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To Tattoo or Not to Tattoo? That is the Question....
As a young teen, I wanted a tattoo. Back then I was not old enough, and as my later teen years I dated girls that looked down on them. So to please them, I refrained. Now Im married and into bodybuilding. The other weekend, I was looking at people that are working out in the gym. And I noticed that most of the bigger bodybuilders were sporting a tattoo. My workout partner has 2 of them. I think that more and more of the bodybuilders out there are heading in that direction, including myself. Im getting my first one next week. I hope I dont cry! Ha Ha. Anyway, I talked with a bunch of people and decided to seriously consider it. The biggest problem I faced, was everyone has an opinion on it. So I decided to ask the people in the business. Afterall, I will have to live with this for the rest of my life, so I want it to look good. I have seen some shitty tattoos in my life, and would not want to have one, so I did some homework and Im passing it on to you. So if you ever decide to seriously think about it, read this and I hope it makes the decision for you easier.
Today there seems to be a lot of attraction to body art. What's the attraction? Tattooing and piercing are two of the oldest and most creative forms of artistic expression known to man. The literal meaning of the word tattoo may be enough to ward off those interested in using their bodies as forms of art. Tattoo is derived from the Tahitian word tatay, meaning 'to inflict wounds.' Tattooing can be dated back as far as 8000 B.C. and has been popular among most cultures. Throughout all time tattoos have represented different things to different people. Ancient Greeks and Romans used tattoos to signify slaves and criminals. In the past, tattoos were used as a sign of honor and new status in the Marquesas Islands. In New Guinea tattoos on women were regarded as a sign of beauty.
Today in the Western world tattoos are used to gain membership into a particular group, or to change social status. They are also used to express patriotism, devotion to loved ones, or religious preferences.
According to tattoo artists in the business, tattoos have changed in the last eight
years. In the past, tattoos were done with brush line patterns which left them looking flat and lifeless. As one tattoo artist says, "We are now doing tattoos that are more detailed with more shading that produces a 3-D effect. The brighter colors also last longer. Tattooing has snowballed in the last three and a half years."
The tattoo artist who asked not too be mentioned on this newsletter has three tribal tattoos, one of which the artist drew themself. "Tattooing and piercing is an Ancient ritual that has its foundations in who you are, and it becomes a form of self expression." It was believed that the tattoo is supposed to help prevent injury. I don't think that is why people get them, but maybe some people believe it works.
For some, tattoos are not well thought out before they are gotten and are soon regretted.
"A lot of people get cheesy tattoos without the realization that it is there for life, and should be a reflection of their personalities," states the tattoo artist. So, if you conteplate getting a tattoo, please think long and hard about it, because a tattoo can cost in the range of around a $100. An inch to get rid off. One Cosmetic Surgery Consultant reports that they perform around 120 tattoo removals each year. When asked why people want the tatto removed, they claim that the most popular reason is because they are unwanted. "There are a variety of reasons for this, parents wanting to get rid of children's tattoos, people who have gotten tattoos when they are younger and are now entering into professional life, embarrassment, and also people who have gotten satanic tattoos and then changed their ideals."
If you are looking for a "certain something", or just inspiration, turn to the following sources for help: clip art books, childrens coloring books (the hard outlines translate easily into tattoos), stained glass or embroidery pattern books. Other sources require a little more talent and skill to convert into tattoos, but can be the best way to get direction toward a unique tattoo: brochures from travel agencies, product pamphlets, comic books, gaming cards, greeting cards, fabric prints, and, of course, tattoo magazines.
Over the years we have created tattoos using a very strange collection of sources, including: coffee cups, collectors plates, figurines and statuary, stained glass items, belt buckles, jewelry, photos, magazines, bumper stickers, tee shirts, a bed sheet, wallpaper, paper towels, package wrappers, calendars, plants, wrapping paper and posters, to name just a few.
Use your imagaination and start looking at everything you see with an eye towards a tattoo...
The 10 Commandments Of Tattoo Care
1. Thou Shalt Not Listen To Anyone Else Regarding Tattoo Care.
2. Thou Shalt Not Remove Bandage From Thy Tattoo Sooner Than 2 Hours Or No Later Than 10 Hours. (Even To Show Friends)
3. Thou Shalt Wash Thy Tattoo Immediately Upon Removal Of Bandage With Warm Water, Mild Soap, Pat Dry, Do Not Re-bandage.
4. Thou Shalt Wash Thy Tattoo 5 To 7 Times A Day For The First 3 Days.
5. After 3 Days, Thou Shalt Apply A Dab Of Hand cream Or Light Lotion. (No Vaseline)
6. Thou Shalt Not Soak Thy Tattoo (Quick Shower Only) For 2 Weeks.
7. Thou Shalt Avoid Swimming Pools, Saunas, Steam Rooms, Lakes, and Salt Water For 2 Weeks.
8. Thou Shalt Not Pick, Scratch, Or Scrub Tattoo For Six Weeks.
9. Thou Shalt Not Wear Pantyhose Or Nylon Apparel On Tattoo For 10 Days.
10. Thou Shalt Wear Sun block On Thy Tattoo For The Rest Of Thy Days.
Frequently Asked Questions on the subject of Tattoos
While bodyart has been around for thousands of years, it is currently experiencing an almost unprecedented popularity in the US and in Europe. However, the general population of developed countries still regard it with some disdain, especially against those who have *A LOT* of any type
bodyart. The purpose of this FAQ is *not* to raise these issues or to change such views, but to educate those who are interested in learning more about tattoos. Regardless of motive, tattooing is a very personal choice. Information in this FAQ should help you make a wiser decision about getting inked, since the reversing process is not easy.
Q: DOES IT HURT?
This is the first question in this FAQ because it's usually the first question that people ask. The answer is yes. Having needles pierce your skin *does* hurt. But what you *really* want to know is, "How MUCH does it hurt, and can I handle it?" It's not nearly as bad as what you might imagine. The pain comes from the cluster of needles on the tattooing machine piercing your skin very
rapidly. This sensation, however, doesn't feel like the poking pain of an injection--it's more of a constant vibration. You will be amazed at how quickly your body releases endorphins, (pain killers), which dullens the pain significantly. The pain will also vary according to where on your body you get worked on. Skin right above bones (collarbone, anklebone, etc.) tend to be more painful than other areas. In addition, certain types of needles seem to hurt more than others. I personally think the needles used for outlining produce a sharper, more noticeable pain, while the needles used for
shading seem to be much more like an electrical buzz (nearly painless).
Remember, you are volunteering for the experience. The amount of pain will depend on your psychological attitude.
NOTE: Do not drink alcohol or take illegal drugs for pain relief purposes prior to your tattoo sessions. Both aspirin and alcohol thin your blood and promote excessive bleeding. Aspirin also decreases the clotting of blood, which will slow down your healing as well. In addition, artists do not appreciate dealing with drunks and is illegal in many states.
Q: SHOULD I GET A TATTOO IN THE FIRST PLACE?
Your reading this may mean you're already interested in getting a tattoo, or may know someone who is. In a survey of 163 tattooed men and women, a third of them had regretted their tattoos! While most of this FAQ discusses the process once you've decided to get one, let's pause
for a moment.
Q: *WHY* DO I WANT ONE?
People get tattoos for different reasons. Is it to please your partner? Is it because you want to belong to a group that has tattoos? Do you identify with a certain subculture known for tattoos? Do you want to show your independence, individuality or uniqueness?
These are all valid reasons, and why many people get tattooed. However, because of the permanency of your tattoo, try to look at yourself in five, 10, or even 20 years. What will you be doing at that time? You might be a free-spirited college student now, and a web of vines on your
wrist would look really lovely. However, are you planning to work in a very conservative field after you graduate? Will others look at your tattoo in a bad way? Will you have to hide it with long sleeve shirts? Are you *willing* to wear long sleeve shirts if the environment is negative?
Do you want a tattoo of a tiger because your partner's nickname is "Tiger," and you love the way s/he scratches your skin? Do you think you'll be with this person in five years? If not, how will you look at that tattoo? With fond memories, symbolizing a special period in your life? Or a shameful or painful reminder of somebody who hurt you and didn't care for you?
You're a headbanger (or a nose-smasher, ear-bopper or whatever) and you *REALLY* want a tattoo all over your arms just like Axl Rose, but you can't afford a professional artist so you get your friend with the mail-order tattooing machine to do those designs for you? Or perhaps you
get spider webs tattooed all over your hands (or your face, which has happened) because you want to be "different" in school. What if you decide to "straighten out" and get a real job; train as a chef or something, and then no restaurant hires you?
GETTING IT REMOVED is NOT easy, and is NOT cheap. Expect to pay $1,000 to remove even a fairly small-sized tattoo if you're looking at laser surgery. Expect to have a noticeable ugly scar if you go with a non-laser technique. Expect to pay for every penny out of your own
pocket because health insurance companies will not pay for tattoo removal. There may not be a laser surgery specialist in your area. Then think of all those laser-surgery doctors who are going to get rich off of a person's foolishness or lack of careful thinking.
...Maybe tattooing isn't for you.
...Maybe you shouldn't get that $10 tattoo your friend's been telling you he'll give you, in his garage.
...Maybe you shouldn't let your buddies tattoo your hand with India Ink and a needle at this weekend's party.
...Maybe you should get a tattoo on your back instead of on your hand.
...Maybe you should get a tattoo on your left wrist so it can be covered by your watch if you have to.
...And maybe after reading this FAQ and reading RAB, you'll think carefully about it, and make some informed, wise decisions about what to do with your body.
*Tattooing can be beautiful.*
*Tattooing can be exhilarating.*
*Tattooing can open a whole new world for you.*
...but make sure to do it *RIGHT*.
RELIGIOUS (CHRISTIAN) ARGUMENTS
Written by: Chris Wayne
A word to the religious: In Leviticus 19:28, it says not to tattoo "I am the Lord" on you (i.e. don't take the name of the Lord in vain). It does NOT say you can't mark yourself at all, and it does NOT say there's anything wrong about piercing. What it DOES say is that it prohibits mutilating yourself for the dead, which was a senseless practice at that time. But for Christians, they are no longer bound by the Law. Remember that it's not what you do; it's what's in your heart when you do it. The
Talmud even mentions that it's not the tattooing that is wrong, but what the tattoo is of (i.e. if the tattoo is an image of a 'false god' as opposed to just a 'design').
There are probably many 'prim & proper' Christians out there that have had the urge to be tattooed, but have repressed it because they believed it was a sin. Well, if you really believe that it is a sin, then it is. But is getting tattooed really a sin? If it draws you away from Christ or causes someone else to stumble, then yes. But tattooing isn't any more special than anything else we distract ourselves with.
Take things in moderation at your speed. We are to deny ourselves of things if they cause us to lose sight of Jesus (for some, it could be driving a car, getting married, having children, going to work, smoking, abusing drugs & alcohol, disrespect, etc.). If you have good discernment, you know what distracts you from Christ and what doesn't.
Tattooing isn't inherently evil; it got it's 'evil' status because GOD-less heathens from places like the South Pacific were tattooed. Do what pleases GOD; and one thing that pleases GOD is to be confident in oneself (not overly prideful, but confidence tempered with discernment, almost bordering on arrogance). Tattooing can bring out that confidence, because to be tattooed requires commitment. And that's a conquering power over fear and old ruts. GOD wants mature dynamic individuals that fear him to fellowship with, not people cowering in fear from some rigid set of laws. Note: fear of GOD is totally different from cowering in fear.
Some Christians will claim that drinking any amount of alcohol is sinful, but the medical community is saying that 2-3 drinks a day is good for the heart. Drink responsibly. So, for those that have repressed getting a tattoo because of family or religious upbringing, just do it. If it's not for you, fine--but don't ruin it for the others.
Tattooing in no way marks who's saved and who's not. If you've seen the trilogy "A Distant Thunder," the Mark of the Beast was tattooed on your right hand or forehead. The tattoo was 666 in binary '6's (i.e. 1 0 11 0 11 0 1 Sort of like a UPC code), but this doesn't mean that every tattoo
is a Mark of the Beast. People have stated that the credit card and the computer were tools of
the Devil. So what? Everybody depends on both today, even if the Anti-Christ is to use the computer to control the population, it doesn't mean that if you use a computer, you're a follower of the Devil.
I believe that religion, when improperly used, is a dangerous thing. Christianity has wasted a lot of valuable time trying to influence people in believing that unimportant things are evil instead of
spreading the word of GOD. Christianity (or those prideful, arrogant, self righteous leaders) has looked down on tattooing far too long.
A TEMPORARY ALTERNATIVE?
For those who might not be ready for the plunge, but are seriously considering what it would look/feel like to have a tattoo, Julian (firstname.lastname@example.org) recommends a particular type of temporary tattoo that uses very light Japanese rice paper. He says these are of very high quality, and last about two weeks WITH CARE. I have had the phone number confirmed recently so they are still in business.
Don Ling's Removable Tattoos & Fantoos, 507/956-2024
P.O.Box 309 Butterfield, MN 56120
or 102 2nd ST. South Butterfield, MN 56120
FLASH NEWS This is a new update as of 2/96: It turns out Don Ling actually only began carrying these rice paper tattoos this year. The bulk of his merchandise are "decal tattoos." This according to Roy of Temptu <email@example.com>, the company that owns the rights to the rice
paper tattoos. The following is from Roy himself:
The rice paper temporary tattoo you...mention is made in New York by Temptu studios. It is a cosmetic ink printed on an archival cigarette-like tissue paper. Special cosmetic inks are then used to paint in the 'tattoo.' The result is totally realistic, waterproof, and longlasting (yep, up to 2 weeks!)
"This process was used in the popular movies such as "Cape Fear" on Robert de Niro, "Once Were Warriors", "From Dusk til Dawn" on George Clooney and currently on Sean Penn at the end of "Dead Man Walking". Also see Bruce Willis' Head in "The 12 Monkeys". It was invented by Dr. S. Zuckerman for the film "Tattoo", (Bruce Dern/Maude Adams) in 1981.
Temporary Tattoos are used for someone who wants to 'test drive a tattoo,' so they can decide on position, color, before deciding what and where.
For some, the easiest thing to do is to simply draw on the skin with a non-toxic marker. In fact, many people who already have tattoos do this to figure out placement and design. If you want it to wash off right away, use something temporary. Crayola's washable markers work well. If you want to see if you can live with a design for a couple of days, try a permanent marker such as the "Sharpies". They come in basic colors.
Part of the process of getting a tattoo is coming to terms with its permanency. It's like losing your virginity. You lose it once, and you can't get it back. You can neck and make out, but it's not intercourse. If you're afraid of losing your virginity, you have to come to terms with THAT before you can have sex. But once you lose your virginity, you forget all about how you feared its loss, and simply enjoy having sex! :)
Debunking of urban folklore
Someone asked to confirm a rumour about the possibility of temporary tattoos obtainable by using a tattooing machine very shallowly on the skin, to have the tattoo last only six months or so.
Several professional tattoo artists replied with a very strong NO. There is no way to be able to prevent the needles from entering the second layer of skin (the dermis), where tattoo inks normally go. Further, even if the tattoo machine only enters the top layer of skin (the epidermis), you will end up with too much scarring that the tattoo will never really go away. Considering the time, cost and pain factors, this is not an option--and no professional tattoo artist will want to experiment on you.
A proprietor claimed a "new discovery!" of a temporary tattoo that was removable after a couple of years. All efforts by various reviewers and professionals to confirm the validity of this product have been unsuccessful--this product, whatever it is being touted as, is not endorsable.
THE DECISION PROCESS--MAKING THE BIG PLUNGE: WHERE CAN I FIND A GOOD ARTIST,
AND WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN A TATTOO ARTIST?
The bane of the tattoo world is the shadowy, unprofessional person called the "scratcher." A scratcher is somebody who:
--Does not have the proper training in either tattoo art or of running a professional operation;
--Does not know and/or care to use responsible sterilization methods;
--Promises to provide tattooing services for an incredibly low fee, for free, or in exchange for drugs;
--Chooses not to apprentice through a legitimate tattoo shop because of one excuse or another (but lacks the knowledge one needs to work in or run a professional shop);
--Will hurt you because they don't know what they're doing;
--Will give you a permanent tattoo you will regret for the rest of your life;
--You should stay away with a ten-foot pole.
Never, never, never get work from a scratcher unless you are willing to accept all the hazards listed above.
Of those in a study who regretted their tattoos, more than two-thirds of them regretted their tattoo because of poor quality! Looking for an artist can be as easy as checking the Yellow Pages, or as
complex as checking references, magazine photos, and reading. There are a number of ways to find good artists, including (but certainly not limited to):
--Perusing tattoo magazines. While not all tattoo magazines are of the National Geographic quality, the photos will speak for themselves. Some issues highlight specific artists' works; a good way see the type of work someone does. Use the photos in the magazines to compare with those of the artist you are interested in. These magazines have done a lot to show what is *possible*.
Some things to look for in magazines:
-Style (realistic, black & grey work, tribal, etc.)
-Placement on your body
-Ideas for images
-Size in proportion to your body
-Artists whose work you like.
--Attending a tattoo convention.
You can approach this one of two ways. You can either go to a shop because someone recommended the artist to you, or you can go in cold. For obvious reasons, you will have a little more information with you if you already know something about the artist. This may make you feel more at ease when going into a shop for the first time. While hunting down the place you want to obtain your tattoo consider the following:
-- Choose an experienced, knowledgeable performer who knows about sterilization and avoidance of infection.
-- Gives advice and proper care in order to avoid infection during the healing process.
With both of those bases covered, healing of either should be non-eventful and the desired appearance should be guaranteed.
WHAT KIND OF DESIGN SHOULD I GET?
What images do you think of when you think of a tattoo? Do you think of anchors, of roses or of skulls? While these traditional images are still available, you will be pleasantly surprised at the variety you will find today.
There are two basic types of tattoos: Flash, and custom. As you can imagine, "custom" means you have a design you like that you take in with you. "Flash" is the stock designs you see on the walls of the shop. The main thing to remember is that you're not required to choose from the selection of flash in a shop--You're NOT limited to just an anchor, a rose or a skull. Remember however, that these smaller pieces of pre-priced flash are the bread & butter of many shops, since they are
proportionately expensive ($75 for 20 minutes' work, for example where an artist might charge $100 an hour for custom work). Also, the number of customers who lay out the big bucks for large, elaborate custom pieces is too small to keep a regular shop in business.
A few of the major styles of tattooing:
--BIO-MECHANICAL: A style popularized by illustrator H.R. Giger, who designed the creature from the "Alien" movies. Bio-mechanical work usually involves an anatomical flesh intertwined with some technical drawings of machines. A close relative of this style involves just the biological look of flesh without the mechanical parts.
--BLACK & GREY: Refers to the colors used, this style requires the artist to have advanced shading techniques for subtlety.
--CELTIC: Beautiful, intricate knotwork of the Celts (a hard "k", NOT a soft "c" like the basketball team). These are much harder for artists to do, and is best done by someone who specializes in it. Also usually done in just black ink.
--ORIENTAL: Big, bold pieces of Oriental images (carp, clouds, dragons, etc.) based on the Ukiyo-e woodblock prints of 18th Century Edo-period Japan. Note: It is fine to call this "Oriental" and not "Asian," because it references an object and not a person.
--PORTRAIT: Images taken from photos, best done by someone who can render realistic photographic images. Usually done in black and grey ink.
--SAILOR JERRY: Traditional sailor tattoo style made famous by Jerry Collins in Honolulu.
--TRIBAL: Usually bold simple lines, simple patterns. Almost always done with just black ink. If you have seen the bands around the arms of some bodybuilders, (ie, Barbed wire, Vines, etc.) That is considered tribal.
With a good artist working for you, you can get practically any image you'd like. Accomplished artists can render portraits, wildlife, psychedelic and biomechanical styles with impressive results. Your main challenge is to find the artist who can best do the design YOU want.
WHAT KIND OF COLORS CAN I GET?
Concerned that you'll end up with a greenish tattoo with little bits of red or yellow? Worry no more! Today's inks run the entire gamut--and it would not be terribly sarcastic to take a Pantone color chart with you! Most tattoo inks are metal salt-based pigments that are not made specifically to be used under the skin, and have not been approved by the FDA for this purpose. The idea is that for most people, these pigments are inert and cause no problems. Some people have been known to
have allergic reactions; any reputable artist should be willing to provide you with a small "patch test" of the colors you desire. This is required in the state of Arkansas.
Experts say that some artists use acrylic-based pigments, which he feels may be more troublesome than the metal-based pigments for some with sensitive skin. Best to ask your
HOW TO LOOK AROUND IN THE SHOP
Don't let the shop intimidate you when you first walk in. For the uninked, a tattoo shop is intimidating enough. Strange smells, strange sounds. Some shops even try to look intimidating to create a tough-guy feel. Just keep in mind that you're a potential customer. Consider it window shopping.
The first thing you should do is to take a minute to look around. Chances are, you'll encounter some flash (stock illustrations) stapled on the walls. These will most likely lean toward the traditional. Skull and crossbones, roses and the like. You might also see some signs ("No minors; we ID," "We have sanitary conditions" etc.). These signs will also be indicators of the personality of the shop owner. If the signs seem overly intimidating, patronizing or snobbish, they can be tip-offs of the shop's attitude. Some are very friendly, with plants, aquarium fish, and signs like "Tattooed people come in all colors."
Note: There is no national law regarding the legal age for tattooing.
Check with the shop to find out what the local statute regulates.
ASKING TO SEE THEIR PORTFOLIO
Do NOT be impressed by the flash on the wall. These illustrations are usually purchased from other artists and do not represent the work of your artist. Frankly, anyone with some experience can easily trace the outlines of these illustrations and fill in the colors. What you really need to look at is a book that contains a collection of photos of the artist's work. Go to the counter and ask to see one. If they tell you they don't have one, walk out immediately. You're visiting the shop to
commission a piece of art to be permanently illustrated on your skin; for the artist to tell you s/he doesn't have samples in a portfolio is insulting.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN THEIR PORTFOLIO
When you do look in their portfolio, there are a few things to keep in mind. Do you see any photos of pieces that you recognize in the flash (on the wall, or in a flash book)? If so, how is it rendered in tattoo format? Before anything else, check to see that the lines are clean. Are they well-defined? Straight where they should be; not shaky or blurry? Are the borders all uniform in width? Do the colors seem true? Are they bright? Proportionately correct? Look at the people in the book. This can be an indicator of the clientele in the shop (besides looking at the ambiance of the shop). Is
there a fair mix of women and men in the book? Are they all sporting "biker" tats, or any one particular genre/style?
Again, keep in mind that anyone can stencil an outline of an illustration onto your skin. The skill in the artistry comes in the shading, use of colors and other subtle things that set an artist apart
from a simple tattooist.
Do you see anything in the portfolio that is not in the flash? These are the custom pieces that the artists have done, and they should be their crowning glory. How do they look? Do you like what you see? If there is more than one artist working in the shop, and you see some photos you like, make sure to find out which artist did the work.
WHAT KINDS OF QUESTIONS TO ASK
Whenever you ask to see their collection of photos, the person in the shop will hopefully immediately recognize you as someone who knows a little more about tattoos--at least enough not to be satisfied by looking at just the flash. If the shop is not too busy or if the artist
is not in the middle of working, they might stand on the other side of the counter to have a conversation with you. This is a wonderful opportunity to ask questions of the artist.
Some reasonable questions to ask in your conversation that shouldn't take too much time for the artist to answer:
What is their favorite style?
If what *you* are looking to get done happens to be their specialty you are in luck; be it tribal, wildlife or whatever.
Is there any one particular subject they like to do?
One artist, without hesitation, told me his favorite was skulls. I would've jumped for joy had that been what I wanted.
How long has the shop been here?
This may be an indicator of the stability of their business. The tat industry in itself fluctuates, but continuity implies business acumen, responsible practices and that they are not a fly-by-night operation.
How long have they been at the shop?
The shop may have been there for 20 years, but the artist may only have been there for a couple of months. If they have been there for what you consider a short period, ask them where they were before.
How long have they been tattooing?
It might not matter so much that the artist has only been there for a short while, if they've been tattooing for several years. They might come from various backgrounds--anywhere from working on friends to having a fine arts degree. This type of information will give you more insight into the artist's attitude as well as aptitude.
Do they get to do much custom work?
This may depend on where the shop is located, but it also depends on how good of an artist they are, and whether they have their own style for which they are known for.
It is often difficult for new artists to break into the business, and an apprenticeship is often a very good way to learn not only about tattooing itself, but also about the day-to-day operation of a small
business. For artists to take apprenticeships means they're interested in expanding the artform, in giving a new person a break (so to speak) and feeling confident enough about their own skills that they feel they can offer some insight and experience for the new person. This again goes back to the attitude of the artist and the shop. Don't let the looks of the artist intimidate you. Tattoo artists usually have a lot of tattoos themselves. In fact, I would be somewhat leery of an artist who has NO tattoos at all. The main thing is that you need to talk with them and get a feel for what they are like. As you talk with the artist and build a rapport, if you feel comfortable you may want to broach the subject of what you're interested in getting done. Bounce your idea off with the artist and see what they are willing to help you with. Remember however, that the artist is running a professional business! Be polite--don't linger and overspend your welcome if you don't plan on getting any work done at all.
[Note: Don't base your decision according to what tattoos you see on the artist--they were not done by that person!]
WHAT SORTS OF THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN A SHOP
Looking critically at the shop is as important as choosing your artist. Make sure the place is very clean, make sure the artist uses disposable, single-use needles (that are not re-used after one client), and uses an autoclave for all other equipment. Don't be afraid to ask them, either.
A legitimate artist will be glad to show you. What does the shop look like? What is its ambiance? Does it look like a barber shop, a hair salon, dental office or an art gallery? If you are a
nonsmoker, will cigarette smoke bother you? Look for used ashtrays as signs. Do the work areas offer you any privacy? Do they use shower curtains, private booths or shoulder-high room dividers?
Try to go and visit and then come back another day. Don't feel pressured into having to get one right then and there. Try and talk to some people that have experience with the artist (and not the groupies that you'll find hanging around the shop). You should feel comfortable with the artist and you should like him/her. If you don't, then don't get a tattoo. Make sure the artist is willing to listen to you and respects what you want. Don't go to an artist that has an agenda of what he/she wants to do. The artist may make suggestions, but the final word is always yours.
Finally, make sure you take their business card with you. If the artist you talk to does not have his/her own card, jot down the name on the back, and perhaps some notes to yourself about the shop and the artist.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: WHAT TO ASK FROM ARTISTS?
It has been brought to my attention that some tattooists have an attitude problem when it comes to potential customers. Tattooists (and piercers!) need to realize that not every person who walks in has to look like a grunged-out leather-wearing biker, or a raven-haired cleopatra-eyed septum-pierced zombie. People from all walks of life may be interested in bodyart. A potential customer should NOT be made to feel out-of-place or ashamed for walking in wearing a business suit, or an LL Bean dress. It is amazing to think that someone with purple hair and eyebrow rings
could actually discriminate against someone, but apparently, this seems to be happening. Just as a customer should expect certain sanitation standards, they should also expect an inviting atmosphere.
ARE TATTOO SHOPS INSURED?
Most reputable tattoo shops are insured. The problem is, they're usually insured against premises liability. This means that they have insurance coverage if you fall and hit your head on their floor, but NOT if you're unhappy with their work. In the past, the only insurer who would cover the latter was Lloyd's of London, and their rates were apparently very high. This has changed recently, with the availability of a comprehensive insurance package available from one agent based on the West Coast. Many shops do have some form of insurance (this may be a requirement in their rental lease). Just keep in mind that the insurance does not necessarily cover QUALITY.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO GET A TATTOO?
This is an age-old debate, so the following is just a very basic ballpark. You usually pay for work either by the piece, or by the hour. The smaller pieces in the artist's flash book are "standard stock" material that usually don't take the artist too long to do. For these, you might find prices listed right next to the artwork. The artist may have a "minimum" charge that might vary with each artist.
Larger (or custom) pieces will usually be charged by the hour (unless you and the artist decide beforehand on the total price). If you get a "stock" piece (probably about 2" x 2" in size), you will probably not pay more than $100 and sit no longer than an hour in the chair. Your mileage may vary.
If you bring your own design, the artist may charge anywhere from $50 to a few hundred dollars an hour, depending on the artist. However, you may want to work with someone who charges $100 or so an hour; after all, you DO get what you pay for. Also, some artists charge for illustration time
prior to beginning tattoo work. If they do, this might increase your price by an extra hour. If they tell you that your piece will be charged by the hour, ask them how many hours they think it'll take. If you are on a limited budget, tell them how much you can afford.
Price negotiation should be up front and straightforward, a part of your initial discussion before work begins. Some shops take credit cards; most don't. Out-of-towners may be asked to put down a deposit. Be particularly wary of people willing to work "for cheap" or "for free." They are often artists just starting out, who are still developing their skills. Caveat emptor.
Warning: Once the artist quotes you a price, DON'T DICKER WITH IT! The best way to get on the artist's bad side is to try to bargain with the price. If you think the price is too high, renegotiate the scope of the artwork--NOT the price. I usually do it this way: "Hi, I have X amount I can spend on this design. What can we work out for that price?"
If you are very pleased with their work and service, you are strongly encouraged to tip the artist, even if they own the shop. Even shop owners don't pocket 100% of what they make (remember--it's a business!). Tips can range from 10% to 20% of the piece, so be prepared with cash on hand.
I personally recommend a tip for any work which you are pleased with, or any custom work where the artist spent time drawing up your illustration (since drawing time is usually not included in your price). Nothing brightens up a day for the artist, or helps to build a friendly relationship with your artist more than a generous tip. If you're very happy with the artist and you think you might get more work from them later, TIP!!
There have been heated discussions in the past regarding the appropriateness of tipping a shop OWNER. If you feel that an owner does not deserve a tip on top of the price s/he charges you,
then A) do not give a tip at all, or B) bring some sort of offering, be it food, flowers or whatever.
Many tattoo artists have told me that the BEST TIP is good word of mouth. If you are happy with your tattoo, show it off to your friends and tell them where you got it done!
HOW SHOULD I ACT WHEN I GET IN THAT CHAIR?
Once you have settled on a design and a price that you and your artist agree on, the work will either begin right then, or you will be asked to come back for a later appointment (e.g. if the artist has another client coming in in 15 minutes). Once you're in that chair, what can you expect? Most likely, the artist will begin the long process of preparing for your work. This is especially true if the artist is going to do a custom design that you brought in. First, the design will have to be worked on. Most artists will play around with the design on paper first, although some artists will do it freehand. "Freehand" means the artist takes an ink pen to hand and begins drawing a design on your skin without the use of a stencil (NOT where the artist begins work with the tattooing machine
immediately--the artist, no matter how good, still needs to envision how the work will look on your skin--proportion, placement, etc.). When you and the artist are happy with the design, the artist might outline the design with a piece of carbon paper, or use an old-fashioned copy machine to get a working copy of it. This would be when the artist would properly size the design. The artist will then clean your skin where the work will be done (probably an alcohol or antiseptic rub), and
will swipe your skin with an "adhesive," which is usually Speed Stick deodorant. The artist will then put the carbon side of the design directly on your skin. When the paper is lifted, ta-da! A carbon line drawing of the design should appear on your skin!
The artist will probably let you look in a mirror to make sure you are happy with the design and the placement. Once this is agreed upon, the artist will then begin putting the supplies out.
At this point, your artist should be doing things like dispensing various colors of ink into little disposable wells, and rigging a new set of needles into the tattoo machine. At this time, you will probably try to look cool by looking around the studio walls or occasionally looking to see what your artist is doing. Your artist might have a radio playing, which will help distract you a little.
At this point, it is best for you to try and relax. You can ask the artists about some things, like the colors of the ink. Depending on the work you are getting, the artist will need to mix some colors, for
example. You're probably somewhat nervous, but excited at the same time because you're actually gonna get a real tattoo! Whether you realize it or not, your body is going through quite an adrenalin rush. Try to remain calm and not too anxious. Your hyped-up condition and your anxiety about the anticipated pain of your experience by themselves may trigger a fainting spell. It will help if you are not there on an empty stomach. Get a bite to eat about an hour or two before you go in for
your session. Having hard candy or some juice on hand during the session is also recommended.
Just relax and try to stay calm. For women, the experience of anxious anticipation is similar to a pelvic exam at an OB/GYN, where you are more nervous about it while waiting for the doctor as you lie prone on the examining table, feet in the stirrups. Just as most exams aren't painful or really all that bad, neither is tattooing.
Bzzzzzttttt....The artist starts up the machine, dips the needle into the ink and starts to work toward your skin! Aaaaaahhhhh!!! Will it hurt? Will it hurt? Grit your teeth! Hang tight!...
Ooohhhhhhh! It does hurt! Ow! Ow! Ow! I'm okay, I'm okay, this is fine, it's not that bad. I can grit my teeth. Grit, grit, grit. Try to smile a bit. My teeth are gritting, anyway. Oh, I hope this pain doesn't
stay like this!! Breathe. Don't forget to breathe. Relax. Relax. Relax. Okay there, that's better. Not so painful. I can handle it. Yeah--look at all the tattoos HE's got on his arms. I can handle it, too. Yeah.
...The most painful part of the process will pass in a couple of minutes, after which the area will feel abuzz with electricity and warmth. Just try to relax and breathe deeply--enjoy the one-of-a-kind
experience that you're feeling. Oftentimes, you end up clenching your jaws, grinding your teeth or grasping the chair with your white-knuckled hands. But once you pass the first couple of minutes, you'll feel silly for having worried about it so much. If you still feel uncomfortable after a few minutes, it may be because you're sitting in an uncomfortable position. See if you can get into a more comfortable, reclining position--but make sure to ask the artist first before you try to move.
Some people try to distract themselves by trying to talk with the artist. This is kind of like with hair stylists--some stylists just love to gab and gab (just ask them an open-ended question), while some
stylists would rather concentrate and not screw up your hairdo. Same with tattoo artists. While some will like to "talk story" with you, others would rather concentrate on the work you're paying them to do. After all, their job, income, and reputation are on the line when they have the tattooing machine to your skin. Often, they'll talk during easy parts, and less during complex work. Just go with the flow and not worry about it.
The only thing I don't particularly prefer is if there's a lot of traffic walking around in the studio and the artist has to keep talking to them (either potential clients or tattoo groupies). For this reason,
a cubicle or dividing partition is a nice option for privacy. Most people can sit through over an hour of work, but if you get uncomfortable, just ask your artist if you can take a break. If you feel woozy, you might consider bringing some candy with you to give you a little lift, or some water to drink.
WHERE ON MY BODY SHOULD I GET A TATTOO?
This may seem VERY trivial, since the answer can be "anywhere you please!" The ONLY places you cannot technically get permanent tattoos are your hair, teeth and nails (even the cornea used to be tattooed years ago for medical purposes). Interestingly, women and men tend to get tattoos in different locations. This, according to sociologist Clinton Sanders, is because men and women get tattoos for different reasons. Men, he says, get them to show others, while women get them for
the sake of decorating their body--and often place them where they can't normally be seen, so that it doesn't prompt comments about her "reputation." However for the sake of this FAQ, the following is a short list of areas to get inked. I am included the statistics from Clinton Sanders' study on the body location of the first tattoo for men and women as well (there were 111 men in his survey group and 52 women).
--Head: The "head" here refers mostly to the area where your hair grows. You'll need to shave the area for the tat to be most visible. If you need to hide your tat, you can grow your hair out. Areas more commonly inked are the sides of the head (above the ears), and above the nape of the neck in the back. There are people who have their entire heads inked. I am told that the tattooing process vibrates your skull!
--Sides of neck (nape).
--Back of neck: I've seen some tribal pieces, and bats done on the back of the neck. You'll need to keep your hair short or tied up to keep it visible.
--Face: Various areas possible. Facial tattoos could fall into the cosmetic, prison, or standard categories. Cosmetic would include darkening of eyebrows, eyelining, liplining, etc. Prison tattoos (which are actually in their own category) often include tat of a single tear near the eye to signify time served. Getting a tat on the face is serious business and crosses a portal because people will never look at you the same way. Can we say "Circus," boys & girls?
--Upper chest: One of the standard areas for tattoos for both men and women. Allows lots of flat area in which to get a fairly large piece. One of the areas where you can choose to get symmetrically inked on both sides. (Men: 5%, women: 35%--chest & breast combined)
--Breasts (women): Used to be trendy to get a tiny tat on the breast. Women (particularly larger breasted ones) need to be careful about eventual sagging of the skin in the area. Don't get a tat that will look silly when it starts to stretch (like a round smiley face that'll turn into an oblong frown).
--Nipples: Usually the artist leaves the nipples alone--the omission of ink tends not to be so noticeable. There HAS been work done with tattooing a facsimile of a nipple onto a breast in reconstructive surgery for those who have lost their nipples, tho--for aesthetic and self-esteem purposes.
--Rib cage: Can be rather painful because of all the ribs you work over. However it offers a fairly large area, and can be incorporated into a major back piece, wrapping around toward the front.
--Stomach/Abdomen: Some people choose not to get work done on their stomachs for a couple of reasons. Area is difficult to work on because there's no solid backing to hold the skin down. It is a sensitive area that may feel uncomfortable. The tat may look horrible after your metabolism slows down and you develop a - er-- "beer gut." (Men: Less than 5%, women: 14%)Women should be concerned about the effect of pregnancy on a stomach tattoo.
--Genitals: The matron nurse: "Did you see the patient in #409? His penis has a tattoo that says 'SWAN' on it!" "Oh no it didn't," says the younger nurse. "It said "SASKACHEWAN'!" All kidding aside, people DO get inked in their genital area. However, do consider that there *will* probably be some blurring in the area because of --er-- shall we say, the amount of movement the skin
experiences (kind of like hands)? The topic of whether penises are flaccid or erect during tattooing--some are, some aren't (if so, how one can *maintain* one during the process is a wonder to me). The only female genital tattoo I've seen (inner labia, I think) was in
"Modern Primitives", and it looked rather blurry. Note: Many artists refuse to do genitals. (Men: 0%; women: 5 %)
--Thighs/hips: A popular area for women to get larger pieces (often extending from the hip area). Shows well with a bathing suit but easily concealable in modest shorts. The entire area of skin around your thighs is bigger than your back, so you can get quite a bit of work done. (Men: 3%; women: 10%)
--Calves: Nice area to get a standard size (2" x 2"). However if you have very hairy legs, it may cut down on the visibility somewhat. (Men: 7%; women: 8%. Category simply listed as leg/foot)
--Ankles: Currently trendy. I think you have to have an ankle tat before you can go to the Eileen Ford Agency with your modeling portfolio.) You can either get a spot piece on the inner or outer ankle, or get something that goes around in a band. Vines and other vegetation seem popular (pumpkins, anyone?)
--Feet: I've seen some incredible footwork (pun intended) in some of the tat magazines. Concealable with shoes. Probably don't have as much wear and tear as hands so you might get less blurring and color loss. This however, is the TOPS of your feet. You will have trouble retaining a tattoo on the bottom of your feet.
--Armpits: Usually reserved for those who want to get full coverage around the arm and chest area, & need the armpits filled. Probably not strongly recommended for the highly ticklish.
--Upper arms: One of the most common areas for men, although I have seen some nice work on women as well. If you decide to get a piece done on your upper arm, consider how much sun it's going to get. Will you be able to put sunblock on it regularly? Otherwise, expect some color loss
and blurring. If you want some serious work done and you wanna show it off, you may want to consider getting a "half sleeve"--full tat coverage throughout your upper arm. (Men: 70%; women: 18%. Category simply states arm/hand)
--Inner arms: A more unusual location than the outer upper arm area, this area is often not easily visible. Be careful if your genes are prone to "bat wing" flab, however.
--Forearms: Popeye sported his anchor on his forearm. Probably not as popular as the upper arm but common just the same. You can have your upper arm "sleeve" extend down for a full sleeve. For an example, check out the heavy metal veejay on MTV (who has a nose pierce, BTW).
--Wrists: Janis Joplin had a dainty tat on her wrist...easily concealable with a watch.
--Hands (fingers and palms): Some artists don't do hands because the ink will have a tendency to blur or fade easily. Consider that you probably move your hands the most out of your entire body. A friend of mine had a multi-colored tat on his finger by Ed Hardy (who cringed upon hearing
about where my friend wanted it), that is only several years old and is now barely noticeable. Some people want to substitute their wedding bands with tat bands. Your palm doesn't retain ink well--if you can find an artist who will do it, you can expect it to be a rather basic line, and that it will not last too long. Perhaps just matching tats some place else would be okay?
--Shoulder blades: The back shoulder blade area is another popular spot for women, who can show off the work with a bathing suit or tank top, but cover it up with regular clothes. If this is the case, be particularly careful with sun because you're not gonna be wearing that unless it's warm & sunny. It's a "safe" place--but may get in the way if you decide to commit yourself to a large back piece. (Men: 15%, women: 15%. Category listed as backs/shoulder)
--Back: You can get any part of your back done, or find yourself an artist you really like, and save your money for a "back piece" that encompasses your entire back. Expect to pay several thousand dollars for a full back piece (not to mention many tat sessions).
--Buttocks: Again, beware of potential sagging in the area.
Well its Monday morning and my left arm and the outside part above my right ankle are sore! I got my tattoo. I decided on a Tribal band on my arm and a 2 inch symbol on my lower leg above the ankle. The Tribal band starts at the back of my arm, wraps around the outside and ends just at the peak of my bicep. A lot of people get the bands all the way around the arm, but I though unless I walk with my arms above my head, no one will see it. Therefore I thought it was a waste of ink. I got the idea for the band from a pattern on a T-shirt.
The Tattoo studio was immaculate, the tattoo artist was a great guy. And the price was right. I was amazed on how affordable for me it was. It cost me $200. for both the tattoos. That included his time to draw the tribal pattern. I know some people who have paid $175. for a 3" tattoo! So I think I got a bargain.
Im proud to say, I didnt pass out, cry or freak out! My bro came with me and I recommend that you take someone that you know for support and to help keep your mind off of the pain. Yes it hurts a bit! The outlining is what is the killer. I was ok on the shoulder area, but when he hit the back of my arm and the top of my bicep where the skin was thinner, I started to suck in some air. But like the FAQ said, your endorphins kick in and you start to get used to it. Filling it in is kind of painful but more bearable than the outlining. The one thing the FAQ above doesnt tell you is to wear appropriate clothing. I wore a tank top. Plus it was something I didnt care about. Remember, your dealing with permanant ink. So if any ink accidentally drips or if you bleed, and get it on your clothes, it wont come out. So make sure it is old clothing.
After the tribal band was done, we took a break. He pulled out a folding gourney changed the needles and cleaned up. It was time for the leg tattoo. Im a little tired by now. Remember, this is not a natural act. Your body goes into a catabolic mode because of the assault on your body.
So I washed and dried my foot and ankle, he shaved the part where I wanted it and put the decal on me for the outline. We are ready for the tattoo. Lets go. OUCH----FUCK!!!!! This one hurts! It really depends on the area where you get the tattoo where you will feel more or less pain. Also, if you get one on your lower extremities, be prepared that you will bleed. I didnt bleed at all with my arm tattoo. But the ankle bled a little bit. It is also pretty sore today.
Do I regret it? Hell No! I have recieved a lot of compliments. Remember, it is permanent. Make sure it is what you want. Take your time and look around for things that catch your eye that you might want on your body. It doesnt have to be on the flash you see in the studio. I got my ideas from a Tshirt and a CD cover! Make sure that it is something that you think you will still be interested in 20 years from now.
I had fun. It sounds crazy. But the tattoo artist was a hell of a nice guy. I will recommend him over and over. I tipped him $20. I was that satisfied. OK, enough typing, I have to apply a thin coat of A & D Ointment to the tattoos.........ow!
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