As you can see I have some ink. This is an old picture by the way, and I’ve added a bit more since this photo was taken. It all started out with a bass clef on my calf and then um, it just escalated from there. Yes, tattoos can be addictive and really are only limited by your budget and the amount of skin you possess. Or how much ink your workplace tolerates. Which ever comes first.
Now that my offspring and their friends are reaching the legal age where they too can get tattoos, I get quite a few questions. So to make things simple and avoid having to repeat the same advice repeatedly (I’m a Myers Briggs INTJ, we HATE repeating things more than twice), here is Auntie Skull Woman’s advice on getting Tattoos!
1. Be sure you want to get a tattoo. Tattoos are somewhat permanent. Yes, they can be removed through laser treatment, but and listen closely, it is far more painful and expensive to get one removed than to have one done in the first place. If you really want to be edgy, but not sure of long term commitment, get a henna tattoo, a temporary tattoo or buy a shirt with a cool tattoo design. If you really are someone who goes for a “flavor of the month” club, I’d advise against getting inked.
2. I’m sure I want a tattoo and yes I know its a commitment. I’m ready! Great! now let’s talk about designs. Remember you are going to have this on your body for the rest of your life. What seems really cool and wonderful at eighteen may not be so cool or wonderful when you are 30. Or 50. Some people I know are fine with their evolving tattoos from different times in their lives (like a road map of who they’ve been), but I cringe when I think of what I would have put on my body when I was eighteen. I always tell my children and their friends, think about what you want for at least 6 months. While some impulse tattoos end up being wonderful, I’ve seen many that aren’t. And don’t ever get a significant others name on your body. Its a sure fire way to guarantee a future breakup and a coverup/removal in the future.
3. How do I choose an artist and how can I get a “good deal”? There are two recommendations here. Do your research and/or ask people whose tattoos you like where they got their work done. The internet is a great place to start to look at examples of peoples styles and where their particular specialty lies. Once you find an artist and a shop, make an appointment to drop in and speak to the artist in person. Check out the shop itself and make sure its clean and professional looking.
While you are most likely going to be nervous, you do need to have a conversation with your artist of choice about your proposed design and placement. Despite nerves, there should be some level of comfort in talking to this person. If not, consider another artist or studio. Its fine to shop around until you find the right one. Again THIS ART WILL BE PERMANENT ON YOUR BODY.
Listen to the artists and their feedback on your design choice. If they say they don’t do portraits, they don’t do portraits. If they say that your redwood tree design scaled down to a 4″ tattoo will look like a tiny Christmas tree, they’re probably correct. If they recommend simplifying a tattoo design because it will look better as it (and you) get older, they are speaking from experience. And asking one artist to ink another tattoo artists design is not a great idea and many shops will refuse to do art that you will not be having done there.
And please listen to the next bits of advice. Good tattoo art costs money. There is no such thing as a cheap and good tattoo. They really are mutually exclusive. As one of the best artists I know says “You can pay me now for a good tattoo or pay me later to cover up a bad one”. And for the sake of good art and more importantly your health, go to a licensed professional shop. The health risks of using rogue artists who work out of garages and homes is serious. In a licensed and professional business, everything is sterile and in many states, the artists themselves have to go through training about blood borne diseases and such.
Finally most shops will require a deposit and depending on the availability of the artist, an appointment for the work. Time really is money in the world of ink, so deposits are required to guarantee if a customer backs out, the shop and the artists limit their financial risk.
4.OK Miss Manners, what are some tattoo customer etiquette do’s and don’ts? The following list is not extensive or exclusive.
- Don’t be an asshole. You don’t have to be loud or cool. You don’t have to be cocky and overcompensate for being nervous. Treat your artist like you want to be treated.
- Don’t bring a posse with you. One friend or significant person is enough. This isn’t a group event and too many people is distracting to your artist, other customers and other artists in the studio.
- Don’t get inked when you are sick. For one, its going to be a miserable experience for you and you risk getting your artist sick Most tattoo artists do not have the luxury of sick days or comprehensive health insurance.
- Do take a shower, brush you teeth and be clean. I can’t imagine how bad it would be to have to tattoo someone with bad breath or body order.
- Do tip your artist. If you can’t afford the 15 – 20 percent tip then don’t get a tattoo. In most cases the artist, if he isn’t an owner is also giving about 40 – 50 percent of the cost of the tattoo to the owner of the shop. Besides, its just good form and a decent thing to do.
- Do be respectful of other customers. This means don’t stare or make disparaging comments. Respect their space and don’t be obnoxious in your behavior.
- Don’t get drunk or drink before getting inked. Most good shops and artists will not tattoo you if have had a few “shots of courage” or partaken of a controlled substance. Its a huge liability for them. And alcohol is a blood thinner. You will bleed much more if you have alcohol in your system.
How should I prepare for my session? Here are some things I’ve learned and heard from others.
- Get plenty of rest the night before.
- Make sure you eat well and healthy before your session.
- Don’t take aspirin, ibuprofen or other over the counter pain killers before your session. They are blood thinners and you will bleed much more. Besides your body will pump out endorphins during the session, which I find are much more effective.
- Bring something to drink, preferably water. Hydration does help
- Some people, including my daughter, bring hard candy to suck on. Keeping sugar levels up helps in many individuals
- If you feel you need distraction, bring an MP3 or Ipod. Just for the love of god, don’t sing along when you get inked. No one and I mean no one, sounds good singing with ear buds in. I don’t care what you think.
- Arrive on time. This is just common courtesy.
- Dress appropriately for the area being inked. If you are a female and getting a back tattoo, wearing a halter top or bikini top is a good option or bringing a zipper hoodie you can reverse is also advisable.
Other random questions I’ve been asked
- Does it hurt? Yes but not as much as you’d think. I’m not a masochist. But to be frank there are parts of your body that are going to hurt like a bear in relation to other parts. The feet, ribs and near the underarms are some that come to mind. I have a half sleeve and the area near the armpit made me go to “the happy place” for a while
- How do I take care of my tattoo afterwards? Please follow your artists recommended aftercare. Not your neighbor’s advice or your college roommates. Your artists. The only advice that I would recommend myself is a long term investment in a good SPF 15 – 30 skin protection. Sun will damage your art over time.
- Does my tattoo have to have “meaning”? While I appreciate the fact that the reality tattoo television shows have brought tattoo art to the mainstream, I am annoyed that they perpetuate the myth that every tattoo has to have a deep story behind. My husband has sports and music tattoos because he happens to like those teams and bands. I have a few memorial tattoos for my mom and dad, but most of my art is because I love the designs, bass or skeletons. I have quite a few skeletons as you can imagine.
- How do I get my parents to let me have a tattoo? While at 18 you don’t legally need your parents permission, if you are financially dependent on your legal guardians and need their permission to get inked, then don’t. It’s not worth the hassle Just wait until you are independent and then go for it.
Well there are probably more questions out there, but I really need to go food shopping and get some bass practice in today. And before I forget, here is a link to my friend and artist, Gio Weld’s new shop in Santa Cruz. All the artists there are great, the place is wonderful and worth looking into if you are in the area.
And Gio can be found on Instagram at @giology.