Thinky asked veteran inker Scott Ellis what to watch out for, and he imparted this sage advice of things to keep your eyes open for BEFORE you let some strange-looking stranger tamper with your skin, so do a little detective work:
1. Visit at least 3 studios and see what kind of work they’re doing.
Be critical of their professionalismus, and ask a lot of questions. Ask them to explain their hygienic, aseptic, sterilization, and safety procedures. (any shop that doesn’t freely give this information is probably not 100% “with it”.) A responsible shop is clean and orderly (most of the time). There should be an open, easily maneuverable work area (preferably more than 4 square feet in size) and clearly defined contaminated areas. The work can be inspected in their photo albums (or better yet, on their skin.)
Even if you are amazed by the first shop, try 2 more (this ensures that you aren’t amazed by the first guy’s artwork simply due to a personal lack of “artsyness” or something). And as for professionalismus, just ask some questions, and see what happens.
Tattooing can be a wonderful, positive collaborative experience, leaving you with a lifetime of Donald Duck or Skulls or Flowers. or it can be an unrewarding pain-in-the-ass, leaving you with a lifetime of Hepatitis, or a misspelled lover’s name, etc.
2. Deciding on the art will be easy if you’ve chosen an artist who shows interest in your idea.
Give him the freedom to examine all the possibilities he sees in your idea, like Pavlina here on the right did to great satisfaction. Most of us aren’t tattoo artists, so there’s no way for you to know what¨s possible and what isn’t, what lasts and what doesn’t.
Remember, we’re talking about a living and unfortunately deteriorating canvas, so certain considerations must be made to ensure that in 10 years the tattoo still looks like a rose, and not a head of cabbage.
Placement is also important. A tattoo will be more attractive if it fits your body, and accents your natural lines and form. Also, it should look its best when you’re standing up normally. So the stencil should be applied when you are in this position (a circle stenciled on your lower back while sitting will be an egg when you stand up.)
3. Preparation. Key to a good job everytime.
Since youre paying for this, you deserve a clean station. The artist wipes down everything he might touch during the course of the tattoo with Hard Surface Disinfectant. After changing his gloves,he will set up a clean station, with single-use ink cups and paper towels. Needles and tubes are not single-use, so they MUST be in unopened autoclave bags with sterilization indicators.
Spray bottles and ink blocks are also reused, and cannot be autoclaved. So they must be covered with clean plastic bags. Your artist will then likely shave the area to be tattooed, apply the stencil, and start the fun part.
4. TATTOOING; Yes it hurts some
Some people enjoy it and some are glad when it’s over, but everyone survives. If it didn’t hurt, it wouldn’t be such a powerful ritual experience. And besides, then it wouldn’ be so much fun.
Most tattoos can be done in one sitting, depending on size and detail. In this case, the procedure is simply: outline shading color . Most people think the outline is the most painful part, but its over pretty quick, relatively.
Remember: it’s fun…
5. Aftercare; It’s half the responsibility
Since the artist won’t be following you around for a week after the tattoo is done (hopefully), you must be ready to commit your energy to aftercare. It’s easy and fun!
• remove bandage about 16-24 hours after it is applied
• wash the tattoo with antibacterial soap and warm water 3-6 times a day , and apply antibiotic or vitamin ointment
• stay out of the sun, the pool, the ocean for 1 week
• if it forms a scab, don’t pick it off
If it needs a touch-up, don’t be afraid to ask for one for free, but mainly realize that good aftercare can prevent bad results.
Photography by Jeffee Benet