posts states: “This isn’t a boys club anymore”.
Founder Lucy Pidgeon, 28, said: “We want to push the industry forward. Historically it has been very male dominated and in the last few years it has been catching up.
“The doors are opening up a bit for women which is amazing, but its culture needs to change.
“There is no HR department or anyone to go to if things go wrong.”
Ms Pidgeon, a tattoo artist from Surrey, said she had a very positive response to TSASS.
The group is also putting anyone who has had a bad experience with their tattoo artist in touch with other artists who will correct, remove or finish their tattoos for them.
She also hopes to hold seminars at tattoo conventions about issues in the industry.
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