I walk into the tattoo shop with no appointment. My artist drops what he’s doing and is glad to see me. I tell him about this idea I’ve been formulating in my mind. He’s interested/excited. I show him the artwork that I brought in after I unlock the security code, and wait for my app to come up, and type the correct search terms in, and wait for my search to come up, and scroll through the images until I find the ones I found before. My artist gets a brief glimpse of these as I’m finding them and is now even more excited about my project. We go to lunch, he buys, and we discuss the relevance and implications of my reasons for having him bring my ideas to life in a tattoo. After lunch, we go to his house and he hashes out three versions of the design with my helpful and adept input. I choose the one that’s just right and then have him do a few last minute changes. On returning to the shop, he puts on my choice of music and we begin. We’ll have to work late, but he’s happy to reschedule his anniversary dinner with his wife, because he’s so stoked on my design and that he, of all the tattoo artists in the world, gets to do it. We work for hours, taking several breaks so I can get a better look and make helpful suggestions on how he should proceed. After several hours, my work is done. The tattoo is awesome, if I may say so myself, and I’m glad my artist could pull it off. Because of it’s awesomeness, he charges me half rate, he’s just stoked to have me out there wearing it. We then go out for some drinks, he buys, and after partying like rock stars for a couple hours, he drives me home and tucks me in. Next day my tattoo shows up on his website, listed under “coolest tattoo I’ve ever done”, it goes viral, and I’m popping up all over the web. I get my own reality show in which I interview and hire the “Top Tattoo Team” to finish the rest of my work. I guess that’s more than one perfect day, but all that awesomeness just wouldn’t fit.
Maybe I’ve had too much therapy, or perhaps I’ve just become numb to it all. I guess I’ll just have to go off my meds so I can get inspired for a new rant.
Of course I could go on right now about how retarded people can be and still be able to graduate from college these days, but I’m tired, so tired.
There has been a growing trend of people getting tattoos in unique places. Let me start off by saying that most of these places are being sought after in an attempt at being different, out of the ordinary, apart from the crowd. Let me follow by saying that all this shit has been done before. The reason it’s perceived as unique or different is that all of these “cool” spots are horrible places to get a tattoo. As a consequence, people in the past who have had the misfortune of getting a tattoo in these spots don’t tend to show it off. Why? Because they end up sucking because of the inherent unsuitability of some areas for tattooing.
So please think twice before getting that cool tattoo in a unique spot like the arch or side of your foot, your toe, the inside of your finger, or any other “unique” spot. Give us all a break and yourself too. You’ll thank me later.
I know this is supposed to be a rant, but today was slow and the best type of customer came in. The type of customer that comes looking for you because they’ve seen your work and wanted some. The kind of customer that tells you they want a bird kind of like a picture they brought and kind of like several you’ve already done. The kind of customer that looks through the art books that you normally steal good stuff from, understands why you steal, and tells you that whatever you choose is fine. The kind of customer that doesn’t ask how much it will cost or how long it will take. The kind that trusts you to do a great job and charge fairly. The kind that rarely comes in the door. The kind of customer that gets your best effort and most reasonable price, then tips generously and appreciates your effort. The best kind, thank you.
In this era of specialization and fine artists entering the tattoo world like it’s the next gold rush or something, I am taking increasing amounts of pleasure in a long held tradition, the pork chop tattoo. Pork chop sheets are the ones with a bunch of small random designs that used to be the mainstay of a tattooist’s business, and they have gotten a really bad rap in the last couple of decades.
I blame the over abundance of tattoo reality shows and their screened, often tragic, clientele. Seems everyone that comes into the shop has to convince you (or is it themselves) that their tattoo has meaning. That they have thought on it long and hard. That they are not the type to just walk in and pick something off the wall, like that would be a tragedy. Well I’m going on the record right now and saying that they are almost all full of shit. Most of them really just want a tattoo but are too big of pussies to just get one and own up to it. Get your fucking tattoo, whether it’s ridiculous, artful, crazy or serious, and own it. If you really were as individual as you say, you wouldn’t give a rat’s ass what someone else thinks of your choice. If you have to intellectually justify your choice, then I believe you are deceiving yourself. You really just want a tattoo. Just admit it and be okay with it. All the mental gymnastics are just you trying to get over all of the prejudice you still have about tattoos and the people who get them. But I digress.
The ubiquitous pork chop tattoo is the sadly forgotten foundation of most older tattooists’ training and career. Over the years the flavors have changed but the vibe remains. A customer walks in, looks around, and chooses a small tattoo from pork chop sheet. It’s a beautiful thing and I love it. It reinforces my belief that a tattoo is just a tattoo. Sometimes you just want one for whatever reason, and those reasons are your own. It’s fun. It’s a small reward. It’s a milepost on the rocky road of life. It’s a joke. It’s a laugh. It’s a Mickey Mouse, a Taz, a kanji (I know it has meaning but this time it’s okay), it’s a butterfly, a blossom, a skull, a knife, a Betty Boop. It’s any fucking thing you think is cool that very minute, in that moment of your life. It may be the most meaningful tattoo you ever got, because it’s the one that your subconscious chose for you, you know, that other ninety five percent of your brain that runs your life without your help.
So here’s to the pork chop tattoo. Once and forever the soul of tattooing.
Please don’t call or email and then get upset that you cannot get an appointment without stopping in. The thing is, we cannot plan our day around vague notions of what you “might” get if you decide to actually stop in. We have no way of knowing, without a drawing in hand, to size, that we have both agreed on, what the price might be, or how long it will take.
To accept the promise of strangers that “I’ll definitely be there” is nice, but truly about 50% of them never show up.
So please, just stop in with your design ideas and reference PRINTED OUT (not on your phone, pad, or computer), talk to your artist, and leave a small deposit to show that you are not just wasting their time. Remember, it takes serious time and effort to draw designs up for tattooing. Don’t expect a stranger to take time out of his day to create something for you without reciprocal effort on your part.
It’s been a good while. Life and work have been pretty tame, and good. Now that it’s slowing down for the season, I once again, have more time to rant!
So I get a call from a young sounding girl about coming in for a tattoo. She gets the standard “We take walk ins first come first served and to make an appointment you’ll have to stop in” talk. She says the tattoo is actually for her dad. Okay, this is my first warning. Anyone who has his daughter call the tattoo shop for him is a douche. This is the beginning of a handholding exercise that could drag on forever. People who really want a tattoo come in and get one, or at least call themselves to see what’s up.
In they come, daughter and father. They are from a well to do suburb and the daughter starts it off by telling me what her dad wants. This is the next red flag. I proceed by making eye contact with the father and forcing him to talk to me directly and eke out of him that he really doesn’t know what the hell he wants. Well, actually he has a phrase in mind, a bible quote. Okay good. He’s not quite sure where he wants to get it, or actually knows where he wants it, but is afraid it might not be a cool/good spot. I give him my “there is no right or wrong, just what feels good to you” speech, which goes right past him. You see he’s looking to me to decide for him, which I can’t, or to be more precise, won’t. If I decide for him then it’s no longer his fault, responsibility, or decisive action. The burden has, in his mind, shifted to me, where it is safe. So of course I’m thinking this guy need to grow a set of balls and started making some decisions.
I explain the process of finding a type style that works for him and at this point his daughter starts asking him what mood he wants to set. My third red flag. Look folks, I’m a tattooist. I cannot draw moods. Please don’t ask me to do feisty, or pensive, or casual, or more feminine, especially when we are dealing with fonts. There is an entire industry of people working full time trying to come up with fonts that evoke these types of emotion, and to think that after looking through a pile of pages full of different fonts, that you have universally rejected, I will be able to create on the spot a typestyle that will match the vague image in your head that you can’t even articulate, is ludicrous.
So I take the bold step of suggesting a nice old style from the Book of Kells. Cool. He likes it but wants to see the phrase drawn up. Cool, no problem. He likes it but now wants to see it stenciled on. Cool,, looks good.
“Can I make an appointment for next week? I want to let it slowly sink in”
Maybe between now and then he’ll grow a set.
I was talking with a friend and she told me about a conversation she had with a tattooist. She was commiserating about stress issues that her husband, also a tattooist, was dealing with. She was told. “You must understand that every tattoo that your husband starts is an act of courage”.
I like that.