Tattoo Blog

Art that adorns the flesh…

So you wanna get a tattoo.

November 7th, 2008 by

Unless you are involved in the body modification/tattoo industry, or are a years-hardened veteran collector, it’s come to my attention that a great many people have no idea how to protect themselves from unhealthy practices while getting the best tattoo at a reasonable price.  Myself, I wasn’t aware that making appointments to get tattooed was the common practice for several years, until I had worked in a shop in fact.  And that’s part of the problem, many tattooers have been doing this for so long that they forget what it was like making that first fateful trip to the tattoo parlor:  the anxiety (how much is this gonna hurt, what if they mess up); the heady adrenaline-infused drive to permanently alter your appearance, thus taking ownership of your body in ways that others are too timid to commit to.  So this sense of professional detachment from that young kid across the counter can sometimes prevent a tattooer from going that extra mile, not only to get paid to do a great tattoo, but also to inform their new customer of some of the nuances of the tattooer/ client relationship.  That ends now.

First and foremost let it be said that you are responsible for your own well-being.  If you get a shit tattoo from your uncle that learned how to do it in prison for a joint and a case of beer it’s your own damn fault.  If you get a shit tattoo from a licensed artist working in a professional shop, well, that’s your fault too.  Take a few simple steps to prevent this from happening:

Step 1:  Find out what a tattoo is supposed to look like.  I know this seems kind of elementary, but I couldn’t count on all of my fingers and toes the number of times someone’s walked up to me and proudly displayed their homegrown tattoo that looked like it was administered by the late great Ray Charles.  Simply put, tattoo magazines abound, check a few out, then look at a few of the artist’s portfolios (they should be available upon request, if they’re not, run away) and if the best looking tattoos in the artist’s portfolios don’t look like the better of the tattoos in some of magazines you’ve looked at, well…

Step 2:  Tattoo parlors have to display their health department inspection results in a prominent area.  If you don’t see one, ask.  The inspection will have details regarding any deficiencies found during the inspection, if you have any concerns, ask some more.  Tattoo shops may be loud and the guy behind the counter may have more barbells in his face than Carter’s got little pills, but the shop must be clean.  It’s your health, it’s your responsibility.  Also, just to be safe, first-time visits to any tattoo parlor should come with a face-to-face meeting with the shop’s medical-grade sterilizer, the Autoclave.  This shiny little contraption is responsible for sterilizing items that will come into direct contact with your body, it’s important and you should see it.

Step 3:  Choosing an artist.  Quite simply you should take the time to find an artist that does the type of tattoo you want.  All tattooers were not created equal, and some that are great at tribal may not be worth two shits at traditional Japanese dragons or portraits.  You should be able to ask about what tattooers specialize in what styles and get a straight answer.  If you get the generic “everyone’s good here”, refer to Step 1 and decide for yourself or just keep on walkin’.  This brings me to another rather important and often underrated aspect of choosing a tattooer for you:  personality.  In a perfect world liking the person you are getting a tattoo from or them liking you wouldn’t matter.  In a perfect world, every tattooer puts their all into every piece they do.  But a world where Sarah Palin can run for vice president perfection becomes subjective, real fuckin’ subjective.  Let it be known that I have seen more than a handful of good tattooers  render a less-than-par tattoo simply because they didn’t like the person they were tattooing.  It shouldn’t happen but it does, consider yourself warned.  So if at all possible find someone you can get along with, especially if your tattoo is going to require multiple sittings.

These three steps are the bare essentials whenever you are making the commitment that comes with getting a new tattoo.  Whether this is your first or your fifteenth, I hope this helps in your quest and provides you with, if not the answers, at least the questions you should be asking when considering new artwork.  I intend to get more in depth in the tattoo selection process, but since this is my first post I’ll end it here with a humble thank you to Tattooblogs for having me.


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