I currently have twelve tattoos on me, but I only consider, like, half of them to be valid (faded homemade pokes don’t really scream legit to me). Still! I get a lot of questions regarding my art and the processes and feelings of collecting them, so I hope this slows down the curious thread of repetition. If I missed anything, though, please feel free to leave an inquiry in the comments and I can edit it into the post!
DEALING WITH PRE-TATTOO ANXIETY?
The minutes leading up to the tattoo might actually be worse than the tattoo itself. It feels as though you’re at the doctor’s office, lying (or sitting) on a loud ass, crinkly paper sheet. Your nose is stinging from the sterilization, heart racing to the buzz of the machine. Seriously, that buzz alone almost made me run out the parlor. And the suspense! The artist has to set up their table, put together the needles, and find a comfortable position to stab you in. All this with you just lying there…with the goddamned buzzing.
Really though, once the first ten minutes of tattooing passes it’s all good. The buzzing fades into the background, your skin feels kind of numb, and by now you’re deep into debate with your artist, discussing the validity of the BerenstEin reality.
Just remind yourself: it’s gonna be so cute. Focus on the finished product and you’ll get through the process so much smoother. The pain doesn’t last forever; it’s not unbearable, and the artist knows what they are doing (as far as what you’ve told them– if you’re scared a piece won’t turn out the way you want it to, that’s all on you. They can only work with what you give them, so be sure to bring in lots of photos during your consultation and show up early to your appointment incase you’d like them to re-sketch. These people are professionals, the best at what they do! You’re in good hands, but you get what you pay and say for.)
WHAT STYLE ARE YOUR TATTOOS? WHO DID THEM?
My shoulder piece is blackwork botanical, done by Jude Le Tronik at Damask Tattoo in Queen Anne, WA. The sun on my thigh was done by Jason Middelton and True Love Heart, WA (shoutout to Hank AKA @1-800-messy-bitch for watchin’ me bleed for two hours). The dagger on my shin was done by an amateur friend– both this and the sun are woodcut designs. My calf piece, the hands tied together, is just line work also done by an amateur friend! All the smaller ones were poked by either myself or pals.
DO YOU THINK TATTOOS SHOULD BE 100% ORIGINAL?
There really ain’t such a thing as original. Even if your piece is entirely custom drawn, taken from a family heirloom that’s been around for centuries, exclusive to small islands across the world– someone already has it done. And I don’t really think this is necessarily a bad thing. Hell, “tattoo inspo” tags helped me make up my mind about my art. At first, whenever someone would message or comment on my photos that they are planning on getting a piece like mine, I immediately became defensive. Tattoos are forms of self expression, so obviously any form of imitation would– initially- feel like a personal threat.
But honestly…it’s nearly always hypocritical? None of us are the first people to have appreciated these designs, and most of us didn’t even design it ourselves. If anything, tattooists should have a louder voice in this debate of originality. It’s their work, after all. And it’s stingy to act as though you’re entitled to be the sole consumer of a piece of art. Especially when it’s something as common as flowers on your shoulder, or birds on your back.
Just because a design you like is being replicated, doesn’t mean anything is being taken away from you.
I’m older than some of my friends who wanted “the same” pieces done. They tossed bitchy asides my way, mostly playfully, but I didn’t take it personal. Us having the same concept doesn’t really mean…anything. At the end of the day, we are the only ones with these bodies. We are sharing it with different people, showing it off in different ways. Our tattoos may be the same, but they aren’t living the same. If that makes sense.
HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT ARTIST?
First, google parlors you’re willing to drive to. Local spots are good for simple designs; basic shading and American style are abundant in less popular parlors. If you want a more refined style, start your search in major towns. For example, I lived in Edmonds, WA, but went to artists in Seattle. They are more expensive and hard to book for a reason. That’s certainly not to say amateurs should be overlooked, but I’ll get into that later.
Anyways, you can really tell a lot by a shop from their website. If it’s an outdated design that’s difficult to navigate, I would take your business somewhere else. I don’t know if it’s a money thing, an age thing or what…but the nicer the template, the nicer the work.
Read the artists’ biographies to get a sense of their personalities and styles. Browse through portfolios, and check out social media. Instagram is steller, ’cause you can see how they interact directly with their clients, and even more of their work.
And take advantage of consultations– they’re free, fast, and extremely useful. Meeting them is nothing like emailing, and they’ll be able to tell you an accurate price range for your piece as well as exchange some ideas if need be. Plus, if you don’t have a concrete idea you can check out their flash sheets.
DO THEY AFFECT APPLYING TO JOBS? DO YOU HAVE TO COVER THEM UP?
I’m self employed, so I don’t have to worry too much about that right now, but it is always something to consider when getting work done. Even if you’re confident your career won’t call for professional dress codes, it’s better to be strategic. That’s why I have so many on my legs! Easy to cover. My shoulder piece ends right before a short sleeved shirt, and as tempted as I am to turn it into a sleeve, I like being able to hide them with simple outfits when the situation calls for it.
Although, Mehron makes the best cover up makeup.
SHOULD ALL TATTOOS HAVE MEANING?
Fuck no! Tattoos are art. Some art makes you feel almost tangibly, and others are just nice to look at. There is nothin’ wrong in getting something solely because it’s aesthetically pleasing. My thigh piece is taken from a childhood blanket for my pops, and my chest just makes me feel like a delicate garden fairy. It does get annoying when people constantly ask “what does it mean”, but you’re under no obligation to feed them your life story or come up with one. No shame in just saying “I just liked it!”. It’s your body. Cover it with whatever you’d like, be it a tribute to your late grandmother or a tacky heart. You’re gonna look fire as fuck with or without a story.
DO YOU REGRET ANY OF YOUR PIECES?
Not really! Sort of my calf piece because I copied it (did ask the artist) from someone else, but it’s nice and means somethin’ to me so….I have the word LIT on my leg that was a matching tattoo with someone I’m no longer friends with, but it’s still funny as shit to have and I don’t think I’ll ever regret getting it done. The ugliest tattoos make the best ice breakers.
Although, I do experience tattoo remorse after every piece. No matter how particular I was with the sketch, how many times I had it redrawn, or the number of months I had to wait for my actual appointment– no piece has ever come out absolutely perfect. There are little things I would love to change, and I think I’ll always find something to pick at.
But! I would not get any of them removed up. Tattoo removal is far uglier than any kind of fucked up design, I think. I definitely see myself covering up some of the homemade pokes, and I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future I had other details adjusted. None of these faults, though, have yet to make me feel legitimate regret. Like, the sad kind. I did cry over the cherry blossom on my collarbone, but only for a few days. Now they make for solid self deprecating jokes!
HOW WAS THE PAIN?
Alright, my dudes: pain tolerance differs from person to person.
I’ll say that again ’cause no matter how many times I answer this no one seems to get it:
Everyone experiences pain differently.
Of course there are areas universally painful, like the tender skin of your inner thighs or the hardness of your collarbones. But “how much” is all relative!
None of it is unbearable, though. There were parts I squealed and cut off the circulation of a friend’s hand, sure. But you can take breaks and laugh and even cry! Your artist might tell you to shut up, but I mean, hey.
HOW DID YOUR PARENTS REACT?
My momma and pops are pretty lax as is, and the fact they have tattoos themselves really made it a comfortable experience to share with them, rather hide. The only objections they had were placement (make sure I could hide it if I want to become a lawyer) or quality (don’t have your friends stab you with a dirty sewing needle). Understandable, really.
Plus, they’re real big on the “you’re eighteen, you’re an adult” thing. They knew they couldn’t stop me, and they knew it would be hypocritical to try. Instead they just helped me look for reputable parlors and assisted in the narrowing down process.
I’m very lucky my parents are laidback for this, I know! Not sure what I would do if they weren’t. Probably get it done in places they wouldn’t see, or wait until I moved out. Or to appease ’em, get something in their honor. My first tattoo, the sun, was a design from my baby blanket in this photo my dad always carried. He had his reservations about me getting stuff done so soon after my birthday, but I think it made him feel better to know it wasn’t some senseless teenage bender or whatever.
Hope this helped you in any way! If you don’t see your question here, leave a comment and I’ll slap it in. This will now be the link I reference literally everyone and anyone about my tattoos because my delicate, sweet voice can only handle so much…