With millions walking around with some form or fashion of permanent ink on their skin, it is only safe to assume that this trend will continue to grow.
I am not only heavily tattooed but I’m married to a tattoo artist who has been working in his career for 20 years. He has now been tattooing in life for longer than he’s not been tattooing. Over the years, Jake and I have had many conversations about the business of tattooing because our industries are often similar in the situations or questions we encounter. Not only that, but I’m surrounded by tattoo artists in his shop family and their sister shop. All that to say: I have had many conversations with people about tattoos, tattoo artistry, the process and even lifestyle questions - so much so that I figured it was worthy of a blog post.
Here are some tips and some of the most common things I have answered or explained over the years - Maybe it answers your question, too.
(all photos of tattoos are his work)
While that may not help you cure your need for immediate satisfaction, it will be done right and you’ll have something to be proud of. Not just in execution, either. There’s also time that should be spent in planning the tattoo. Unless you’re coming in with the heart, arrow, infinity symbol idea from the internet, be prepared to plan.
Planning is welcomed - remember, these are artists and the bulk of those that I’ve met over the years welcome collaboration. They want to create something with you and you should want that, too. You should want your piece to be something unique and one that you will love forever.
Speaking of Photos – if you have photos of an original tattoo on skin from another artist, be aware that artists often ask you to accept their version of it. Copying original tattoo work is a subject to ask about. If you want a specific style (as all tattoo artists have different ones) that you see already applied, go to that artist who did it, or be willing to compromise.
If you come in and say “I don’t know - what do you think?”, be prepared for a witty or sarcastic answer. As good as they are, they don’t read minds so come with some input. You’re commissioning this artist - be a part of the process.
I cannot tell you how many times my husband repeats the same advice about common misconceptions. Trust me - he’s not being honest with you because he “doesn’t want to do it”, he is being honest because he is wanting you to be happy with your results. The misconceptions of what can or cannot be accomplished are floating around on the internet without abandon. He lives it every day so his answers do have merit. I promise.
When it comes to trends, they know them. They’re more than aware of what’s hot because they’re doing them all the time. If you’re coming in with the rib script, infinity, heart, anchor, feather, feather-to-birds or any other popular idea, they’ve done it and a lot of it. You’re not unique. If you want something truly you, put time and effort into making a custom piece (read above) to make it so. While they’re glad to do the hot trends - if that’s truly what you want - don’t be afraid to think outside of “The Miley” or “The Rhianna”.
Also, fingers and feet can be tough places to get and keep a tattoo. That photo on Instagram of the tattoo on the bottom of the foot is not going to be the same photo in a couple of weeks. They often have a difficult healing and the fade rate is often higher.
Come by the shop: Meet artists and look at portfolios - talk business and the process - and be a contributing portion of your final piece. Every artist has their own style and vision so you’re not hurting their feelings if you feel another artist has the style more to your liking.
Make appointments - many weekends are crammed with walk-ins so secure your consultation time or your tattoo time with an appointment.
Speaking of communication - No, I’m not giving you his phone number - or relaying a message to him for you. I’m not his secretary and our couple time is few and far between so I don’t want that muddied with a billion texts about work - and he doesn’t either. The shop is where he works. The best place to see an artist at work is where they do their work.
Not only will you be asked to come back when you’re sober (they really don’t like having to kick people out for these shenanigans) but it’s not healthy to get tattooed while drunk. You’re likely to bleed more, pass out or get sick - or just be a pain in the butt - if you’re drunk. Just don’t. A reputable artist won’t work with you in this condition.
It does NOT take a village to make a tattoo appointment happen
While we can all appreciate the desire to have some supporters during this time, be respectful of the space needed to make it happen. You may have all of the sorority sisters with you, or your immediate family members - and that’s great - but keep them at a distance. Do not hover over the artist’s shoulders to take photos of the tattoo happening. They have medically sanitized the area and there are barriers that can’t be touched by you. You wouldn’t want something to happen that affects the art or the healing. Let the artist do their job and take photos afterwards.
Please leave your child / children at home
They may be the most precious, sweet, kind, patient child in the world but this is a different environment and your tattoo needs to be done well and without a lot of getting up and chasing of babies. Also, the medical barriers (as previously stated) are compromised by sticky fingers and would require an entire breakdown, sanitation and re-set. It’s time consuming and completely frustrating for everyone involved. By then, your skin has changed and is already swollen and a bevy of breaks would - honestly - make the rest hurt much worse.
Be honest about medical conditions, allergies, medications that you take, and do this at the consultation. During the appointment, be quick to let them know if you’re feeling “off”, “funny”, “queasy” or any variation of it. They’ve experienced this before and can help you through it.
Did you shower? No? Do that first.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “Good tattoos aren’t cheap and cheap tattoos aren’t good” - and that’s absolute truth. Google search for “tattoo fails” and then see them against the successes. You’re paying these guys to give you great work so don’t be cheap on something so permanent.
No tattoo artist I’ve ever met has ever earned a salary or hourly wage. They live in a world of straight commission so, unless you’re sitting in their chair and paying them, they’re not making money. The 60+ hours per week they’re working is not an easy life so don’t be disrespectful to them, their tenure and skill by trying to haggle with them. If "Jim down the street" will do it for less, there’s no need to say that - just go to Jim.
Deals - This is something that I get asked about a lot. I will get the “oh, so you’re husband’s a tattoo artist! Do you think he’d give me a deal if I mention you?” - I always answer with “No - because I like eating.”
If you’re hungry for a deal, then you can ask the shop if there is an apprentice that’s practicing their craft, or, you can talk to the artist. Talk budget and ask if they have any suggestions on ways to make the piece work within a budget. No matter what, though - be respectful and remember that if you want a pro piece, pay a pro price.
I hope this helps you in your tattoo adventures!
Follow Jake on Instagram @Jake_Jonesin