Tuesday, March 20, 2012

10 Things You Should Not Do When Going to Get a Tattoo

This *might* be me tattooing; or, it
might be some gorgeous random
female tattoo artist with bright red
hair that I found after googling
'awesomeness'. (It's me.)
During the day, I play a tattoo artist on TV. Okay, I really am a tattoo artist (not to be confused with my night job of a ninja assassin), and I love my job. There are certain things about my job that seriously make me want to head home and crawl back into bed, though. And, it's not just me; I've talked to the guys at the shop- they have the same pet peeves.

So, I'm going to help y'all out and give you the hook up from an insider source... me.

10 Things You Should Not Do When Going to Get a Tattoo
  1. Be Drunk or on Pills. Should go without saying, but you wouldn't believe the number of people who do it. And we've heard everything. 'It's just pain pills to help because a tattoo hurts so much,' or 'I'm sober, I swear, I just had a shot to take the edge off of getting this tattoo.' If you don't want your tattoo artist drunk or on pills, then we don't want our customers drunk or on pills. And, while yes, you do bleed slightly more when drunk, the real reason we won't tattoo you while you are intoxicated is because drunk people don't sit still. And they are loud. And annoying. And have a tendency to not remember things in the morning... like going to a tattoo shop and getting Tweety Bird on your ass. We don't want to put up with that crap.
  2. Have No Idea About the Shop or the Artists. Please do your research before walking into a shop. Most places have websites or facebook pages (if not, I wouldn't go into it). Research the shop, look at artist's portfolios, and go into the place educated, maybe even with an artist in mind. I have to say, I love the ego boost of 'I was hoping to get tattooed by you because I saw your work online and really liked it.' Hehehe, thanks. Flattery gets you places in the tattooing world sometimes. And, sit for a few minutes after you get to a shop and observe. Does it look clean? Do the artist's portfolios look good and up to date? Do the artists themselves look clean and healthy? Does it smell like green soap, a&d ointment and cleaning supplies? If not, then say, 'Thank you' and walk out the door.
  3. This guy probably paid $40 for Jesus.
    And no, this is *not* a good tattoo.
  4. Haggle Pricing. We set our pricing according to how much time it will take us to do the tattoo; just like a lawyer prices, a mechanic, a psychiatrist... only guess what? We're putting something on your body that will be there forever. A lawyer's work will one day be done, as will a mechanic's, as will a psychiatrist's, but our masterpiece (or screw up, if you don't do your research) is a lifelong commitment. So, why price shop? And, if you go to one shop and they tell you $40, and you go to another shop and they tell you $250, please question why the first shop said $40. The reason is, your tattoo probably comes with free Hepatitis or Aids. Now that's a truly lifelong commitment, too- 2 for 1 deal, huh?
  5. Have No Idea What You Want. This, personally, is one of my biggest pet peeves. When I hear, 'Well, I want a tattoo, but I don't know what I want,' it makes me want to shove the tattoo machine (it's not a 'gun', by the way) right into my own jugular. This is something that will be on your body forever, and you have no idea what you want? Why are you bothering me with this? Please come back when you have a clue. And, we do work with anything as ideas- pictures from the internet, stick figure drawings, whatever. Give us an idea, let us create, and we'll be more likely to price you lower and be more into the tattoo (another insider tip I just shared).
  6. Expect to Be Tattooed Immediately. Good shops make appointments. And, if the artist is good, your appointment could be 2 weeks out, maybe a month, maybe 3 months. And, they'll require a deposit to hold your appointment. This is all standard of good tattoo shops. If a shop is that busy, there's a reason why. And, if you aren't even greeted as soon as you walk in the door (by an artist, not a front counter person), believe it or not, that's probably another sign of a good tattoo shop. Think about it- if you are bummed rushed by an artist as soon as you walk in, and smothered, that artist needs your money, which means they don't have appointments. Question why. If an artist is nonchalant about you (which yes, comes off as being a dick), then they don't need your money, which means they are pretty booked, appointment-wise, which means they are good.
  7. Don't bring us this picture. We've seen it a million
    times. And let's be honest. You don't look
    like this, the tribal tattoo won't make you look
    like this, and tribal sucks. Okay?
  8. Take Offense if an Artist Doesn't Want to Do Your Tattoo. It means their style of tattooing doesn't fit your tattoo. Or, it could mean your tattoo idea sucks, honestly. Tribal? I'm sure there isn't a tattoo artist in the world that likes tribal. It's 20 years ago, so please, don't get any. You'll be turned down by every decent shop you go into, because tribal sucks. An entire song on your ribs? Probably going to get turned down, too. We are artists; we create art, not fill up our canvas with words. And yes, artists do specialize in a style of tattooing. At my shop, for example, we have a traditional guy, a portrait guy, a realism guy (who also does neotraditional) and me- I'm, um, artsy fartsy, I guess. I do a lot of flowers and girly stuff, but I love to do coverups. So, if you want to be tattooed by me, but you want a traditional piece, I'm gonna send you to the traditional guy; it's just how I am. 
  9. Put Time Constraints on Us. 'I have to be at work in an hour, can you get my tattoo done by then?' Large pet peeve right there. We create art- don't tell us when it has to be done. And, if we charge you for one hour of work, but we decide to get creative and tattoo you for 2 hours at no extra cost, do you really want to stop us from doing that? Please don't assume you know how long it takes for a tattoo to be done, either. I had a guy tell me the other day he wanted the entire Lord's prayer on his arm, and that shouldn't take me a full hour, right? Oh, you're right. It will take me over an hour. So please, have your day open when you schedule your tattoo appointment. And, as another insider tip- we tattoo artists have no concept of time, once we are tattooing. How much longer will your tattoo take? 15 minutes. That usually means an hour. 
  10. Tell a Tattoo Artist How To Do Their Job. No one likes that, especially tattoo artists. Don't assume you know how much something will cost, how long it will take, or tell us exactly how to do it. And please don't compare what you want to get to an existing tattoo you have. 'Well, this one took an hour, and that guy only charged me $100, so I figured this one will take about an hour, and should cost me $100.' I wouldn't tell a mechanic how to fix my car, because I have no freaking idea how to fix cars. Don't tell an artist how to do their job because you've gotten a tattoo before. It doesn't make you an expert. Hell, even me, being an artist, I keep my mouth shut when I get tattoos done. Everyone does things differently, so who am I to judge that?
  11. Bring an Entourage with You to Get Your Tattoo. One person, maybe 2 tops, but please don't bring your entire sorority to get that alpha gamma gamma symbol on your ass cheek. It creates confusion, raises the stress level in the shop, and there's the possibility of bumping into your chair while you are getting it done- line straight across your ass cheek. Think about other people getting their tattoos done, too. Do they want to remember how the shop was loud as hell and full of giggly girls when they were getting their tattoo done? And, while I feel I shouldn't have to write this, unfortunately I do... Don't bring your kids. If you can't get a tattoo until you are 18, why bring a 3 year old into the shop to sit there while you have your tattoo done? Please find a babysitter. We beg you.
  12. Not the right to to get tattooed...
  13. Neglect Yourself. There's nothing worse than having someone sit in our chair and they smell like 3 day old chicken noodle soup. Please shower before your tattoo appointment. And, don't over do the cologne, either. I had to have a guy go take a whore's bath in the sink at a shop one time because his cologne brought on an instant migraine for me, and I almost couldn't do his tattoo. So, make sure you are clean and presentable, and please, for the love of everything that is good in the world, eat before your appointment. No food in the system = greater risk of passing out during a tattoo, even if you are a seasoned pro at getting tattoos done. Eating keeps you grounded while your body rushes through endorphins and adrenaline during the tattoo process. And please, please pay attention to the artist's after care instructions. If you don't take care of our artwork, there's a good chance we won't tattoo you again. And, don't play us for a fool, either. We can look at a tattoo and tell whether or not it was taken care of, what was artist error in the process, what are natural healing hiccups, and what you didn't do to help the process. So don't say, 'Oh, I did everything you told me too, but the color just didn't take in this section.' We can clearly see that you let it get too dry, it scabbed, and your dog ripped the scab out. (Okay, we may not know it was your dog, but you get my drift.)
I hope these tips are helpful for those venturing out to get a tattoo. Many of them, artists won't tell you. In fact, I might get beaten for letting some of these secrets out. But, I figure, if I can educate the customers, the experience is more enjoyable for both artist and canvas. You'll have peace of mind when getting tattooed, and we won't want to kill you.

It's a win-win situation!

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  1. I commented over on BlogHer (where I found you), but since I personally like comments on my actual blog...here I am! Great article and a nice refresher for me since I'm working on planning out my second tattoo. Thanks!

  2. I love this post. To the point and honest. It took me 15 years to figure out what I wanted marked with..and so glad I waited and its so special to me. Now, I clearly know what each of my other tatts mean to me and what they symbolize. Anyways, each one of your pieces of advice...GREAT! = )


  3. Sweet, glad you ventured here from blogher.com. I'm stoked this article got picked up there today- it's been great!

    And, always a pleasure, Ms.Irish, thank you. I love reading your comments, and your blog, too. It's become a daily stop for me! All of my tattoos either have symbolism or a funny ass story to go along with them, but each was planned out in some way. =)

  4. Great, great post. I think that the thing that people forget about (or never even think about) is that a tattoo artist is ACTUALLY an artist. And they should be treated that way...not just someone that traces a picture in ink on your skin. Just like a photographer doesn't just pick up a camera and take a picture. It takes skill, talent and education to do what you do!

  5. I also commented on BlogHer, but find you fascinating and wanted to comment here. I seriously want to know where you are because I'm in the market and would love to connect. Perhaps I should email you ... :-)

  6. I know this is a year old post, but its new to me. Gotta respectfully disagree when it comes to haggling. I'm an artist in the Ozarks and the culture here encourages wheelin' and dealin', even for inkwork.

    I provide a service, the customer purchases said service. So why shouldn't I try and get as much for my work as I can, and why shouldn't a consumer try to keep from paying too much?

    I understand what you are getting at about low-ball prices yielding low-brow work. However, the truth is haggling, or being flexible with pricing, is a key to my success. Call me a bad person if you want but I have found that discounting tattoo number one almost guarantees a return visit for tatt two and three.

    Also, I set my prices a bit high and then knock a little off for simpler pieces rather than charging more for complicated work which makes people think they are getting a better deal than everyone else. Sometimes you luck out and get someone from another city to drop in and say, "hey that's a great price, I want something like page 25, when can I make an appointment?"

    I really don't think my work is inferior; repeat business is a sign of that. I can charge less because I work in a place with a lower cost of living and in a small shop with a low overhead. At the same time, if I produce the same quality work as large six chair inner city shops why shouldn't I get the same price for my work if people are willing to pay it?

    Love the website BTW.

    1. Thanks for your reply, and I completely understand where you are coming from. Tattoo pricing is all dependent on the area, cost of living, competition level and the culture. I just didn't dive into all of that for this skim-the-top-of-things article for the masses. ;)

  7. I agree that tribal tattoos suck.People took something original and unique such as a tribal marking and homogenized it. Although, the same thing could be said about tattoos in general these days. Tattoos were much cooler when they were indications of uniqueness and individuality. These days, when EVERYONE is sporting one,it seems that in order to be a rebel, you have to NOT have a tat. I would still say that it isnt your place as the entrepreneur to determine what goes on a PAYING customer's body forever. Its THEIR body, THEIR money, THEIR risk if you're one of the idiot shops that should be closed down due to HEP, or HIV issues. I was in the restaurant business. I never told my paying BOSSES what they couldn't order. Its not any tattoo artists place either. Not if they want to continue to stay in business and earn a living.

    1. Then customers who want tribal are more than welcome to go find an artist or shop that does it. They don't have to come to me. As far as MY work is concerned, I can, and will, dictate what MY name goes on.
      And, if we're using your restaurant scenario as an example, I wouldn't walk into a Chinese restaurant and tell them, "Hey, I'm a paying customer, so make me spaghetti."

    2. EXACTLY.

      I am in a different industry, but have a similar issue. I'm a copywriter - which in this day and age means I ghostwrite books for professionals, create website copy for their website, draft whitepapers and sales copy for brochures and post to their business blogs. I also do social media management (handle corporate Facebook and Twitter accounts, etc).

      Not a month goes by but some dipshit tries to get me to do their accounting too, or format their ebook, or layout the new webpage. I don't do those things. "That's ok, I'll show you how, and then you can do it!"

      Look. I hate spaghetti. I hate the way it smells, I am not good at it, you wouldn't think it tastes good when I was done, I will never eat it myself so I don't WANT to learn how to cook it. It would take me four times as long to learn to cook it, cook it, try to fix it when you don't like it, cook a new batch, and finally give up with both of us unhappy than to just cook the Chinese food I am GOOD at and let you go find an awesome spaghetti cook to take care of your pasta needs.

      Ya know?

      <3 this post.

    3. Tribal tattoos suck for the following reasons:

      1) The majority of people getting them are only getting them because they look cool. It's like how some people go out and buy a war bonnet because they think it looks nice but they don't bother to do research, and then they act stupid when people of whose culture the tattoo or bonnet originate get offended seeing them wearing said pieces. Which brings us to the next reason tribal tattoos suck.

      2) Most of the people getting these tattoos don't 1) belong to the tribe of which the tattoo originated, 2) don't have any ties to the tribe or the people from said tribe, 3) they don't know anything about the tribe, and 4) they don't know what the tattoo means. They might think the tattoo means "courage" or "beauty" but it could mean something else like "loss" or "anger". Tribal tattoos have a variety of meanings and can also determine a person's status in the tribe, their achievements, losses, and their origins. They're earned and aren't meant to be worn as a fashion statement.

      3) Many of the tribal tattoos being tattooed on people today, also, either have no relation to any known tribe, or they're not even tribal at all. Some artist just draws something and calls it tribal because it supposedly looks like something worn by the people of a tribe, specifically those of Polynesia, which brings us to the next reason tribal tattoos suck.

      4) Not all tribes are restricted to Polynesia, North America, South America or Africa. There are hundreds of tribes worldwide, both known and unknown. Each is unique in their structure and history. Many tribes have also experienced a lot of brutality from "settlers" over the course of history, so when members of said tribes see people, especially White people, walking around with tribal tattoos on, they take it as another attack on their heritage. It's an act of disrespect and it doesn't do you any good to lecture them about how "it's all in the past and you should get over it" and "people are showing love to your culture" and "you should be happy people are taking an interest". All you're doing is just making yourself look like a bigger ass than you already are.

  8. I'm sure you're heard this a hundred times before, but I loved your useful advice. Thanks a bunch.