Believe it or not, this is a very busy time of year in tattoo shops. People get their tax refund checks and go tattoo crazy, not to mention the Valentine’s Day name banners. If you are considering taking the plunge, here are a few things that should help you have a pleasant experience and end up with a tattoo you love.
Finding a good tattoo artist can be tricky. I kinda don’t know how to do it from scratch, as it were. My husband used to be a body piercer, so almost all of my tattoos have come from friends or the guys they recommend. I do know this, though, choose someone you are comfortable talking to. If the artist doesn’t seem to be paying attention to you, or makes you feel like you are being a pain in the ass, or makes you uncomfortable in any way, find someone else. There are a crapload of tattoo artists out there and you will find someone you like. Another important factor is style. Tattoo artists are pretty versatile, but everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Every tattoo artist should have a portfolio with photos of the work they have done. If you want something pretty with a lot of delicate shading and everything in their book looks like a cartoon vagina, you might want to try someone else. (Sadly, I did not make that up. I’ve seen that guy’s book and it’s not pretty.)
On the subject of artwork, it’s important to be a little flexible. If it’s your first one, this may be a little hard – you want it to be perfect. This is why it’s important to find an artist you can talk to. They know their trade, they know the limitations of their art. If you come in with a picture and say “I want it just like this,” chances are they will have some suggestions about it. Certain details will get lost in a tattoo Certain things may look good for a year or two, but over time they will lose definition and you’ll end up with a mess. Certain colors might not work with your skin tone. There are a lot of variables that the professional will know more about than you, so work with them to find a solution that you both like. Don’t let them bully you, though. If they make a suggestion that you absolutely hate, say so. I hate walking out thinking “I really wish I hadn’t let him do that.” It’s kind of like getting a haircut. You’ll do best if you walk the line between receptive and firm.
You may have guessed this by now, but getting a tattoo requires some patience. It doesn’t pay to be in a hurry, you’ll just get frustrated. You have to find the right person. Then you have to finalize the artwork. Then you have to hang out while they make a stencil and set up their equipment. Then you’re finally ready for the tattooing. That’s frequently the fastest part (if it’s not a huge piece). It is safe to assume that if you think you have an hour’s worth of tattooing to be done, it will take at least two hours to get it done (another reason to find an artist you can talk to).
Last, but not least, yes – they hurt. I hate it when people say “No, it didn’t hurt at all.” They are either lying because they want to sound tough, or what they really mean is “I was expecting the Spanish Inquisition and it just felt like someone was drawing on me with a pointy pen.” It is true that some areas of the body are more sensitive than others, so some tattoos are surprisingly easy. And if you are freaked out or psyched up, the adrenaline can hold you till the endorphins kick in and you will walk out thinking “That wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.” (A word of warning here – if you are really nervous, bring a friend who can drive you home if necessary. The combination of adrenaline and endorphins can make you pretty loopy. I doubted the whole ‘tattoos can make you high’ thing until I walked into a gas station after getting one and thought “Dude… I want a Twinkie.” Chances are you’ll be fine, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.) From what I can tell, areas where you have a good pad of muscle are less sensitive, areas where bone is close to the surface are very sensitive. I personally have run the gamut from “Wow, that was nothing,” to “Dear God what was I thinking” and everything in between.
In case you didn’t see it, Meghan wrote a very entertaining piece on tattoos yesterday. Our opinions are a little different on the subject – she was pointing out tattoos she thought were silly and I would seriously consider about half of them for myself, but different strokes for different folks. In the comments a few people expressed interest in a “Badass Tattoos of Persephone” album. Since I’m in charge of trivia, here’s what we’re gonna do: If you don’t mind sharing your tattoos with the rest of us, send me your photos at SaraB@Persephonemagazine.com, along with your screen name, and I will make them into a mix and match game. We’ll see if we can guess who would have what artwork based on what they write. It’ll be fun :)