With every passing year, the knowledge that piercing guns are a bad idea becomes more commonplace. However, this leaves many parents unsure of what to do – many shops (ours included) won’t pierce anyone under the age of 7, which puts a damper on the longstanding tradition of piercing your baby’s ears. While it may seem a bit of a bummer, there are numerous good reasons for this policy, and they have only your child’s interests in mind.
We’ve discussed before why piercing guns are dangerous; the fact that they cannot be completely sterilized, the lack of hollow needle, the absence of proper training for the piercer, and the inappropriate aftercare all come together to create a potentially disastrous experience. Put simply, an untrained clerk is using a non-sterile piece of equipment to shoot a dull piece of jewelry into your child’s flesh, and then giving you a bottle of harsh chemicals to clean the wound with. Not exactly what you had in mind for your little one, is it? As much as it may go against the common stereotypes, tattoo shops are, by and large, very clean and safe places. We use disposable, sterile needles. We clean and sterilize our tools using medical equipment, such as autoclaves and ultrasonics. We wipe down our stations with products that kill bacteria and viruses on contact, ensuring even the chair you sit on is free of contamination. And, once the piercing is complete, we arm you with aftercare information, and saline solution – the same product hospitals flush wounds with and first-aid attendants never leave home without.
But, why 7? What makes that the magic number, and why won’t we pierce your baby? First and foremost, tattoo shops, as opposed to malls who’ve only profit in mind, value consent and understanding. We want to pierce your child because they want to be pierced, and we want them to be capable of understanding the aftercare themselves. Further, babies and toddlers are less aware of where they are putting their hands – they’ll pull on their new piercing, touch it, get it dirty, and, on occasion, rip it out. The chance of them healing well and staying happy increases exponentially with every year they wait. Lastly, babies and toddlers are often involved in activities that can irritate a piercing – swimming lessons, playing in the sandbox, making snow angels – all of these and more are really bad for a fresh piercing. By 7, your child is old enough to understand that getting their ears pierced may mean sitting out for awhile.
For many little girls and boys, an ear piercing is a huge experience. It’s a milestone –the first of many steps towards autonomy they will take. Make it a safe and enjoyable one.
You may also like to check out related blog posts:
"Why I Took My 7-Year-Old to a Tattoo Shop"
As the year draws to a close, all of us at I-Kandy would just like to thank all of our clients for making 2014 our best year ever. The shop has never looked better, and our appointment book has never been fuller, and it’s all thanks to you!
We have some exciting things coming in 2015, and can’t wait to see what else the year has in store for us. Thank you for all your support, and for the many laughs, challenges, and awesome ideas you have brought us over the last decade.
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.
So, this happened. Earlier this month, a tattoo “artist” had his home studio shut down by health officials after they discovered some startlingly dangerous practices – namely, the complete lack of sterilization equipment and sanitation practices. Now, you may be thinking something along the lines of “no shit” – home-based tattoo shops have long had a bad reputation for being unclean and unsafe. But, keep in mind that this also happened. Even so-called professional tattoo shops can fail to uphold even the most basic safety standards. Stories like these undoubtedly leave potential tattoo recipients feeling nervous and scared. And rightly so.
How, then, does one choose a safe, clean shop? Of course, we at I-Kandy want you to come see us for your tattoo and piercing needs. We pride ourselves on our incredibly high standards and use of the most up-to-date, medical grade equipment. But we also know that many of our readers are scattered across the globe, and therefore can’t just come on down to see us whenever they want a new tattoo. So, we would like to help all of you choose wisely by offering up some basic advice.
First and foremost, any reputable shop will have an autoclave and ultrasonic on the premises. These are sanitization and sterilization machines that ensure any piece of equipment that comes near you is clean and safe to use. Any safety-minded shop will be more than willing to show you this equipment (though they may not let you right into the room it’s kept in, as we take several precautions before coming near the equipment).
Another strong sign that a shop is safe is their use of needles – all needles should be disposable, and come out of a sterilized package. This applies to both tattoo artists and piercers. Similarly, their set-up should reflect their use of sterile needles – you will see plastic coverings on machines, a needle disposal box, barriers between surfaces, and skin cleansers.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the use of gloves is also of utmost importance. Many of these dirty shops that get shut down throw up a huge red-flag with their questionable use of gloves. Some of these “artists” don’t wear them at all, while others wear the same pair throughout several different stages of the tattoo. The use, and changing, of rubber or latex gloves is vital in keeping both you, and them, safe. Any artist who feels comfortable getting your blood and tissue on their hands, and then touching their equipment and items around the shop is someone you want to run, not walk, away from.
Finally, look around the shop itself. A studio that prides itself on safe practices will not only take the proper precautions when it comes to equipment, but will advertise this cleanliness by ensuring the entire shop is clean. Check out the floors, the front desk, the bathroom. While these are public places, and therefore may have the occasional footprint on the floor or fingerprint on a glass display, the shop should be free of dirt and debris.
And, of course, read reviews. No shop has 100% good reviews – that’s to be expected of any business, as everything from loyalties to politics can influence how someone feels about a business, and some people just enjoy stirring up trouble. But a reputable shop should have mostly good reviews, including comments about cleanliness, professional attitudes, and informed artists. All of these are good indications that a shop is clean and safe.
One of the most common questions we get asked, and one of the corrections we have to make most often, is regarding what tools we use. Is it really called a tattoo gun? Do we pierce with a needle or a gun? And what is that blue stuff?! Here, we hope to clear some of that up.
TATTOO MACHINE: No, it’s not a gun. While a lot of people refer to it as one, the accurate name is simply “tattoo machine”. There are several types of machines, from rotary to coil to liner to shader, and artists often use a variety of types.
PIERCING NEEDLE: All of our piercings, and all piercings done at any reputable shop, will be done with piercing needles. I’ve written at length about the many issues that come with piercing guns, and am happy to say we have never used them. Piercing needles come in a range of gauges, but the most common are 16 and 14 gauge.
TRANSFER PAPER: Also called “stencil paper”, this is what we use to create the stencil that gets applied before your tattoo begins. There are several types of transfer paper, but all do the same basic thing, and have the benefit of being re-applicable, meaning we can wash the stencil off and reapply it if you aren’t happy with the first placement. And, because we get asked this a lot, too: no, we won’t sell you any. Tattoo supply shops, however, will.
GENTIAN INK: The blue stuff! Its full name is actually “gentian violet ink”, but it’s almost always shortened to just “gentian”. Anyone who’s had a piercing has likely seen it – it’s what we use to mark your skin before piercing, to ensure you are happy with the placement, and to make it easier to duplicate the placement if you are getting more than one piercing at a time (both ears, or both nipples, etc.). Gentian is an antiseptic ink that has been used since the 1800s, and is not only used by piercers, but by medical professionals as well. Because of its antifungal properties and long-lasting results, it is considered the safest, most efficient ink in medical and body-mod procedures alike.
GREEN SOAP: While not all tattoo artists use green soap, and there are safe, well-liked alternatives, we’ve included this on our list because of its distinct scent – for many, the smell of green soap and the thrill of getting tattooed go hand in hand. Green soap is used before, during, and after a tattoo to clean the area before tattooing, apply the stencil, wipe away excess ink, and clean the area again once finished. A medical grade soap, green soap is also environmentally friendly, biodegradable, and generally considered hypoallergenic. And, to many of us, it smells wonderful.
These are just a few of the common tools we use to make your tattoo and piercing experience safe, fun, and as painless as possible. Over the next few months, we will continue this series, giving you random peeks at the tools of our trade.
A couple of months ago, we touched on some of the more controversial mods, and this sparked a lot of debate among staff and clients alike. Some saw them as exciting innovations; others had their reservations. Now, we’d like to hear from you! Here are a few of the mods generating discussion right now – what are your thoughts?
Eyeball “tattooing” : The injection of ink into the eye, generally to change the colour of the whites of the eyes, but also used to colour the cornea. Corneal tattooing has been practiced medically for many years, but the practice of dying the eye for aesthetic purposes is relatively new.
Sub-dermal implants : Sub-dermal implants involve placing three-dimensional moulds, usually made of PTFE or silicon, under the skin. While these are not exactly new, a recent surge in popularity have put them front and centre in the “extreme mod” debate.
UV/Blacklight tattoos : Tattoos done with ink that is only visible under blacklights. The controversy stems from what is in the ink, and how safe injecting it into your skin is. There are many different opinions on it, and very little research, making it a hot topic among both potential clients and tattoo artists.
Dermal punching & scalpelling : As stretching one’s ears becomes more common, faster and arguably more efficient methods are in high demand. Two such methods are dermal punching and scalpelling, both of which allow for a much larger hole to be made immediately. The drawbacks, however, have many questioning these methods. A dermal punch actually removes tissue, rather than stretching it, which makes it a semi-permanent or permanent mod. Scalpelling, likewise, can be harder to heal and create a lot of scar tissue.
As with any mod, there will be those who champion any new and artistic innovations, while others will hold back, waiting for more information, and expressing concerns regarding safety. Both sides are necessary for the industry and art-form to move forward. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on these mods and more!
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.