Sometimes the hardest thing to decide on when getting a tattoo is not just what tattoo to get but who will be doing the actual tattooing. Choosing an artist isn't easy. It's just such an intimate thing ... you really have to click with the person because they are putting something on your body that will be there forever. It's kind of as important as the person who you choose to oh say lose your virginity to or tie the knot with. Granted you may totally forget your first lover, but you will never, ever, not ever ever forget your tattoo because it will always be there. And at the rate people are divorcing, it's even more important than who you marry, too. (Kind of.)
There are many things to consider when deciding on a tattoo artist -- the cleanliness of the shop, how easy the person is to talk to about your design, and in figuring out who should contribute to your half sleeve, I think I should address the things you must avoid.
Avoid at all costs, a tattoo artist ...
1 ... who doesn't know what an autoclave is. The autoclave is a really important way to sterilize the tattoo equipment and prevent diseases from spreading. You can't trust that they person doing the tattooing has only tattooed people who don't have hepatitis or HIV. And no one wants a staph infection. Unless of course you are okay with having sex with strangers without a condom, then maybe you would totally take this risk.
2. ... whose shop just had a flood because the sewage backed up. Look, shizz happens, literally, but a dirty shop for any reason shows that the artists who work there don't care enough about their line of work to make it clean and safe for their customers. Dirty? Don't go.
3. ... who ignores you even when you ask for help at the shop. I've been in tattoo shops where the artists have completely ignored me. I'm a polite person. I get that many shops have people hanging around, asking dumb questions, and then not getting a tattoo. But really, there are no dumb questions, there are only dumb answers. And why ignore a potential client? Plus the person getting tattooed should feel comfortable with the artist they choose. It will be on you for life and the experience is part of that memory.
4. ... who charges $20 for a tattoo. Okay, this is something anyone who gets a tattoo should realize -- often you get what you pay for. Tattoos are expensive because of shop upkeep, sterilizing equipment, time spent drawing or stenciling tattoo, as well as the art of tattooing it on your body. A cheap tattoo could mean a cheap looking and unsafe tattoo.
5. ... who was sleeping when you walked in. No one wants a non-alert person doing something to your body that will be there forever. Maybe buy the artist a coffee first until he or she is awake enough to get started.
6. ... who you want to sleep with. Totally different than the guy who was sleeping. But seriously, if you are just getting a tattoo because you think the guy or girl is hot and you are trying to work your way into his or her pants, it's a bad idea. Most times.
7. ... who "double dips the chips." Tattoo artist Paul Rhodes wrote about the safety of tattoos really well and used that to describe someone who doesn't use new gloves or needles each time. No one likes (or needs) a double dipper when it comes to blood. Ick.
8. ... who won't listen to you when you say you don't like the way the drawing looks. Listen to me: this is YOUR body. Yes, you should take into consideration what the tattoo artists says as far as suggestions on making it look better on your body -- he is an expert (at least he better be), but carefully consider everything because it's your skin, your forever clothes you can never take off unless you pay the ridiculous amount of money it costs to get painful lasers to remove the tattoo.
9. ... who argues with you. Walk away from getting a tattoo from someone you aren't getting along with or somehow slip into an argument with. We can't all get along with everyone, and that's okay, but bad mood tattoo artist and bad mood person getting tattooed could yield you a tattoo that puts you in a bad mood every time you see it.
10. ... whose portfolio you really don't like. Look through the artist's work before you get tattooed. Do you like the styles you see? Do the lines look neat? That is part of what you are buying when you get a tattoo -- that person's art, their talent. Make sure it's in-line with what you want. And make sure you love the sketch they draw for you, too.
Have you had any bad tattoo experiences? Spill it! The good experiences too, of course!
Image via Gamma Man/Flickr