Summer really does seem to be here! And for many that means guns out cos' the suns out, putting their tats on display. While I personally don't have a tattoo, I do have a love for them (I'm still hoping one day Mum will tell me to go ahead and treat myself but until that day comes I'll be virgin of skin I suspect). So, I asked Resident of Welly Craigy Lee of Union Tattoo to share his insights into what it means to get a tattoo in Summer. Take it away Craigy...
Craigy: Wellington has been treating us for some cracking days over the last few weeks and it doesn’t seem to show any signs of giving up. We are all crossing our fingers hoping it will be “better than last year”. With the warmer days rolling in and the winter jacket in the cupboard, you may be thinking about possibly getting a new tattoo to show off now your not covered in layers of clothing. Spring and Summer are by far the busiest time of year for tattoo studios around the country. I have seen many people on various social media platforms this week asking “Where shall I get tattooed in Wellington?”
For many, this is a very valid question. The fact that everyone who posts a reply has a different opinion makes matters even more confusing. It’s not like buying a pair of shoes or a new shirt, is it? This is going to be with you forever - it’s a big deal! Any new experience can be intimidating and getting tattooed is right up there with the best of them. So, as I see more and more of these posts, I thought I could lend a helping hand and write a blog post, a rookies guide to getting tattooed, only problem is, I don’t have a blog, so Lucy let me take over “The Residents” to get out the good word to you Wellingtonians thinking about ink. [Lucy: Yaaay!]
This year marks my 10th year of tattooing. I’ve been all around the world practising my fair trade and still spend every day of the week in a tattoo shop talking to customers helping them through the tattoo process. I love it! I love going to work; I love meeting new people and I love helping them on their tattoo journey. So this is my definitive guide to getting a tattoo (whether it be your first or fiftieth). I hope you find it useful.
DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT
This may sound like common sense but you’ll be surprised on the number of people that come in wanting a tattoo and want us to help them decide what to get.
When it comes to deciding on your design, don’t ask your partner or your friends, because everyone has a different opinion and this is YOUR tattoo, get what YOU want to get.
Take your time, look through Google images, Pinterest, Instagram, even in good old-fashioned books! Lots of our customers will make a Pinterest board and send it to us, whereas others save a bunch of photos on their phone or collect Google links and email them to us. Some people show up with a sketch. These are all really good ways to show us what you floats your boat and get your initial ideas off the ground.
Some tattoo studios have flash (design books) you can look through to get ideas and inspiration, so its well worth popping in for a look. If you are torn between a few ideas print them off and stick them on your fridge, that way you’ll see them multiple times everyday and see what you still like in a few weeks time.
PICK THE RIGHT ARTIST FOR YOU
There are a lot of tattoo studios around, and there are a lot of great tattoo artists in New Zealand - but not all of these artists will be suited to the style tattoo you want. Once you have decided upon your design have a look through studios and artists websites and Instagram accounts, or pop into their studio and have a look at their portfolio. This will show you the kind of work they create and will give you a good idea if they specialise in the tattoo style you have in mind. An artist who does amazing realism work may not be so good at perfect lines or dot work style tattooing and vice versa.
Even if you want a really small simple tattoo, these can quite often be the most technically challenging. Straight lines are a hard thing to tattoo, your body isn’t flat and straight like paper, so you want an artist that's up to the job. Even if you plan on getting something small to test the waters still check the artist's portfolios. Tattoos are worth doing once and doing right. Cheaper is definitely not the best way to go. Your paying for the experience, and in a lot of cases it's harder to fix a bad tattoo than doing it right the first time around. There’s an old saying in the tattoo world “cheap tattoos ain’t good, good tattoos ain’t cheap”
ARRANGE A CONSULTATION
Once you have decided on a tattoo idea and an artist you like the next step is arranging a consultation. This is where you can sit down and chat through your ideas with the artist and get their expertise and advice on the design. The consultation will also give you a good idea if you actually like the artist on a personal level and the vibe of the studio. This is especially important if you're going to get a larger tattoo as you’ll be spending a lot of time with them.
Sometimes peoples expectations cannot always be achieved. The general rule with tattooing is the smaller you go in size with your tattoo, the less detail you will be able to have. Some areas of the body are different, some areas have soft skin, some have harder skin, and some areas don’t take on the ink so well. Some designs may also look distorted in certain areas due to your body contours and curves. An experienced tattoo artist will know all of this and help guide you if there are going to be any potential issues with the sizing and placement of your tattoo. Once they know all your design details they should then be able to give you an indication of pricing and time.
Most studios in Wellington charge per piece. Some charge by the hour and all have a minimum charge. A minimum charge is a setup fee, which is the studios base rate for tattoos and covers all the new and sterilised equipment.
BOOKING AND APPOINTMENT
You might be ready to book your tattoo at the consultation or you may want to wait a bit before you do. Whenever you decide to make your appointment, most artists will take a deposit (usually non-refundable) to secure the booking. Some artists take this as a drawing fee for the work they put into drawing up your design, whereas others will deduct this from the total price of your tattoo.
Your design will normally be prepared and ready for the day of your appointment. Some artists may send a design out the day before, while others may freehand the design on your body which will all be done on the day. If, for whatever reason, you want to change something in the design its best to tell the artist straight away. They won't be mad at you because they would rather you were 100% on your tattoo before starting.
ON THE DAY
There are a few things you can do to make the whole process go smoothly.
The most important thing is to make sure you’ve eaten before your tattoo. From my experience, 99% of the time people faint (which happens very rarely) it’s because they haven’t eaten and have low blood sugar.
Make sure you are well rested, so try to have a good nights sleep, please.
DO NOT come in hung over! Alcohol thins the blood and this means as well as feeling like death - you will also bleed more which is not brill!
OK this sounds weird but make sure you have showered and you aren't smelly, ESPECIALLY if you are getting your feet tattooed, don't make the artist endure your fruity aroma - it's just bad manners!
When you arrive your artist will size up your tattoo design and make a stencil on transfer paper which will be stuck onto your skin. This can be moved to make sure you 100% happy with the size and placement.
Bring moral support if you need it, but don’t bring a huge entourage. After 5 minutes the tattoo process is pretty boring to the spectator. Your artist will need you to be nice and still and relaxed, and having lots of your crew around you chatting laughing and joking is normally not the best way to ensure you are as still as possible. A sudden outburst of laughter or a giggle can easily put a kink or jolt in that perfect line
AFTER YOUR TATTOO
Your tattoo is complete! Hooray! You love it! You want to show the world and plan a bunch more! But it's not quite over and done with. Now it’s your responsibility to make sure you look after your fresh tattoo whilst it is healing. The key rule for summer is to keep it clean, keep it covered.
A tattoo is like a cut or a burn. The tattoo needles have broken your skin and it will need time to heal. Your artist should explain the aftercare process to you which you should follow.
The most important thing is to keep your new tattoo clean, avoid swimming pools and spa pools and avoid sharing towels. These are common ways that tattoos get infected.
Wash it at least twice a day and apply some form of aftercare cream or balm. Avoid the sun - if you think sunburn is bad try sunburn on a fresh tattoo!
Don’t submerge your tattoo in water for a prolonged period, especially if it scabs up. The scab will go gooey and fall off and this may pull some of the ink out and could make your tattoo faded or patchy.
If you are ever in any doubt go back into the shop and ask if everything looks OK. They will be happy to have a look and should re-touch any little patches for you.