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Drawing the line
Area tattooist at forefront of creating more stringent regulations for body art

Courier Press, Monday, November 28, 2005
By Ted Pennekamp

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While most industries loathe ever-increasing and more stringent regulations, an area businessman takes the opposite approach for his industry. In fact, Mike “Easy” Manning has been at the forefront for many years in striving for increased regulations for body art.

“We welcome regulation and licensing. It’s for the safety of the public,” said Manning, the owner and operator of Choice Tattoos®, LLC of Wauzeka. “And, it’s going to get tougher yet. It’s got to.”

Manning, who is a member of the Body Art Committee for the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services (WDHFS) and is also on the Advisory Council regarding body art for the WDHFS, said that he is looking forward to a new bill that will likely be passed in the near future that will make body art regulations in Wisconsin more stringent. The Body Art Committee has been meeting once a month for the past two years working on the new exams and requirements.

In fact, Manning has drafted 125 of the approximately 500 questions for the proposed State Tattoo and Body Piercing exams. Once the exams become law, all tattooists and piercers will have to score at least 92 percent on these exams in order to pass and obtain the proper licenses. As it stands now, prospective tattooists and piercers need only pay the $50 license fees.

In addition to the exams, enforcement penalties for tattooists and body piercers will be increasing. The penalty for practicing without a license and for practicing in an unlicensed facility will increase from a $500 fine and 30 days in jail to a $1,000 fine and 60 days in jail. Also, all equipment will be confiscated. After two infractions, the practitioner will never again be able to be licensed in the state of Wisconsin.

“We don’t want to stop people from tattooing. We just want them to do it correctly,” said Manning. “It’s easy to cheat in this business and that’s bad for the industry, the customer and the public.”

Manning, has worked with local and state health departments and state legislators for many years, and, in 1995 helped bring licensing and regulation of body art to Wisconsin. Then, in 1996, Governor Tommy Thompson signed the “Tattoo Bill” (HFS 173) into law.

“That was a happy day for professional tattooists statewide,” said Manning, who noted that a tattooist needs a tattooing practitioner license along with a pre-inspected facility license. A body piercer also needs a body pierce practitioner license.

Manning continues to work towards increased awareness and education and he said that he would like to see the laws regarding body art published for the benefit of consumers. Health sanitarians come to Manning’s studio in order to enhance their training. Along with sanitary requirements, Manning points out to the sanitarians the ways in which unscrupulous practitioners may try to cheat. Manning has also given presentations at Career Days at Southwest Technical College and at Wauzeka-Steuben schools. On numerous occasions, he has educated students about safety procedures concerning tattoos and body piercings.

In the state of Wisconsin, permanent tattoos are reserved for persons 18 years of age or older, no exceptions and no parental consent. The person must be at least 18 on the day they receive their first professional tattoo.

Body piercing is allowed at age 16 through 18 with parental consent. However, prospective clients must have legal identification and must have a parent present. Permission notes or phone calls are not allowed.

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Manning is in his 34th year of tattooing and has helped his industry to change over the years. Tattooing was once considered controversial and underground but it has evolved so as to attract more “mainstream” customers. “Tattooing has really changed. Today, my most popular customer is between 35 and 50 and is a middle to upper class woman getting her first tattoo,” said Manning. “It’s a pleasure to be part of this history from the ground up and to see the positive changes the art and the industry have taken.” Manning has given tattoos to many law enforcement personnel, legal professionals, business persons, nurses, professional football players, sports figures and other celebrities.

Choice Tattoos Body Art Regulations

Along with many other pioneers working to set legal and professional standards, Manning is a member of the Alliance of Professional Tattooists, which works with legislators to help form the laws of every state.

The Alliance of Professional Tattooists, in fact, has higher standards than does the state of Wisconsin. A tattoo studio must have an autoclave for the sterilization of all reusable instruments, for example. Manning, however uses all new needles for each new tattoo. “We have a lot more stringent standards than the state of Wisconsin,” Manning said.

The Alliance of Professional Tattooists, which has 3,000 members, continues to contribute to the health department of all 50 states by supplying educational materials regarding tattooing.

There are many factors that a prospective customer should consider carefully before choosing a body art establishment. When you walk through the door, what does your nose say, your eyes, your gut feeling? asks Manning. Are you comfortable in knowing that this place performs the critical procedures to ensure your safety and health in your decision to receive body art? Are your questions answered politely, professionally and knowledgeably? Are you treated as the most important person in the room? “As a prospective client, you are (the most important person in the room). Don’t forget that,” says Manning. If a prospective client is uncomfortable about anything at all, he or she should walk out of the establishment, Manning said.

Manning said that a prospective customer should satisfy themselves that the studio furnishings and tattooist are clean and orderly in appearance, much like a medical facility. A prospective client should also feel free to question the tattooists as to any of his sterile procedures and isolation techniques. The prospective customers should take the time to observe the tattooists at work and do not hesitate to inquire about their experience and qualifications in the tattoo field. The client should insist that they see the tattooist remove a new needle and tube setup from a sealed envelope immediately prior to getting the tattoo. They should be certain to see the tattooists pour a new ink supply into a new disposable container and they should make sure that the tattooist puts on a new pair of disposable gloves before setting up the tubes, needles and ink supplies.

Working out of his Choice Tattoos studio at 51018 Harvest Lane, Wauzeka, Manning has won numerous awards over the years at tattoo shows, including the Shades of Blue show in La Crosse. He was also asked to create the drawing for the Shades of Blue T-shirt.

“I am past the money part of tattooing and am in the art part,” said Manning, who draws directly on the skin to create a one-of-a-kind original for every client.

Manning was always interested in art and received a degree in graphic arts from Memorial Area Vocational School in Louisiana in 1987. He and his wife Kay built their home and studio just outside of Wauzeka in 1989. He also has the first licensed mobile tattoo unit in the state of Wisconsin.

Manning has taken courses in mechanical drawing to enhance his tattooing and placement and has also studied anatomy to enhance his body piercing.

Anyone interested in more information about Manning’s continuing work for stronger laws and requirements or in getting a tattoo in the correct and sterile manner can contact (608) 476-2333 or log on to the website at


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