I remember as a 5-year-old, my Nan asked me if I’d ever get a tattoo. Looking at my neighbours tattoo’s I shook my head and said “No Way!“. That lasted all of 15 years!
I’ve wanted to get a tattoo with about a year now, my concepts started off as massive tribal shoulder pieces and geometric psychedelic doodles. Every new design I made I’d say “This is the one!” then get sick of it after a week. I started to drift from the idea while I did the Leaving Cert and settled into college, but came back to it in the new year. I changed my styles and themes when I had a change of mind. I’m studying Zoology in college, zoology is all I’ve ever wanted to do with my life, so it made sense if I was going to have an artwork on my skin forever it should be animal/zoology related.
I started playing around with different animal shapes and did a fair bit of googling and doodling and eventually came up with my design: the Phylogenetic tree:
A phylogenetic tree or evolutionary tree is a branching diagram or “tree” showing the inferred evolutionary relationships among various biological species or other entities
Basically it visually shows the relationships between all forms of life as it evolved out over millions of years. I hate using the term ” a calling” but that’s what Animals are to me, I feel I’ll never do anything that doesn’t tie back to them so it was the perfect choice. But my design was still too broad, the phylogenetic tree covers all life and even though I love every branch, the tree needed to be clipped somehow. So I highlighted the animal branched with an arc and removed the virus branch (Viruses aren’t strictly speaking “living” things), and voila!
I then set the design as my screensaver for 6 months to be 110% sure I wouldn’t get sick of my design.
And if you’re not artistic enough to draw out the design yourself then don’t worry, most artists will help you with it during a consultation.
Once I got to 4 months into the 6, I went looking for artists. My piece is all linework and needed someone who specialises in it. Tattoo artists come in a few different specialities: Linework, watercolour, portraits, lettering, the list is always expanding and many artists have one or two specialities. The most important thing is to find an artist that is most suited to your style, no use getting a water-colour artist to do a linework piece.
I tried 5 different parlours around Cork before settling. Always shop around because different specialist opinions are no harm. For example the first artist i went to said my piece would blur in a year because the lines were too thick, therefor I reduced them before parlour two. The second parlour said point-blank that they wouldn’t do it, no explanation, they just said no. After another 3 I decided on Inkaholics, they were super friendly and helpful when I approached them initially and assigned my artist, Juri. After looking through his portfolio it was a no brainer! I ended up booking my tattoo that day and an hour later had a “What the hell did I just do!?” moment.
Considering the placement and size of my tattoo I was quoted €150. Most parlours have an hourly rate of €100 an hour or €80 minimum charge. When it comes to tattoo’s, you get what you pay for. This is going to be on your skin forever, don’t be a cheap-skate!
Next thing you need is a partner in crime, be sure to bring a friend along to keep you company.. and to hold your hand when you cry!
D-Day came on the 13th of August, still unsure of what to expect I headed into battle and signed away my soul on the declaration form! The forms are just an “I know it’s permanent and not going to blame you when it doesn’t wash off” form. Once the paperwork is done the artist will prepare a stencil, this is done using carbon paper and a light adhesive to stick the design to your skin.
Now, the one question everyone asks: Does it hurt? The answer is yes, a lot. It’s agony. It burns. You will cry. And you will realise that I’m actually lying and it’s not all that bad. I got my tattoo on my chest which is a particularly sensitive area, and the way I’ve described it to people is like getting scratched by a toothpick. And that’s really it! Of course, the chest being a soft area meant there were some sore parts, but even these painful areas were tolerable. As a whole, it’s more uncomfortable than painful. I personally like it, and many others I’ve spoken to agree! If you are still worried about the pain, you can get a numbing cream which is just a local anaesthetic the artist will apply 40 minutes beforehand.
The tattoo machine sounds like an electric toothbrush, and when it starts you’ll tense up and maybe even start to twitch. Try stay relaxed as possible and the artist will let you know when they’re about to start and where the first touch will be. Sit back, ask if they can put on some music, and settle down for the needle to do its work!
After your tattoo is done, it’ll be all red and maybe even puffy or raised and this is perfectly normal. Now it’s time for aftercare. Once it’s done the artist will cover it in a moisturiser and wrap it in cling film. On your way home from the parlour you’ll need to stop in the Pharmacy and get some Bepanthen, a nappy rash cream. A tattoo is an open wound, and bepanthen moisturises and produces a barrier to friction and dust.
Each parlour will tell you their own version of aftercare instructions, the initial wrapping must be removed after two hours and the tattoo needs to be washed with sterile water and antibacterial soap (boil tap water to disinfect and add some of the soap and then lather). Wash using kitchen roll or a soft cloth and dab, don’t rub! Pat the are dry and put on a thin layer of bepanthen then re-wrap. Although most people recommend the wrappings be changed 3 times a day for the first 2 days, a tattoo is still an open cut and exposure to the air will help the healing process. So if after the first day you feel it’s ok not to wrap and it won’t rub on your clothes too much then you’re ok, just be sure to use the bepanthen!
The bepanthen must be used 3-4 times a day for 2 weeks. Your tattoo won’t be 100% healed until 2 weeks, give or take a few days. You know it is healed when it has stopped peeling and the skin goes shiny, the bright vibrant colours will also dull a bit but don’t worry about that.
During the healing process:
- Don’t scratch the area, as itchy as it may be.
- Don’t pick the scabs, you’ll pull out the ink and ruin the design.
- Avoid friction/rubbing on the area.
- Do not expose to direct sunlight.
- Do not submerge in water, fresh or salt. For showers, don’t let the water hit it directly.
- When people ask, no they can’t touch.
- Keep the area moisturised.
Once the 2 weeks is done, that’s it! Your tattoo is ready, healed and good to go! Unfortunately, one does not simply get “just one tattoo, they’re addictive. Mine is only fully healed and I already have 3 more planned!
It’s like the mafia, once you’re in there’s no getting out!