Over the course of the past year and a half, I have had 4 tattoos, (soon to be 5), inked onto my left arm. In some respects I regard this change in my appearance to be massive turning point in the way I view myself. All of them have a genuine meaning which I hold very dear to me, and I’ve always said that once completed my sleeve will be “my soul on my arm.” Poetic yet justified in my opinion.
I appreciate that some people dislike tattoos, or feel that getting ink injected into your skin for aesthetic reasons isn’t justified. I once got told that tattoos are nothing but “fashion items” which frankly in most cases, is a load of bullshit. The fact of the matter is I wanted to write this blog post as a guidance to people who are thinking about getting a tattoo, or are just generally interested in the subject of my own.
Here are my 4 tattoos, all done by the incredible Rebecca Vincent:
1.) Indian Elephant.
I lost both my Grandad and my Nanny in 2011, within a few months of one another. It was important to me to have a first tattoo as something to remember them by. However I didn’t want something that was morbid, or very over the top in its connotations. My Grandad was born and grew up in India, as his father was part of the British Army there, whilst my Nanny loved elephants. Hence the Indian Elephant. They also have the same initials but backwards, R.K and K.R, and so I decided to have these put in the corners of the blanket (as seen above).
2.) Flowers and a bumble bee.
My flowers are all my Granny’s favourites: Lilies, Pansies and Lavender. The bumblebee is for my Mum as she once said, if she were ever to get a tattoo she would get a bumblebee. The bee also tied in very nicely with the flowers, as symbolism for mother and daughter. All 3 generations of us in fact.
My ammonite is probably what I would consider to be my “impulse” tattoo. That’s not to say I didn’t think about it carefully, I saw Vincent had done them before and really liked them. I’m also a massive history buff, (it’s what I want to spend my life doing), so having a natural object which represents history to me just shows another aspect of personality.
I’m really happy with the way all my tattoos have turned out, and plan on filling up my arm with individual tattoos as a sleeve (not to be filled in).
Advice for those considering getting a tattoo:
- Do your research into styles, tattoo artists, locations and costs.
I cannot stress enough how important this is.
Before I had my first tattoo, I spent months trailing through Instagram trying to find my perfect tattoo artist. Fortunately I found her, but I think there’s several things everyone must consider when trying to find theirs.
Firstly find a style that YOU like and think would suit YOU. Regardless of what anyone else thinks, at the end of the day this art is going to be on you forever. Personally, I decided straight away that colour tattoos weren’t for me, so went out on a search for black and white artists. Over time the basis grew thinner, and I was left with predominantly female artists who use a lot of dot work and line work, as well as your bog standard shading. Additionally, although most tattoo artists will probably make out they could draw up anything your heart desired, those who have tattooed subject matters similar to what you have in mind, are probably the best port of call. (Especially for your first tattoo). For example, Vincent had tattooed elephants before.
Secondly, go with a tattoo artist who is close to home but don’t be afraid to travel for quality. Vincent is an hour and a half train ride away from my hometown, and a 45 minute tube ride away from my uni digs. All in all it would cost me between £5-20 to get to her, which in my opinion is justified considering how fucking awesome she is. However it is all down to personal preference, and if you want to travel for 3 hours on a train or fly across the pond to get inked by a tattoo artist you think is incredible, so be it. I sure as hell know it’ll be worth it.
Moreover, just a quick word of warning. There’s only so much detail a tattoo artist is physically capable of putting into a design, especially if a piece is going to be small. Tumblr and Pin Interest are literally a tattoo artists worst nightmare. Do not go to a tattoo artist with a photograph of a tattoo someone else has. It’s much nicer that they design something that’s personal to you. At the same time, don’t be afraid to tell them that you don’t like what they’ve designed. It takes them a matter of minutes to draw up another template that you can brain storm, and come up with something that you both agree on. It should be a top priority of the tattoo artist you go to, that you are getting something you love and want on your body. If it isn’t, then that tattoo artist isn’t professional and you should probably abandon the appointment altogether.
Lastly, email tattoo artists about costs. No matter how good you think a tattoo artist is, please don’t get ripped off. Communication is key here. I once emailed a tattoo artist who I won’t name, but said they would charge me £100 just for the deposit. Granted the tattoo would only be £80 so I’d get £20 back on the day, but still no thank you. That’s extortionate just for a deposit. Vincent has gone between charging me deposits and not charging me deposits depending on where she’s been working. But usually it’s around £20-50 for the deposit, which is included in the cost of the tattoo, as it is with most artists (or should be.) Tattoo artists will usually also charge you by the hour, so for example, my elephant took around an hour and a half and therefore cost £120. I’ve worked out Vincent charges roughly £75 an hour. I know this may seem complicated but it’s important you fully understand how much you are going to have to cough up on the day, especially if you can only pay by cash.
- Preparation and getting inked (it does hurt).
Firstly, be sure that this is what you want before you book an appointment. I spent a few weeks humming and harring about sending that fateful first email. But I got there in the end, and those months leading up to the day made me realise that actually I did want an elephant enriched onto my arm for all eternity.
Secondly, tell your parents. Seriously, just tell them. There’s nothing they can do to stop you, and if your parents are anything like my lovely Mum is, they will accept that and respect your decision. If they don’t, then granted you may want to reconsider (depending on your age and the punishment you are likely to receive), but talk to them first and explain why you want the tattoo done, how you are going to pay for it and come to some understanding. Also, give them time to come to terms with it, no doubt they will ask their friends and family, and realise tattoos are not the devils mark they thought they were. After all, you have to be over 18 to get a tattoo, and that means you’re an adult who can make their own life decisions.
Thirdly, on the day you should probably take a friend. I usually take my friend Aimee, purely because she gets just as excited as I do. Don’t take someone who’s squeamish, would moan about waiting around for ages, or is a worrier that’ll make you even more scared or nervous. In addition to this, eat something. This is really important because if in the worst case scenario you faint, your tattoo artist isn’t going to finish on that day due to health and safety regulations. KEEP THOSE SUGAR LEVELS HIGH GURL. On a serious note, I was so nervous when I sat down with Rebecca for my elephant that she nearly didn’t tattoo me. Thankfully she was kind enough to talk it through with me, and made me take a few deep breaths, and that’s all it should take.
Lastly, it does hurt. Of course it does, there’s a needle going into your skin at rapid speed causing you to bleed. But the only way I can describe it is a dull stinging sensation and it really isn’t as bad as you think its going to be. Some places are more sensitive than others, and at times it can make you wince but the key is to just keep breathing. I find talking to your tattoo artist really does help through the process. I talk to Vincent about all sorts of shite, personal and otherwise. This has helped me form an almost a friendship with her and makes me feel much more relaxed. If you feel like you need a 5 minute break, you should always say, because it can get pretty fucking uncomfortable obviously. Above all, you should enjoy the experience, it certainly is that and I’ll never forget getting my first tattoo, or any of them really. How often do you get to sit and chat to a world class tattoo artist? It seriously does become great fun and is very therapeutic.
After you’ve been tattooed you’ll be wrapped up in a gargantuan amount of cling film and strapped up with micropore tape. This is totally normal, as its to stop bacteria in the air getting into the open wound. The pain afterwards I can only describe as dreadful sunburn (it’ll feel hot and sore for the first few days.) Make sure you fully understand the self-care method your tattoo artist has provided you with on how to clean and care for your new tattoo. Usually this involves Sanex Zero shower gel 3-4 times a day, and some cocoa butter or Bepanthen cream to put on after. You should do this for around 2 weeks. Granted it is usually a massive pain in the anal cavity, but at the end of the day if your tattoo gets infected its not going to heal as nicely, and it means a trip to the doctor with some antibiotics thrown in.
Please be prepared for the amount of questions people are going to ask you, especially if you’re the first person to get a tattoo in your friendship group like I was. Also be prepared for the questions strangers will ask you, sometimes these can be negative. There is nothing worse than someone saying “oh cool tattoo, what does it mean?”, this will become the bane of your existence because half the time people don’t want to listen to the answer. My friends and family were and continue to be, very supportive of my tattoo adventures, which I am very thankful for. Of course there are always going to be people that make negative comments, such as my 86 year old grandmother, or people of an older generation. For example most of the time the elders will avoid sitting next to me on the bus, but do I care? Nope, more space for me motherfuckers. On a serious note, you shouldn’t take these comments or behaviours to heart, its a generational thing that will in 20 years be extinct.
At the end of the day, if people love you they will except you for who you are, regardless of what you choose or don’t choose to look like. Don’t dwell on the future. Of course its crossed my mind, as a worry, that I might not be employed due to the fact I have “visible tattoos”, but there are ways around this such as: Long sleeved blouses. Wow what an invention. Never knew they existed. In all seriousness life’s too short to not be who you want to be, and everyone experiences barriers because they actually make the decision to become that person. Not just people with tattoos.
If anyone asks you if you think you’ll regret having a tattoo, or tell you that you most definitely will regret it like they’re a fucking mind reader with a crystal ball, tell them to check themselves before they wreck themselves. You don’t need that negativity in your life. If I ever live to be 90 years old, I won’t be thinking about the tattoos, (I already don’t think about), on my arm. I’ll be thinking about my grandchildren, the fact i’ve peed myself, when I’m going to have my next cup of tea and a whole range of more important things than a tattoo which means literally nothing in the grand scheme of things.
Life’s too short to not have faith in yourself.
Seriously, just get that tattoo. Nobody gives a shit.