I will never forget my first tattoo. Partly because it’s a miracle that I walked out of the situation alive and without getting arrested (I was only sixteen, it’s a long story for another day), but mostly because it sparked for me a love affair with ink that, just like my many tats, will last forever. Now, we all have opinions about tattoos. You’re either totally against them, super curious about them but would never get one, have one or two and love them, have one and regret it, or have a few and are stoked to get more but dealing with the issue of too many design ideas and not enough skin. I certainly fall into that last category, however at first sight you might not guess that I have gone under the needle 10 times since I turned sixteen.
People say how addictive it can be to get one, and they’re absolutely right. It’s exhilarating to know you’ve picked a piece of art or script that you’re ready to carry with you forever, and for me it’s a total thrill to hear the buzz of the gun and then feel the sting of the needle as it sets the beautiful ink into your newly decorated skin. While I love all of my tattoos, I can honestly say that I have made a few mistakes and learned quite a few lessons. Just yesterday I had the pleasure of adding my biggest piece yet, a cover-up to fix a tragic little palm tree on my right forearm. So, take it from me, there’s a right way, and a few wrong ways, to go about getting your first tattoo. A few things to think about before going under the needle:
Yes. It hurts.
See statement above.
Find a tattoo artist you really like.
The amazing artist who I was lucky enough to get to do my cover-up, Gerald Feliciano, suggests to “find an artist who’s aesthetic you like. If you appreciate their past work, you’re more likely to love what they’re able to create for you.” Try asking a friend who has a tattoo you like where they got theirs done. If you have no friends with tattoos, get online, find local tattoo parlours, and go and meet the artists for a consultation.
Take the time to have a consulting appointment.
Meet with the artist well in advance so that you make sure you get exactly what you want. Bring plenty of examples of what you like, but remember to keep an open mind. The artist is going to be able to recommend what will look best, and may suggest an idea or two that you hadn’t considered, but don’t agree to anything unless you’re 250% happy and excited about it!!
Save your pennies.
Tattoos are expensive! Be prepared with info about the artist’s hourly rate and make sure to have extra cash on you for a tip.
Do your research.
Take time to really look into the tattoo shop you choose. If you see someone obviously under the influence of drugs or alcohol getting a tattoo, leave and go somewhere else. It is not safe to be tattooed while intoxicated as you are likely to bleed more, move more, and make bad decisions in general. Check and make sure the artists are using sanitized instruments and single-use needles on the people they tattoo. All of the amazing artists who have ever tattooed me are deadly serious about the safety and health of their clients. Your artists should be too.
Be ready to care for your new piece of artwork.
You’ll need to avoid the sun and water for a few weeks, as well as follow a number of other rules to help the tattoo heal and remain beautiful for the rest. of your. life.
No kidding. Tattoos are definitely permanent. If you’re still unsure, ask your artist to stencil the piece you’re thinking about with a pen so you can walk around with it for a day and see how you like it. Just don’t try drawing it on yourself with your left hand…take it from me, not a good look when your hand gets wobbly and the sharpie ink stains your favorite cashmere sweater. Be safe, be smart, and good luck!