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Author Topic: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!  (Read 3015 times)

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Offline PavTopic starter

Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« on: July 14, 2011, 09:05:16 PM »
See as how I'm currently a NING and all, I was thinking about starting a thread that would let the curious know a bit more about myself, while also allowing me to learn some new names in the community.  Lilias mentioned some of the members were into ink, so I thought I'd start up a general tattoos/piercing topic.

I am currently a licensed tattoo artist and body piercer in the state of Missouri (in the ole U.S. of A.).  I make mention of the state, because there are different laws state-to-state.  If you have any legality questions, I might be able to answer you, but will probably just be pointing you in the direction of where you can find such information.  Aside from that, anything goes.  Feel free to ask about the tattooing process, stories from the shop/my days as an apprentice/etc.  The only information I will withhold is that which I feel could be used wrongfully (by scratchers).

It would be fun if this topic expands into more than just little old me jabbering away.  If there are other licensed artists or piercers who want to join in the answering, I'd love to have some support.  Also, anyone that has a collection of tattoos will be pretty knowledgeable, so you all jump in, as well!

To get things started, I'll ask the question I get, unfailingly, every day:

Q:  Does getting a tattoo hurt?!

A:  Short version- Hell yeah, it does!   Long version-  Anyone who tells you getting a tattoo doesn't hurt is a liar who is just trying to sound tough.  Now, there are certainly areas where it hurts far less than others, but barring any previous nerve damage, you're going to feel it.  I work with some seriously rough-and-tumble dudes, and not a single one of them will tell you a tattoo doesn't hurt.  They'll have no qualms about telling you to man up and take it like a champ, though!
The best way I can describe getting a tattoo, and I've heard many-an-artist use this same reference, is a cat-scratch on a sunburn.  It will sting like a surface burn while they're working, but the second the needles pull away, the pain stops (at least, it should, if you have a decent artist).  Depending on the location of the tattoo, the majority of pain/discomfort comes from the healing process.

Oh yeah, in light of tonight's television line-up on TLC, I'll go another.

Q:  How do artists feel about tattoo schools?

A:  Tattoo schools are an abomination.  Nobody, and I mean nobody, can learn to tattoo in two weeks.  It's just not possible.  Maybe you'd like to get a root canal from a dentist who learned from a two-week crash course?  Tattoo 'schools' are a disgrace to the art form, and the fact that TLC is taking advantage of tattooing (...again...) to boost their ratings is despicable. 

Anyway, I hope to field some good questions, hear some funny stories from the rest of you, and feel free to post your own art, if you've got it!

Offline Oniya

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Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2011, 09:10:55 PM »
I like looking at people's ink (especially if well-done), and I've given a few of my characters some interesting artwork, but I'm a bit too skittish to go under the needle myself. 

I've never heard the term 'scratchers'.  Could you explain this term?

Offline PavTopic starter

Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2011, 09:18:22 PM »
I've never heard the term 'scratchers'.  Could you explain this term?

Certainly!  There are many different names for them... "Scratchers" is the most common used in my shop, but I've heard other things, like "Kitchen Magician," "Backyard Hack"...  The lists go on and on.  They are people who have not had formal tattoo training.  A lot of really, really horrible tattoos happen, out there.  People getting inked in their "friend's" kitchen/garage/living room/etc.  I use the term "friend," loosely.  These scratchers are tattooing without a license, and (worse) without most safety precautions.  A lot of the time, they are reusing needles and ink, digging too deep, hamburgering peoples' skin-- "scratching."  Getting a sub-par tattoo is the least of your worries.  Infection and other cross contaminants can be deadly.

I've seen a lot of horrible stuff come into the shop.  People wanting to get things covered up.  "My friend did it in his basement."  "I don't know who did that tattoo, but they weren't your friend!"

Offline Oniya

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Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2011, 09:28:32 PM »
Ah!  Like the sewing needle, thread, and ballpoint-ink jobs you see in prison tattoos.

Offline PavTopic starter

Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2011, 09:35:15 PM »
Exactly.  The lines all blown out and horrible.  The skin raised up from scar tissue.  All that grossness.

There are three main things you want to look for when getting tattooed/pierced--
1.  Make sure the shop is clean in general.  You wouldn't go to a doctor's office, if it was grungy.
2.  Make sure you see everything coming out of sealed, sterilized packaging.  If it's already setting out, out of the package, ask them to open new stuff for you.
3.  Make sure there's a locked sharps container, where they'll put your needles when they're finished.  If the needles are going into a coffee can or something like that, chances are they're probably reusing them.  Disgusting.

Online Oreo

Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2011, 10:30:43 PM »
Awesome to see you got this opened, Pav. I have heard different versions of getting a tattoo done on scar tissue? At one time I had considered getting one to cover a portion of my eyebrow. No brow grows there from my face meeting up with the sharp edge of a palm tree in my youth. >_> Never look behind yourself while running away from someone in a friendly game of Tag.

I was told that you can't tattoo over scar tissue. Fact or fiction?

Offline PavTopic starter

Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2011, 10:45:07 PM »
I was told that you can't tattoo over scar tissue. Fact or fiction?

Fact.  While you technically can tattoo over scar tissue, it's not worth the pain/time/money.  I've seen two things come of it.
1.  The scar tissue doesn't take the ink like the surrounding skin.  The colors are off or blotchy.
2.  The scar tissue doesn't take the ink at all, and the tattoo looks as thought it were erased through the scarred area.

Exception!  If a scar is really, really old (like ten years or older) and has mostly faded/healed, you should probably be able to tattoo over it without too much worry.  The general rule is that the more noticeable the scar, the worse it's going to hold pigment.

Offline Caeli

Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2011, 11:46:16 PM »
When people come to you wanting a tattoo, do they usually have a complete design in mind? Or do you help to customize what they want into the finished design through consultation?

Offline PavTopic starter

Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2011, 11:58:39 PM »
When people come to you wanting a tattoo, do they usually have a complete design in mind? Or do you help to customize what they want into the finished design through consultation?

This sort of depends on the shop.  Some places (we call them Flash Jockeys, as flash is the name for the tattoo art up on the walls) are of the mindset that you either bring them in artwork, or you have to pick something off the wall.  Our shop is a custom shop.  It seems to be the way most shops are leaning, these days.
If someone brings in artwork, we can take a look at it and see if it needs to be tailored in any way to be tattooable (there's only so much detail you can squeeze in, relative to how big they want it).  If they just have an idea, we're more than happy to draw things up for them.  Being custom, we can also bring multiple ideas together.  For example, if you've got three crosses, and you like different aspects of each of them, we can incorporate them together.  Most artists will draw it up as many times as you like.  After all, you're the one who's got to wear it for the rest of your life.  Better be exactly what you want!

Online Oreo

Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2011, 12:11:11 AM »
Hmmm, a little bit of both then. It was a very small scar and is covered easily with an eyebrow pencil. I am just not much for makeup and would prefer and easier fix. Thanks, I might look into it.

Do you ever give advice when people want to put a name on their skin? I have seen this mistake come back to bite so many times. "I really thought they were the love of my life..." Do you often get people wanting to cover an old name?

Offline PavTopic starter

Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #10 on: July 15, 2011, 12:38:31 AM »
Before I answer your question, I want to re-address your eyebrow.

If you just want to get your eyebrow filled in, do not go to a normal tattoo shop.  There are people who work specifically in tattoo makeup, which is what it seems to me you're looking for.  They have different machines, different ink, different needles, all designed with producing realistic eyebrows in mind.  While it all seems similar (and really, when you boil it down, it is), these people have been trained to specifically take care of eyebrows, eyeliner, lipliner, etc.  For the sake of your eyebrows, go see one of these professionals.

As far as names... We usually advise against it altogether, unless it's the name of a deceased immediate relative.  Some kids want their last name tattooed across their back.  "Why do you want your own name on yourself?  In case you forget how to spell it?  Then why put it on your back, where you can't read it?" we tease.  As far as lovers go... It's a bit of a curse!

At our shop, we had nearly 100% of the names we did come back to us to be covered up.  We tell people that it's a big decision, and that it's not to be taken lightly.  We never do them straight away.  We make them go out to eat or something, think about it for an hour, then come back.  If they still want it, we'll do it, because if we don't they'll get it done somewhere else, and if they're set on it, it might as well be done right.  What we usually encourage people to do is think of a symbol.  A picture that reminds them of their loved one.  Get that, instead.  If things do go south, at least you can make up an excuse for a picture.  Not a name.

POP QUIZ:  True Story.  This couple came in to get their names done.  She got his initials tattooed on her ankle, very small.  He got her full name, first middle and last, on his neck.  Who was the smart one?

Offline Oniya

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Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #11 on: July 15, 2011, 02:07:48 AM »
Because I've seen so many on the web:  Do you correct your customers' spelling?

Offline Chelemar

Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #12 on: July 15, 2011, 04:17:48 AM »
Hi, Pav,

Welcome to E.  I just came across your thread.  Great read so far. 

I love my tattoo and want to get another one, though... I am on coumadin,  (blood thinner) and have to lower my dosage for a day or so to get the tat done.  I was on a coumadin holiday for medical reasons and scheduled my tat during that holiday for my last one.

About tat's hurting... 

The black outline hurt a lot worse than the color.  I got my tat on my upper left chest.  The closer the artist got towards my throat, the more pain there was.  He was really kind, though.  Before he started he made sure I was comfortable, explained everything he was going to do, and told me that anytime I needed him to stop, that he wanted me to just say "stop," and he would immediately to take a break, though I never really needed him to.  I will admit I was glad when the outline was over, though the colorization didn't bother met much at all.

He said it never really surprised him, women always seem to handle the pain much better than the men.  Do you find that to be the same?  Men handling the pain better than the men?

 

Offline PavTopic starter

Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #13 on: July 15, 2011, 09:24:41 AM »
Oniya, we always check spelling and grammar.  Not all artists do, though...  Once saw a kid come in with "Angle of the Lord" on his forearm.  So funny.  Had a guy come in an want us to try and fix his misspelled tattoo.  Asked about the shop he got it done at, he said their excuse was that the guy who owned the dictionary had the day off, no joke.  For every good artist in this industry, there are ten horrible ones.

Chelemar, you're right!  The outline is (usually) a bit more painful than coloring/shading, and that's due to the spacing of the needles.  The farther the needles are spread, the more spread out that pain is.  If I'm using a seven-liner to do an outline, and then switch to a seven mag to shade, in using the same number of needles, but on the liner they are grouped tightly, on the mag they are spread out, almost like a little paint brush.
You're also right about the pain as far as location.  Basically, the more nerve endings/how sensitive the skin is determines pain.  I got a tattoo up the length of my leg.  It wasn't bad along the side, but the bottom near the ankle was painful, and the top, up behind the knee, was awful!

As far as women vs men, I'd say it's about the same.  I've had both sexes sit like champs for me, and I've had both sexes act like babies.  Women, in general, are a bit better with the pain, but in my experience, they're also the worst when it comes to the ones who are wusses.  A wussy guy will usually try to stick it out for as long as he can, since he's got the whole "macho" thing going on.  Wussy women are (and again, this is just my experience) more likely to want to stop, unfinished, and have to be coddled to get them to calm down and continue after a break.  The worst customers I've ever had are the tough guys in their Affliction shirts.  The second some guy says "I'm a (local, they always leave that part out) UFC cage fighter.  I'm used to taking pain.  This will be no sweat," I know he'll be a pain in my ass.  Those guys, for whatever reason, are just the biggest babies.

The breaks are as much for us as they are for you!  Our hands do get tired.

Offline Lilias

Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2011, 09:38:24 AM »
What's your take on scarification? Can any artist do it or there are more 'advanced' specialists?

Offline Kendra

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Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #15 on: July 15, 2011, 09:39:49 AM »
First one I got I cried like a baby, second one I think I bit my other hand and nearly drew blood. Think the more I've gotten done over the years, it's not so much that the pain becomes less but I've become more used to it, if that's at all possible. I did find that the lower part of my back was excruciating compared to the upper part, I seriously thought it would hurt most around the shoulder blades because of the bone there but not so much.

We have a tattoo exhibition every year not far from where one of my sisters live and I attend it every year. It's brilliant to see the art work but I'd never get a tattoo from there. The guy who has done mine I've had to book three months in advance.

Have you ever had someone complain about a tattoo you've done?
or heard of any one wanting to get their tattoos removed?


Offline PavTopic starter

Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #16 on: July 15, 2011, 10:03:45 AM »
Lilias, here in Missouri, scarification is it's own practice with it's own license.  I'm licensed to tattoo and pierce, but I'm not licensed to brand.  I know a little about it, but not in any depth of practice.  If you're interested in getting any scarification done, make sure you go to a licensed professional.

Kendra, I've never had a complaint about my work (thank God), but I've seen it happen to other artists at the shop.  It all comes down to preparation.  We show the customer the art beforehand.  They know what they are getting themselves into.
I've never had anyone ask us to remove artwork we did on them, but I've been asked to remove/cover other artists' bad work, from scratchers or just a bad shop.  We don't do removal at our shop (it's really its own practice) but we have places we like that we can suggest to people if they really do want a tattoo removed, or even just lightened so that it's easier for me to cover up with a new one.

Offline Kendra

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Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #17 on: July 15, 2011, 10:17:26 AM »
thanks Pav
the most I've been suggested was to get plastic surgery done on my arm to remove it - the tatts not the arm ;)
I didn't know they could be lightened which could be an idea as well and get something else to cover up - sort of mute really as the cost of either would break my wee piggy bank  ::)

I never heard of those Tattoo schools are there many in the states?
how are they even legal?

Offline PavTopic starter

Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #18 on: July 15, 2011, 10:41:32 AM »
Fortunately, there aren't many tattoo schools.  Almost all artists are against them, so walking into a shop for a job and saying you were trained at one is pretty much a one way ticket to getting laughed out of the place.  I don't know a single artists who'd work in the same shop as one.  We lump them in with the scratchers.   A formal apprenticeship is really (for now) the only way to learn about, as well as gain respect for, the trade.

As far as legality goes, I can't imagine how they would be.  In my state, they wouldn't be, as there are minimum requirements that a two week crash course could never meet.  Missouri requires 300 hours of training and 50 free apprentice tattoos, as well as First Aid/CPR and blood-borne pathogens certification.  Most apprenticeships average around two years.
There must be a loophole somewhere, at least in the state(s) where the school(s) exist.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #19 on: July 15, 2011, 12:55:09 PM »
thanks Pav
the most I've been suggested was to get plastic surgery done on my arm to remove it - the tatts not the arm ;)
I didn't know they could be lightened which could be an idea as well and get something else to cover up - sort of mute really as the cost of either would break my wee piggy bank  ::)

I believe I saw a documentary on gangs that talked about the lightening being done with lasers.  It's one of those things that helps with rehab after a young person has decided to leave a gang, but has to deal with the 'colors' tattoo or other marks.  (The 'tears by the eye' tattoo being a classic one.)

Offline Avis habilis

Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #20 on: July 15, 2011, 01:10:58 PM »
Speaking of tattoo removal, do any of those do-it-yourself skin peel creams or ointments work at all?

Offline Mithlomwen

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Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #21 on: July 15, 2011, 01:44:48 PM »
I have 3 tattoos currently (would love to have more eventually), but one of them has faded quite a bit over the years.  Should I try to get it redone (as in redo the outline and the color) or would I be better off trying to cover it up? 

Offline Kuroneko

Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #22 on: July 15, 2011, 02:19:56 PM »
I have eight tattoos currently.  The last one I got in Japan last year from an apprentice of Phillip Leu's, Horizaru, or En.  While I have to agree that tattoos do hurt, I don't think it's that bad.  Once the endorphins kick in and I breathe correctly, I fall asleep every time unless someone is talking to me, lol. 

Offline PavTopic starter

Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #23 on: July 15, 2011, 02:29:21 PM »
Avis habilis, unfortunately, no, those creams are mostly useless.  If you want a tattoo removed, laser or surgical removal are your best bets.  Oniya is right, it's usually laser removal that is used, but sometimes the situation calls for surgically cutting the skin away and grafting new skin over it.  For example, if you get tattooed only to discover you're allergic to the ink, it's going to be raised and even blistery.  If you were to use lasers to remove it, the pigment molecules will break up, enter your bloodstream, and because you are allerigic, induce possibly lethal anaphylactic shock.

Mithlomwen, that's something for you and your artist to discuss.  If the tattoo still looks good, but is just faded, you should probably able to just get it touched up.  If it's really fuzzy, it might not be able to be touched up.  Also, some artists won't touch another artist's work, so if you can't find the original artist, you might be out of luck as well.  Without seeing it, the best I can suggest is going into a shop to have an artist look at it.  Worst-case scenario, you should be able to get it covered up.

Offline grdell

Re: Tattoo and Piercing Questions Answered!
« Reply #24 on: July 15, 2011, 03:28:15 PM »
Can I assume that the best advice you could give someone who wasn't absolutely sure that they wanted a tattoo at all is to not do it?

I've always been a little fascinated by them, but never to the point of "Oh my God, I have to have one." I've toyed with various ideas throughout the years, but never really been able to make up my mind or commit to one design. I dislike permanence, you see. And I'm also the kind of person who wonders "What will this look like when I'm 70?"

Plus, one of my best friends got one done (on his shoulder!) by what you would call a "scratcher". I came home one day and he was sitting on my couch with his sleeve rolled up so that it could heal and I just took one look at it and instantly knew he must be regretting it. It looked horrible. Luckily, he didn't get any infections or scarring or anything, but it was pretty ugly nonetheless.

So really, the closest decision I've made concerning whether or not to get one is that it would have to be something of tremendous importance to me that isn't going to change (which means music related - that's one aspect of my life that's never going to go away), that it would have to be put somewhere that would be easily covered up when I have the need for discretion, and that it would have to be put somewhere that will age well (the skin won't sag excessively). Other than that, I still haven't made up my mind.