A few days ago, a friend posted this article, and to say it started a bit of a debate would be a gross understatement. Now, I like Cracked, because I have a terrible sense of humour and a fondness of profanity, but it's generally understood that it's not where one goes for accurate, informative articles on serious topics. Usually, I would just roll my eyes and scroll on past something like this. But, the ensuing debate, and the fact that it's been read over 700,000 times, worries me a little. How many of those 700,000 now believe that getting a tattoo is inviting yourself to be ripped off and given an infection? It's a frightening prospect. So, here I am, in the unbelievable position of feeling compelled to debunk a Cracked article. Drinks shall be had to drown my sorrows later.
4. "There are many types of tattoos they simply won't do"
Okay, this one is true. We've discussed that before in this blog - if we know that the tattoo is going to turn out awful and require hundreds of dollars in touch ups to keep it looking even halfway decent (fingers, for example), we often won't do them, and some artists will refuse to do a tattoo for ethical reasons (that swastika you want on your forehead may take some shopping around). Where the article starts to go wrong here is in saying the odds are pretty good that one artist won't finish another artist's work. While, yes, we always strongly suggest going back to the original artist, and yes, it is seen as disrespectful to touch someone else's work, we also understand there are numerous reasons you may not want to, or cannot, go back to the original shop. We're not going to make you go through life with a half-finished sleeve because your artist moved to Timbuktu.
3. "The prices are made up at random"
Sam says: "If you come in and say you want a $100 tattoo, we'll do it for $100, if it can be done for $100, but if that same person comes in and says they have $250 to spend, that same tattoo is now $250."
No, Sam, no. This is not standard practice, you are just a bit of an ass. Now, it's likely Sam is an American tattoo artist, and I admit, I have little idea how shops operate down there, but no reputable shop in Canada charges you at random, or takes your $250 for a $100 tattoo. We pretty well all have hourly rates that we will inform you of before you ever book your appointment, and will do our best to work within your budget. We also take the deposit off the final price of the tattoo, not add it on. Bad, bad, Sam.
2. "The real money comes from covering up previous, regrettable tattoos"
On the surface, this is somewhat true. Cover-ups often take a lot of time, and can be technically complicated, so they will almost certainly cost more than the original did. But, again, no reputable artist should be marking up the price because you have a tattoo you regret. We charge the same hourly rate for the cover-ups as we do the originals, and to do otherwise is bad business.
1. "Yes, you can get an infection"
Of course, any time skin is being broken, an infection is possible - no one can deny that with any amount of honesty. But this entry is particularly disturbing, as the risk of infection should be extremely minimal, and not justified with horrifying confessions of hiding sharps containers, sharing ink in questionable ways, and not cleaning tubes. Clean, reputable shops are perpetually on top of their health and safety standards - tools are always clean, unused ink is always thrown away, sharps containers are disposed of regularly, and garbage is taken out daily. This should go without saying, but, if you see artists hiding used needles outside so the health inspector doesn't see them - run, don't walk, far, far away from their shop.
It’s that time of year again – the sun has come out to play, the waters are warming, and we’re all spending a little more time outside. For most of us, summer is a favourite time of year, and a chance to show off our tattoos and piercings. It’s also, however, a time when we should be giving them a little extra love. Aftercare doesn’t end when the tattoos and piercings have healed, and summer is when it’s particularly important to keep that in mind.
While inks and techniques have improved vastly over the years, tattoos are still susceptible to the sun to some extent. Too much direct exposure will eventually lead to fading. Ideally, they should be covered by clothing, but we’re all going to break that rule in the summer. It is highly recommended that, if you are going to be spending a lot of time in the sun, you put extra sunscreen on your tattoos, and reapply it regularly. If your tattoo is newer and not quite healed, take extra care to keep it out of the sun completely, and out of the water (this is why getting tattooed in the dead of summer is not ideal!).
Piercings also need a bit of love in the summer – sweat, bacteria in water, and simply being a bit more physically active can all anger an otherwise happy piercing. Take a little extra time to clean them well with saline, particularly after going for a swim. It’s also a good idea to switch to smoother (more metal, less jewels) jewelry if you’re going to be spending a lot of time in lakes, rivers, or the ocean, as jewels tend to trap bacteria, making them harder to keep clean. If you are going to wear your shiniest pieces to the beach this year, be sure to take them out regularly and give them a thorough cleaning. And, just as with tattoos, if the piercing is still fairly new, you’ll want to avoid water completely.
We all love to show off our body art, and most of us love the summer heat. Taking just a little extra time and care can go a long way in ensuring we have something worth showing off for many years to come.
Happy Friday! With the long weekend upon us, it's likely a lot of you are going to be partying it up (we know we will be!), but just as many of you are undoubtedly happy to have a few days to just take it easy at home or on the beach. If that sounds like a plan, why not indulge in some eye-pleasing media while you're at it? Below are some of our favourite body-mod related books and videos. So sit back, relax, and enjoy!
Sailor Jerry Collins : American Tattoo Master
To call Sailor Jerry a legend would be an understatement, and this book shows us why. Filled with stories, pictures, original sketches, and more, this book is a must-have for all fans of old-school tattoos and tattoo history.
Flesh & Blood
This fascinating documentary takes us into the world of innovative, and sometimes controversial, body mod artist Steve Haworth, and the subculture he helped create.
The Tattoo Coloring Book
Think colouring is just for kids? Think again! This 240 page collection of original tattoo designs lets you step into the artist's shoes and revisit your childhood by filling them in however you see fit.
Tattoo Nation : The True Story of the Ink Revolution
Featuring some well-known celebrities and artists, Tattoo Nation tells the tale of how tattooing in North America evolved from a mark of rebellion to a respected art form.
Before jumping head-first into the world of body modification, there are several things one should research and consider. Among the most important is location and placement; where you get your tattoo is almost as big of a decision as what you get. Here's why:
1. Career considerations. While many industries are becoming much more open to visible tattoos, many others will likely always expect a more conservative appearance. Think seriously about your career goals before getting a visible tattoo.
2. All skin is not the same. Bend your wrist forward - see those wrinkle-like lines that form? Tattooing over those lines is a near guarantee that your tattoo will heal and age poorly. Hands, fingers, feet, and facial skin all pose their own unique challenges as well. This isn't to say they can't be tattooed or that they won't look good, it just means you want to consider the type of skin you'll be having tattooed before making your final decision. Talk to your artist, and ask them how the location will affect the way it heals.
3. Size. In order for a tattoo to age well, it has to be an appropriate size - that is, if the design is intricate, or incorporates words or numbers, it needs to be large enough that the lines can spread a little without losing those details. This means the location you choose has to accommodate the size of the piece - larger pieces are best done on the back, as a sleeve, filling your calf, or across the chest or stomach.
4. Body changes. No matter your age, your body shape is not likely to stay static. Whether it be due to weight loss or gain, aging, a pregnancy, bodybuilding, unforeseen circumstances such as an illness, or hormonal changes, the shape and size of our bodies can change drastically over time. Keep this in mind when choosing your tattoo's location - while not all changes can be planned for, most can. Women wanting to get pregnant in the future should hold off on stomach or ribcage pieces; anyone planning to lose or gain weight should consider that before getting a currently really flabby or really bony body part tattooed; young people should keep in mind that the location they've chosen may one day sag.
5. Ink is addictive. We've all heard the old potato chip slogan applied to tattoos: betcha can't get just one. For many, this is all too true, and if you don't consider where you're going to want to put those second, third, and fourth tattoos, you may end up with a messy collage of mismatched pieces on your arm or leg. Before you get your first tattoo, think about your future plans - do you eventually want a sleeve? Then you probably shouldn't get a single, small tattoo on your arm. The same goes for any other part of your body - give a little thought to what other pieces you may want before deciding where to put this one.
Getting your first tattoo is an exciting, monumental moment. A little care, consideration, and research will ensure you are just as happy with it ten years from now as you are today.
If one Googles “tattoos + feminism”, a lot of…interesting results come up. Everything from powerful declarations of autonomy to brash “slut shaming” to images of feminist symbols will be offered. To say the message is mixed is quite the understatement. And that’s to be expected; it wasn’t all that long ago that women with tattoos and piercings were generally pushed into three categories: the promiscuous (see: “tramp stamp”), lesbians (see: any woman with short, brightly coloured hair and a nose-ring), or freaks (see: all of us). These stereotypes were never very accurate, of course, but they did, for better or worse, connect body modification to the feminist movement. Society was forced to view women as more than housewives and care-givers. We had autonomy; we were in charge of our own bodies, our own appearance, and our own symbolism. And that philosophy continues today. As Margot Mifflin writes in her 1997 book, Bodies of Subversion: a Secret History of Women and Tattoo, “Tattoos appeal to contemporary women both as emblems of empowerment in an era of feminist gains and as badges of self-determination at a time when controversies about abortion rights, date rape, and sexual harassment have made them think hard about who controls their bodies—and why.”
It’s hard to say whether tattooed women followed feminism or vice versa, mostly because it’s difficult to say when feminism arose. Depending on whom you ask, feminism has been around for centuries, or only a few decades. What we can say, however, is that the tattooed women of history, whether consciously or not, were making feminist statements. In eras where a woman’s role was clear, and mostly involved cooking and breeding, these women bucked those expectations. They had careers. They were independent. They often stayed single, or partnered with like-minded individuals. A handful of them became tattoo artists themselves – a move that is still, sadly, fairly uncommon. These bold women created an intrinsic link between the female self and body modification by defying societal standards and claiming their bodies as their own.
And yet, despite the progress, the history, and the normalizing (approximately 23% of American women – compared to 19% of American men – are tattooed), a lingering stigma remains. Caroline Biggs, a blogger and Women’s Studies grad student, details her experience with having a feminist tattoo here, and how drastic the difference between female responses and male responses to it are. While most women express admiration for it, many men see it as a challenge, and sometimes even a threat. Joanne Ogilvie, a feminist writer, takes that point even further, stating “The assumption that, as a female, my body should be “pure” leads a whole lot of people to question my tattoos, why I have them, and whatever will I do when I’m old and wrinkly?”, issues that most tattooed men will never have to deal with. Even now, in the 21st century, in an era where women can do or be almost anything we wish, the concept of a heavily tattooed woman seems to run counter to what we perceive as feminine. We’re still faced with a dichotomy of softness, purity, and femininity, or hardness, boldness, and debasement. A woman who chooses to get tattooed is, effectively, sacrificing part of her perceived femininity. She is opening the door to statements about how a woman “should” look. How a woman “should” exist in society. And, as obnoxious as that may be, as much as many of us would rather not politicize our appearance, we must be proud of that fact. We must smile in the face of those ignorant shoulds, content in the knowledge that, as our numbers grow, the power of those attitudes lessens. They are the last whimpers of an outdated standard, and our tattoos are a fitting send-off.
Once considered little more than a fad, Asian-inspired tattoos are one of the most enduring and popular styles in North America. From koi fish to yin-yangs to Oni masks to Kanji, everyone likely knows someone donning such art. But where did this trend originate?
Depending on which Asian culture we’re talking about, tattoos have been considered deeply sacred, or grossly barbaric, for thousands of years. In ancient China, tattoos were largely shunned, given only to criminals – though a classic Chinese novel also features three heroic main characters who are tattooed. In the Philippines, tattoos have denoted rank and accomplishments for centuries. In Japan, the tradition of tattooing goes back nearly ten thousand years, and has symbolised everything from rites of passage to gang affiliation. What all of these cultures have in common, however, is the process itself. Traditional Asian tattooing involved attaching handmade needles (or sometimes just a sharpened bone or shell) to a thick piece of wood, usually with silk string or leather, and puncturing the flesh thousands of times. Sometimes a specially prepared ink was used, other times black ash was rubbed into the punctures. Large pieces could take years to finish, with the recipient returning every few days for two or three hour sessions.
So how did such a long and secretive process make its way to the other side of the world? Most of the tattoos we recognize as “Asian” are actually strictly Japanese. In China, the Philippines, Taiwan, and numerous other Asian countries, tattoos were largely symbolic, and did not feature distinct images – instead, they were series’ of dots, dashes, and contained patterns. The huge and detailed koi fish, pictorial representations of gods and demons, oni masks, cherry blossom trees, etc., that we associate with traditional Asian tattooing could, for many decades, only be found in Japan. As such, they could only have been discovered, and brought over, by someone who could bridge the gap, both geographically, and culturally. Enter the infamous Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins. While it was certainly not him alone who brought Japanese tattooing to North America, most agree that he had the largest role to play. At 19, Collins enlisted in the U.S. Navy, and spent much time in Asian waters. There, he was exposed to various styles of art and tattoos, and got to know several prominent artists. As a life-long sailor, he was able to keep correspondence with various groups of people from both the underground and professional sectors, and most importantly, with Japanese tattoo masters. This allowed him to immerse himself in the world of Japanese tattooing and bring these ideas and techniques home. So while the name Sailor Jerry may invoke images of old-school flash, it is also him that must be credited for the large and intricate “traditional Asian” pieces we marvel at today.
Oddly, these pieces are now far more popular here than in Japan, or anywhere else in Asia. Still often seen as the domain of criminals and gang members, these large pieces are shunned by the general public throughout Asia. When Sailor Jerry began tattooing in this style, and apprenticing others to do the same, he may have had little idea that he was reinventing, and preserving, a long hidden tradition.
Memorial tattoos – that is, tattoos dedicated to the passed on – are a delicate and sensitive thing. For many, they are far more than a tattoo, even far more than a dedication; the process of choosing, getting, and healing a memorial tattoo is a ritual – personal, private, and of great significance. Their history goes back as far as tattooing itself; several ancient cultures had a version of the memorial tattoo, from a single dot or dash to represent the deceased to complex and highly detailed designs. Modern innovations have given us almost unlimited options, making the decision of what to get even more difficult than it already would have been.
When choosing a memorial tattoo, there are several things you want to keep in mind. Aside from the normal tattoo considerations such as placement, size, and detail, you’ll also want to ask yourself what you want this piece to represent. Obviously, it is in memory of a loved one, but what kind of memory? Are you wanting to symbolise them as a person? Do you want to immortalise an inside joke or special moment between you? Is there a specific object or activity connected to your memory of them? Do you want the piece to have meaning only to you, or do you want everyone who sees it to know who it’s dedicated to?
Once you’ve decided what you want your tattoo to represent, you’ll want to think about the design itself. The go-to for many is a basic name, date of birth, date of death piece – straightforward, simple, and to the point. But many others want something a bit more artistic, a bit more symbolic. Consider who they were as people, what their passions were, what they stood for, and what your relationship entailed. Think about what they would want you to get – would they appreciate a beautiful, elaborate expression of your love, or would they prefer something funny and lighthearted? How did they see themselves? Were they a musician, deeply religious, obsessed with Star Wars, extremely political? Choosing a piece that speaks of who they were, how you connected, or a particularly meaningful memory you have of them assures a memorial you will be proud to wear.
This is, of course, just advice – ultimately, you are the one who needs to be satisfied with your tattoo. But like funerals and wakes, memorial tattoos are, in the end, not just a ritual of passing, but a celebration of life.
“Good luck getting a job!”
Anyone that has a visible tattoo has likely heard this more than once. And, once upon a time, it was a somewhat accurate criticism – in days past, those with obvious tattoos couldn’t hope to be much more than a circus sideshow or part of a criminal enterprise. What many have not seemed to have noticed, however, is that times have changed. A lot. Here are 5 jobs that love your mods: a couple of which may surprise you.
1. The arts industry. This one may not be surprising at first – afterall, tattoos are art, and the art world has always been a bit weirder and more liberal than many others. But when we look at the full scope of jobs included here, we realize that many are jobs that used to oppose visible tattoos. Floor staff and cashiers at bookstores and libraries, music and instrument retailers, art teachers, professors, dance instructors, and curators were at one time expected to have a more “professional” look, which meant a clean-cut, blank-canvas appearance. Recent years have seen a great change in attitude, however, and more and more art professionals are showing off their ink with no great consequence.
2. The medical field. While mods are still largely frowned upon for doctors, views are rapidly changing for many others in the medical field. Nurses, ultrasonographers, pharmacists, and various medical technicians are reporting less and less stigma surrounding tattoos. This is likely helped by a growing support for medical tattoos, such as allergy warnings, medic alerts, and cosmetic tattoos for cancer survivors.
3. Healthy/alternative living companies. Because the general philosophy of alternative living, whether related to groceries, medicines, clothing, or homes, is that one needn’t adhere to tradition to live a good life, these companies tend to be a lot more accepting of alternative appearances as well. Businesses such as Trader Joe’s, Nature’s Fare, and similar outlets, have been praised in body-mod circles for their openness to mods.
4. Food industry professionals. And no, I’m not talking about people with tattoos having to work at McDonald’s. Chefs, restaurant owners, professional bartenders, wait-staff, grocers, and food suppliers are all welcome to have tattoos.
5. IT/Technical careers. It may not be surprising that those who work behind the scenes more often than with the public are allowed more leeway in their appearance, but it’s important to mention, as there is still a stereotype that heavily tattooed people can’t get a “good” job. IT/technical careers are often very lucrative, and happily allow mods of all kinds. This is just one of many industries that prove being tattooed does not have to mean being broke.
Last year, we posted a tattoo FAQ: a list of questions we are commonly asked by people looking to get tattooed. Often, however, we at the front desk find ourselves answering questions that haven’t been asked; that is, repeating the same basic information to various clients over the course of the day. Now, we’re not complaining – it’s our job, and our honour, to provide you with all the information you need to get the best possible tattoo. But it did occur to me that having all of that information in one easily accessible place may be a good idea. Here are the 5 things we tell people most often:
1. The more detail is in it, the bigger it has to be. A lot of people want really intricate, detailed designs, but still want the tattoo to be small. This just doesn’t work. Lines spread a bit over time, and if you try to cram a whole lot of them into a tiny space, in a few years, they will all blur together, leaving you with a messy blob, rather than an impressive piece of art.
2. If you’re unsure whether you want your tattoo to be full colour or black and grey, start with just the basic outline. Once the colour is there, it’s there; likewise, once it’s black, it’s black for good. An outline, however, can be filled in at your convenience.
3. Have a little patience – a lot of people come in wanting a tattoo right now. We understand that eagerness, but if you want a well-done, custom drawn tattoo, it is best to bring us reference pictures, book a consultation, talk in-depth with your artist about it, and allow time for changes to be made as your idea is brought to life. Your tattoo is forever – take the time to make it perfect.
4. Get it where you want it. Clients often say “I really want this on my feet, but I’m scared it’s going to hurt, so where should I get it?” Our answer will always be “on your feet”. Tattoos hurt. We’re not going to lie about that – some people don’t find it painful at all, of course, but many others do. The pain, however, is temporary, while the tattoo is permanent. If you really want it on your feet (or ribcage, or thigh, or…wherever), you’ll likely regret putting it somewhere else. And, who knows, your second choice may hurt just as much as your first, or your first choice may end up not hurting at all. Go with your gut, and get it where you truly want it.
5. Price is almost impossible to determine without seeing exactly what you want. At least once a day, we get a phone call asking “how much would it be for a small tattoo?” This question is similar to “how long is a piece of string?” Without more information, we don’t know. We can tell you our shop minimum ($90), but we cannot tell you for sure that your tattoo will fall into that category. Just because a tattoo is “small”, doesn’t mean it will be cheap. Similarly, just because it’s bigger, doesn’t necessarily mean it will be really expensive. To get an accurate quote, we need to see exactly what you want, and ask your artists how long it will take.
With Easter once again upon us, religious symbolism can be seen everywhere. From crosses to eggs, even the most innocuous of Easter images have religious origins. So too do many forms and styles of tattooing; while it is a common myth that tattoos go against standard religious beliefs, the truth is much more…colourful.
As we’ve discussed in previous posts, the earliest known tattoos were often religious in nature – images of worshipped animals, symbols representing gods, and designs intended to ward off evil spirits are incredibly common in numerous cultural histories. But what about more recent times? Any of us that grew up in Christian environments have likely had Leviticus 19:28, the verse in which “cutting or marking the flesh” is strictly forbidden, quoted to us more than once. It is this verse that has led to the belief that tattoos are not permitted in many religions. Biblical scholars, however, argue that it is not tattooing itself that is forbidden, but a specific kind of ritual in which tattoos are employed. In fact, many Christian groups throughout history, such as the Knights of St. John and the Montanists, used tattoos to show their allegiance, and more recent groups, including Croats and Coptic Christians, tattoo themselves as a form of protection and declaration of faith.
In Hinduism, tattoos are not only permitted, but often encouraged. Markings on the forehead are thought to enhance spiritual health and open chakras. Women tattoo their faces with dots around the eyes and mouth to ward off evil, and men will tattoo Aum on their hands and arms to improve their karma. Several Hindu deities are portrayed with tattoos and other similar markings.
Neopaganism, an umbrella term for various forms of witchcraft, new-age spiritualism, and traditional belief systems, has no single policy on tattooing, but it’s safe to say that it is not generally frowned upon. In fact, many pagans utilize tattoos to memorialize their spiritual journeys or declare allegiance, often adorning themselves with their chosen gods and goddesses, pagan symbols, and sacred geometry. Others use tattoos as part of their private rituals, getting fertility symbols, images of talisman and amulets, or scenes from favourite myths. Gerald Gardner, a well-known figure in paganism and Wicca, had several tattoos depicting what he considered magical symbols, including a dagger, snakes, dragons, and anchors.
These are just a handful of spiritual paths that allow and encourage tattoos – there are many more, including traditional Japanese, Egyptian, and African religions, many Buddhist sects, and more progressive sects of Islam. On this Easter weekend, perhaps we can all take a few moments to appreciate the interconnectedness of symbolism and body modification throughout the world, and its history.