My feminist tattoo

tattoo deni balbino

I probably could have put a lot more thought into a prominant tattoo that proudly declares "feminist", but that just isn't who I am. I'd randomly suggested blossoms, and the word choice, and arrived this morning, keen to see what I was getting.

I was returning to a tattoo shop I've been tattooed at twice already. Black Garden Tattoo in London. My first visit there was for one of my hand tattoos in Jan 2014 (Pansy hand tattoo by Cassandra Frances) and I returned for a random tiger tattoo in Aug 2016 (Tiger tattoo by Alex Woodhead). This time I was booked in with Deni Balbino.

It can be annoying when clients don't really know what they want, but I do think it usually works in my favour. I let the tattooist basically do what the want once they get started. I usually let them choose the placement, colours and they often seem to get extra creative, as they know that I'm easy going. I think sometimes it has resulted me in getting a tattoo that they've gone above and beyond, because they get to be creative. 

feminist tattoo

I had an interesting conversation while I was waiting to be seen, and a guy said he didn't consider himself a feminist, as he wasn't actively/politically engaged with the cause. He said that he definitely agreed with the feminist movement, but wouldn't use the label himself, as he didn't do anything to contribute. I actually agree with him, for me there is capital F feminism, and little f feminism. I now feel that I'm a capital F feminist, and it made me more sure about the tattoo I was about to get.

feminism tattoo

Personally, a feminist is someone who fights their own small fights for the cause. It isn't just about saying "I make my own choices,". They don't need to be perfect, but they need to actively care and participate. After visiting the WOW festival yesterday too, it was all just great timing.

Getting tattooed by Cassandra Francis (again)


Almost exactly 4 years ago I got my hand tattooed by Cassandra Frances, and next week I'm getting tattooed by her again. I recieved a tattoo gift voucher from my cousin, and some tattoo-cash from my step mother, so I got myself booked right in!

I actually have no inspiration as to the design, I really don't have any idea that is pulling me towards it. However, I'm not worried about it at all. Over the years I've been tattooed, I've learned that you should go with a tattooist that you just love all of their work. Then you can relax, as you know you'll get something that you love.  Cassandra is one of those artists, where I'd happily have basically any of their work on me.

Her work is soft and pretty, and she nails faces each and every time. Faces are such a great test, as many tattooists just can't quite get them right.

So watch this space, I may well just select something on the day from her available artwork/flash, and I'm happy to just see what happens!

My knuckle tattoos are 6 years old today

read more knuckle tattoos 2017

Back in 2011, I was working at the London Tattoo Convention. I impulsively decided to see if any tattooists had any spots to tattoo my knuckles. I found a guy who did, and he said he'd come find me when he was ready. Cue a few hours of mind-dumping 4/4 letter combinations, via stall holders and twitter trying to decide what I should get done. Clearly this is not how I'd advocate getting your hands tattoos, just as an FYI.

do hand tattoos last.PNG

Due to the thinness of the skin, and the exposure and wear and tear that hands suffer, hand tattoos are generally deemed as not super durable, they fade, and ink can "fall out". I've been lucky, and I do have people comment that they can't believe how well they've held. I've obviously added some more along the way too.... 

do knuckle tattoos last

I'd almost ended up with WINE TIME, and I imagine I'd have covered them up by now if I had, so I'm pretty fricking grateful my sensible brain took over, and I went with READ MORE. Timeless advice that will never get old.

Oh, and I didn't really bottom knuckle tattoos were equally as impulsive when I got those two years ago ---> Read about that here.

Do neck tattoos hurt?

getting your neck tattooed

I booked this tattoo appointment about 6 weeks ago. I'd discussed having a rose on my neck, but both me and my tattooist acknowledged that this is a b.i.g d.e.a.l and he said we could always test the stencil out, and then change our mind on the day, and tattoo elsewhere.  He had a neck tattoo, but there were certainly others tattooing in the shop who did not.

I was definitely a little more anxious today than other tattoo appointments. I've been a heavily tattooed person for about 7 years I'd say, and I've got my legs, arms and hands covered. But there is something about a tattoo that people look at constantly when talking to you. Anyhoo, here I was. 

I'd spotted Dani Queipo's work years ago, and I'd always known when I was ready to get an important tattoo again (e.g hand or neck), he'd be my guy. Over the last ten years the world of tattooing has been improved vastly by the world of social media. I remember being limited to the tattoo shops I happened to live near, and Tumblr. Thank the lord for Tumblr. Social media has allowed people to discover how good tattoos can really be, and it has raised the bar. And the bar needed raising.

You get a great tattoo by finding an artist where you just love everything they do, even if you wouldn't have the exact design yourself. I knew Dani would deliver something I loved, even if I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted. He also works in a shop I love and trust, so winning all round.

do neck tattoos hurt

I'm writing this, just a couple of hours afterwards, so I don't forget what it really felt like. Because fuck me, it was intense. The first 10 minutes of a tattoo always hurts a lot as your body is shocked, and in fear. Your brain is sending all of the signals to run away or fight for your life. It's in pain and thinks something terrible is happening. There was an extra element to this, with my neck, and that was having your windpipe pushed upon while this was happening.

I was trying to think of way to describe it, and the best I could come up with was "Triggering". I can imagine that having a man pushing down on your neck for two hours could well be triggering. It's hard to get the skin taut enough to tattoo well, so your face gets smushed and your windpipe gets smushed. And it hurts. Some areas more than others, but the pain being so close to your face, seems to intensify it.

I focused on breathing. Having my neck pushed made me a little stressed at first about oxgyen levels, so I just tried to breathe a lot. Ha. Great life advice from me. For the outline, my knees knocked for most of it, which felt weird and was vaguely hilarious! Like fear and adrenaline. I kept topping up my sugar levels, and it seemed to settled once the outline was finished. 

Obviously it is bearable or I wouldn't have finished it. Not being able to distract yourself was hard, I couldn't browse my phone, or read a book, due to the position of it all. But here we are. All done.

rose neck tattoo

It's sore, bruised and will be swollen soon. I had to go a lovely event straight after, but all of the blood was pretty embarrassing so I left after a while. But here are my instant thoughts, it's pretty exhausting having all of that adrenaline pumping round your body, and its late, so I'm off to bed, and see how this bad boy sleeps.

Oh and P.S - Of course they fucking hurt. Stop asking the internet stupid questions.

Your top 5 tattoo questions - Answered!

getting a tattoo 2017

7 years ago I did this to my body. If you've seen me since, I've done a hell of a lot more since, but this one felt like a really big deal. It marked the step into being seen as someone who was 'heavily tattooed' as I ended up with an almost chest piece by accident!

As someone who has now spent over 7 years as a tattooed woman, I thought I'd answer some of the most common questions I get asked!

getting a tattoo

1. "Do all of your tattoos mean something? I think tattoos are ok when they mean something." I think people get a shock when they ask this. I generally get quite defensive and find the question a little offensive. No, they don't all mean something, and tattoos aren't 'better' just because they represent a life event. Tattoos certainly can 'heal' and there is a reason that so many people get in them while grieving. They help give a little control to your life when everything feels lost. They help soothe a fear that you'll forget something or someone. They help show the world that you are a changed person. But they can equally be something fun, and silly. Some of mine represent something, and some are just picked at random because I felt like it. All good.

tattoo questions 2017

2. "Do you regret any?" I think people ask this because it's what they're most scared of themselves. It taps into the fear of permanence that most of us have. My answer is always no. I have a few I wish I could move to somewhere else sometimes (Mr Happy on my wrist for example) but honestly I don't regret what my skin has become. Do I look at other people's designs and wish I had a third arm to redo and start over - sure! But tattoos are about their permanence, and you don't get to make the decision twice (we'll talk about removal later!). They're mine, and they're all okay as they are. However, going back to the original question. The regret fear is real, and potentially harmful. This is why the newer trend for going big and fast is so scary to me. I'm a big fan of starting small and hidden, and working up to larger and more visible things. Tattoos aren't for everyone, and many people do regret them. Tastes change, people change.

do you regret your tattoos

3. "How do you pick a tattoo artist?" I've been somewhat lucky that I've always been fussy with who tattoos me (despite being very impulsive!) which means I enjoy a shower of compliments when I'm in tattoo shops, as they play "Guess the artist". It's really awesome watching people recognise an artist's work on your body. It's ok to be led a little by price, we all have rent to pay, however for something permanently on your body, saving for a little longer really pays off. back before Instagram, we only had Tumblr to discover what was truely possible. And before Tumblr we were all just stuck with what our local neighbourhood shop provided. Now we get to see how good tattoos can really be, and we have no excuse for settling for shoddy work. to pick one. Look at a lot of pictures. Browse instagram. When I wanted a tattoo in Bali last year I browsed the hashtag #Balitattoo (there are 100s of shops there). Most were average, and average isn't good enough for my skin. Then I spotted one, that instantly stood out as being done brilliantly. I booked in, and knew I'd love it, as I could see the skill dripping out of every piece of work he'd done. You should like 90% of an tattooists work before booking in.

bali tattoo

3....cont. When picking someone to tattoo you, you're picking their style. Don't take a drawing along, that is nothing like the work they usually do, and expect it to look brilliant. A good tattooist specialises. Pick one that does the stuff you love. Seems common sense, but isn't that common. Really good tattooists also don't want to tattoo the sketch your mate has drawn for you. If you want a little piece of art, let the artist draw it. Give them the inspiration and let them create it. You'll end up with something much better. My final tip....have high standards for your body. You only get one. Travel a little, save a little harder. Get something great.

hand tattoo flower

4. "How do tattoos change with age?" You know how sunlight fades things.....yeah it fades your tattoo ink too. And not just your holiday sunshine, the UV that is exposed to your skin daily. Even on cloudy days. You want your tattoos to last? Get involved in sunscreen and staying in the shade a little more often. Placement also impacts this. Tattoos on your hands, wrists and feet will not last as well as other placements. Tattoos here never heal well as we can't stop using our hands and feet, and tattoos here are known to 'fall out'. The skin here just does so much for us, and tattoos on fingers for example can often almost completely disappear (unevenly!). Some people aren't happy with faded and patchy tattoos here, and so may be better suited to getting something elsewhere. You can have tattoos touched up, or covered over, but this can often mean needing something larger and bolder over the top.

leg tattoos 2017

5. "Do tattoos hurt?" Yes. Getting tattooed hurts. Of course it does. But lots of things hurt and it doesn't stop people doing them. Childbirth hurts. Getting your ears pierced hurts. Love hurts (he he). Walking in high heels hurt. The question is really, "Do tattoos hurt so much I won't be able to finish it?". If they were really too painful, you wouldn't see people like me walking around. There is a myth that tattooed people must like the pain, but I promise that's a very small select group of people! I don't enjoy the pain, and the healing really hurts too, but it isn't that bad. Or we'd all stop wouldn't we? Things to make getting a tattoo easier (this applies for larger tattoos more than smaller ones) - Eat. make sure your blood is full of some glorious energy and sugars. Take some sweets or treats in your bag. When people faint getting tattooed, its usually because their blood sugars just drop too low. Your body will pump adrenaline around your body; it thinks something bad is happening to you and will try and get you to fight or flight. This is the reason you may feel a little buzzed when its all over. Pain does weird things to our brains! But Whenever I get a tattoo I eat a twix and a ribena just before. A weird little ritual, but based in science! Ha ha.

I could keep going.....but that's enough for this post. 5 tattoo questions with answers I hope prove helpful! 

Best place to get tattooed in Bali?

As someone who used to have a long-running column in a tattoo magazine, and as a rather coloured-in human, I get asked for tattoo shop recommendations a lot. So when I was heading off to Bali, I flipped the switch and asked around for some recommendations of my own.

This turned out to be necessary, as when you walk around Bali you are surrounded by cool and trendy tattoo shops. I may not be exaggerating when I say there must be hundreds here. Imagine Shoreditch-style tattoo shops dotted EVERYWHERE, nestled in between the hundreds of trendy East London style barber shops.

I was of course grateful for the recommendations I received, however I am rather fussy these days, and they weren't quite right for me. I decided to scour instagram. After about half an hour I knew I'd found it. Bold and Bright Tattoo Parlor has only been open a couple of months, but their work is already standing head and shoulders above the rest. They're so new they don't have a website, just a facebook and instagram.

After a quick email, we decided to go and have a chat on the Friday night to discuss getting tattooed on our last day Saturday. You don't want to get tattooed at the start of your holiday and it shouldn't get in the sun or in the water. It's a tricky shop to find, even in a taxi, I suggest trying to direct your taxi to Pretty Poison first.

We both went nautical, as it seemed most fitting. B went with a kick arse Neptune from Ebie. We were talking about this bold naive style being popular in London, but newer in Bali. Do check Ebie out, I loved his creative portfolio and I'd happily get something from him too!

After my snorkeling adventure seeing manta rays, I decided on a manta ray from David. His freaky colour combinations are right up my street!

We're over the moon with our holiday tattoos, but doing some research definitely pays off. Don't chase cheap. A tattoo is for life, not just for the holiday hangover.

New Tiger Tattoo from Black Garden Tattoos

I haven't had a tattoo for a while, so had been quite excited to book in for a new one at Black Garden Tattoo in London. I had no clue what I'd be getting, but for me, that's part of the fun!

When you get a tattoo, you'll get a stencil placed on first. This means you can see where it will be, and try a few different placements should you need to. The stencil is then used by the tattooist to create your new skin.

The black outline first. I hadn't had much sleep the night before, and I was a little hungover, which had me a little nervous about the pain tolerance, but actually it worked in my favour! I was so tired I really zoned out.

Here is it, two days later, resting on the beach. I'm so pleased with it! The next few weeks will be the horrible healing bit, but it's always worth it in the end!

I actually don't use any creams or lotions during the first stages of healing, just cleaning with water. I've done it all over the years, but have settled on letting my body do the work it needs to. 


A photo posted by ReeRee Rockette (@rockalily) on