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!
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.
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.
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. So...how 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.
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.
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.
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 please.....eat. 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!