No form of skin modification is as layered with meaning as tattooing, especially for women – Margot Mifflin.
I could talk about tattoos, non-stop, until the end of time. They are a form of self-expression, pieces of artwork that are unique to each artist and canvas, and have the ability to create a personal connection like nothing else. A brief history of my own experiences (which I think give me some level of being able to advise on the subject) starts at the age of seventeen. Yep, I got my first tattoo done illegally. Oops. My parents were in on it so it is totally fine. I swore I’d never have one again because it hurt. Or, perhaps I overreacted way too much because it really was not as bad as getting my spine and ribs done. Anyway, the whole “I’m never getting another one!” was a complete lie. Eight years later and twelve more tattoos inked, you could say I’m a little bit addicted.
Each of my tattoos represent a certain time in my life, and the majority of them do have a significant meaning to me. However, not everyone has tattoos to reflect something that they have been through. It really is each to our own, and that is a beautiful thing about body art; it is completely unique. Even if two people have the same tattoo, each could have completely different meanings… unless one was a complete copycat, which I, personally, don’t agree with, if a tattooist has designed the piece specifically for you. The smaller stuff is fine because hey, we’ve all gone through the singular wave/Chinese symbol somewhere along the line. I’m now trying to think if I’m being a complete hypocrite with one of my larger pieces. I’m not. All of mine are tailored to my body and choice in some way. Thank God for having a great tattoo artist!
So let’s get into the good, the bad and the ugly. This is what you need to know before getting in that chair…
Let’s start with the one thing that everybody asks. Does it hurt? To be honest, it is completely up to how high your pain threshold. I have a high pain threshold. The bottom of my back and my shoulder did not even scratch the surface of being painful. Even some parts of my ribs – at the beginning of a 3.5 hour session on my latest addition – simply felt like vibrations rather than a needle punching my skin at a rapid speed. However, yes, closer to the bone (and depending on your body type) it does hurt more. It also depends on the position your tattooist wants you in, so that you get the best quality tattoo. When I lay on my front, my latest piece was extremely tolerable. Once I turned onto my side, however… that was a different story. It hurt. A lot. But, I got through it and so can you. Believe me, you’ll have forgotten about the pain in time for your next one. Top Tip: Take a can of coke with you and some sugary sweets, or chocolate. It helps calm your nerves and makes sure you don’t feel like passing out. You are putting your body through a lot of pain, at the end of the day. Make sure you eat a big meal beforehand, too.
CHOOSING THE ARTIST
I have been to five different studios, three in my hometown, one in London and one in Australia. Now, I wouldn’t go anywhere else, unless I was living abroad for a long time. Brian who owns Sugar Skulls in Wallasey is my favourite tattooist. It’s not just that he is an incredible artist, it’s that I have a lot of time and respect for the man. I first entered his tattoo shop in 2012 with a floral design I wanted on my thigh. It was number five of the collection. He put together something that I wouldn’t have thought of and added a small piece that I really wanted in the design. Since then, it was a given that I would return there. My favourite pieces by Brian are the ones he designed for me himself. I gave him an idea of what I wanted; he put everything together. Now, I couldn’t imagine having any other art piece.
When it comes to choosing your own tattoo artist, I would say do your research. I struck lucky with Brian, but I have been to a studio which got shut down as they were bleaching their equipment. I only found that out recently, and I should have know from the way I was treated in the studio. If an artist does not cover you up and doesn’t position you in the way that is comfortable for you, run in the opposite direction. I am thankful I had my best friend with me, who has literally seen my naked top half. I was extremely naïve when I was younger. It’s only now that I realise how bad it actually was. Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Also, in the non-invasive route, the type of design that you want may be specific to only a few artists. Tattoos last a lifetime. You don’t want to get it wrong.
WHAT DO YOU WANT
Perhaps the most obvious question of all to ask yourself exactly what design it is that you want. There are millions of designs already out there; do you want something completely unique to you? Have you got a design in mind but you don’t know how to put pen to paper? Have you seen something that has inspired you to recreate the image for yourself? Is it a reflection of something that has recently happened in your life? Or, a favourite quote or book of yours? It can be anything. It can be an illustration, simply because you like the way it looks. As long as you know you can live with it forever, you are good to go. A piece of advice: Don’t get somebody’s name who you’ve been with for a couple of years, or something stupid whilst drunk on a crazy holiday. It might be hilarious at the time, but not when you’ve returned back home, very sober. FYI, I haven’t done this. I’m just saying, it’s not a good idea.
The placement of a tattoo can make or break the piece. A few years down the line, you might think of what could have been in that specific spot where you’ve got a piece already. It’s a tough choice to call sometimes; with the help of your new, fabulous artist, it should be an exciting decision to make. Speaking of my own experience, I have a thing about getting my back tattooed. Every time I got a new one on my back, I’d tell myself “That’s it now, no more. It’ll start looking overcrowded”… Then, I got another and another. However, I love how it looks. My friends have started to joke that I’ll end up getting the entire back covered… I won’t… Again, it is completely your preference, but do spend a little time thinking about it. For my latest, I had two choices in my head and I didn’t completely make it right up until I was standing with my t-shirt three-quarter of the way up my back with the stencil being pressed onto my skin. Top Tip: Trust your tattooist. The good ones will take into account where your bra sits, the shape of your body and the position of surrounding pieces.
The type of aftercare depends on where you go and what you get told. Always follow your tattooist’s advice, however this has been my experience… Bepanthen – yep, nappy rash cream – is too thick and doesn’t apply smoothly to the affected area. It is one of the biggest products that tattooists recommend. Some of the older generation might suggest Vaseline: I’ve heart this drags the colour out quicker. I use Aloe Vera. It is completely natural, soothing and good for the skin anyway. When I was younger, I would put it on twice a day. Now, I tend to use it only once, before bed. I got my latest tattoo done just over a fortnight ago and it is nearly completely healed! Oh, and the obvious is do not scratch the tattoo. Ever.
I personally don’t regret any of my tattoos. There is one that I sometimes wish was slightly different but I remind myself that it is that way for a reason and that’s how it is supposed to stay. If you think you are going to regret your tattoo, perhaps it isn’t the one you should get. We all have regrets but getting a piece of art that you’ve been thinking about for a while shouldn’t be one of them.
- Wear something comfortable. If you are getting a big piece, the last thing you want to do is be uncomfortable in what you’re wearing. Jogging bottoms or leggings and an oversized t-shirt are a great combination.
- Even if you feel sick in the morning, eat something proper. A bowl of cereal is not going to cut it. I had a bacon toastie and still felt dizzy after my latest piece.
- Wear loose clothing for the foreseeable future. If you get a piece on your legs, jeans are a no-go. Ow! If you have a piece on your back or ribs, let your boobs free for a couple of weeks. I don’t know how you’d get around a piece on your feet. Maybe I’m just overthinking this, but I don’t want any part of the tattoo to fade quicker due to accidentally knocking off a scab.
Are you thinking of getting a tattoo for the first time? Did any of this actually help? I’d love to see your new pieces!
Love, Faye xo