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.
Over the next few weeks, the I-Kandy blog will be featuring Artist Spotlights - little interviews and favoured work by our very own artists. This week, we sit down with Mihela, piercer and body modification artist, to talk about how she got into piercing, and where she sees it heading in the future.
1. How long have you been piercing, and how did you get into it?
I have been piercing for a total of 8 years, and I have been with I-Kandy for 7 of those years. I've had a strong interest in body modification ever since I can remember. I was probably nine or ten years old the first time I walked by a tattoo shop with my mom in Hamilton Ontario. I remember being completely awestruck by the woman standing outside smoking. I had never seen anyone who looked remotely like her before. She had two full sleeves and a pink mohawk, and a bunch of nose and lip piercings. I thought she was the most awesome looking person I had ever seen, and in that moment I decided I wanted to look like she did one day. Once I was old enough to start getting pierced and tattooed, my interest in body modification continued to grow with every modification I got. I found that the people I met within the industry were generally much more opened minded and accepting than the people I grew up with, and I began to feel increasingly more drawn to and comfortable within the body mod community. At this time in my life I was on a quest for self discovery and self acceptance, and body mod helped me immensely with that. It seemed natural to me that I should pursue a career within the industry, and to this day I can't really imagine myself doing anything else. Getting into piercing was rather tough actually. People in this industry don't like to give away their hard earned knowledge easily, for free, or to the undeserving. And understandably so. I think it was probably equal parts determination, dedication and plain old luck that got me where I am today. It took a while for the my opportunity to present itself, and once I landed an apprenticeship, it was gruelling to say the least. Now that I know what it takes to make it in this industry, i'm just as protective of my skills and knowledge as my mentors were. In the end it was all very much worth it though. I doubt there is a job out there I could love more than the one I have.
2. What interests you/do you enjoy most about piercing?
Piercing and tattooing are my favourite forms of self expression. My own body modifications are so important to me. They mark many important experiences and milestones in my life, they have helped me heal emotional pain, and they are one of the very few things in life that no one can ever take away from me. Modifying myself has allowed me to feel comfortable in my own skin, and it has facilitated a lot of personal growth throughout the years. I think there is so much power in body modification. So to answer your question, what I enjoy most about piercing is enabling people to have the transformative experiences that I have had through body modification.
3. Piercing has changed a lot over the years, from simple ear and nostril piercings to dermals and more extreme mods. What are your favourite newer piercings to do?
It's kind of hard to pick favourites actually. I can honestly say I'm just as happy to pierce an earlobe or a nostril as I am a more technical ear project, septum or microdermal. I love it all. I'd say that microdermals have been a real point of interest for me throughout my career, simply because they weren't around yet when I first started piercing. I have seen the evolution of the microdermal from it's primitive prototype, to the elegant and sophisticated little piece of jewellery that it is today, which is pretty awesome to be able to say. I spent a huge amount of time over the years perfecting the method I use to pierce them. I will take this opportunity to say that good piercers test nearly all of their methods and techniques on themselves before anyone else, so not only do we know exactly how what we do to our clients feels, but we are very confident that the way we do things works best. We learn through our own painful and extensive trial and error periods, as well as those of our peers. Hopefully that gives everyone some extra confidence in their piercer. We really take what we do very seriously. We're very committed to perfecting our craft.
4. For many, piercing is a spiritual/creative experience. Tell us a bit about the ritual side of piercing, and what that means to you.
As I said before I think piercing is incredibly transformative and transcendent. It can be used to heal emotional pain, to mark rights of passage, to adorn and express oneself, to connect oneself back to their body and spirit...what people gain from modifying themselves varies as much as the people themselves do. Most of my own modifications have a spiritual aspect to them, but some of them don't, and that's okay too. Body mods are wildly individual, the reasons for getting them endlessly diverse, and the possibilities limitless. The beauty and the spirituality of body modification comes from this freedom.
5. What does the future of piercing look like to you?
Piercing has already come so far in terms of techniques, health and safety advancements, and various technologies in the jewellery and tools that we use now. Things are just going to keep getting better and better. We keep learning and we keep pushing industry standards higher. We keep innovating and redesigning. There are several piercers out there working with Health Canada, trying to bring more regulation to the industry, as it's currently still self regulated. Stricter regulation is imperative to build and maintain a safe, thriving industry, and we are definitely getting closer to achieving that goal. At the moment, it's still important for people to do their research and find a clean, reputable shop and a piercer they trust before getting any work done. I'm hopeful that in the future, people will be able to trust the industry more freely due to increased regulation.
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.
When I logged into Facebook the other day, this picture, along with this article, were staring me in the face. A group I frequent was debating – and I do use that term loosely – why anyone would do such a thing to themselves. A fair question, I suppose, but one that has no concrete answer. People tossed out everything from mental illness to low self-esteem to a desperate desire to be different, but, having worked in the body mod industry for several years now, none of these replies were satisfactory to me.
So why do people get such extreme mods? What compels people to pierce their heels, or tattoo their entire face? Why would anyone want a 0g tunnel in their labret, or spike implants in their head? The truth of the matter is, only they know. There is no single answer to this question – and that is, in and of itself, the best answer of all. Each and every person that delves into the more extreme side of body modification does it for their own reasons. Daniel, the possessor of the Achilles piercings, didn’t ever offer a reason for doing so, but many others have, and the answers are as varied and controversial as the mods themselves.
Stelarc, a well-known artist and body mod enthusiast, talks about his rather extreme mods – including an “ear” implanted into his arm – in artistic, transhumanist terms. For him, these modifications offer insight into “the increasing intimacy of machines and the human body”. Russ Foxx, world-renowned body-mod artist, offers a vaguer reason behind mods like eyeball tattooing, saying only that the eyes are “a strong communication tool” and that the ink injections can create “amazing and beautiful effects”. James Keen, a young, heavily modified eunuch, cites extremely personal reasons that include a feeling of gender-neutrality and a “primitive urge” to modify.
When looking at, and into, these extreme mods, it seems the relevant question is not “why”, but “what”. They whys are often far too personal, and too difficult, to articulate. It’s the what – the message one hopes to communicate, or the result one hopes to attain – that goes a long way in explaining the desire to have these extreme modifications, and the willingness to push the envelope. Whether the ultimate goal is artistic, philosophical, historical, sexual, aesthetic, religious, or something entirely different, there is a universal theme that runs through them all. Each and every one of these extreme mods is a declaration of autonomy, a powerful and unapologetic claiming of one’s own body. And perhaps that’s where the real discussion should begin. Rather than question the sanity of the people who enjoy these mods, we should be asking ourselves why autonomy is something to be questioned.
“Reality” TV is, depending on whom you ask, the best or worst thing to ever happen to entertainment. Starting out as a small group of contests like Big Brother and Survivor, it has now moved into the realm of documenting everyday jobs (or, at least, the most dramatic events therein), and giving you an inside look at careers you’ve perhaps only ever dreamed of. Among these has been a wide variety of tattoo-related shows, ranging from the lives of exclusive shop owners, to competitions between unknowns. When these shows began littering the cable landscape, many of us working in the field found a new job description added to our list: informing clients of how true to life (or not) these shows really were. So, which shows offer realistic glimpses into the world of tattooing, and which are ratings-bait? We review the good, the bad, and the ugly.
INK MASTER – hosted by the heavily tattooed Dave Navarro, and judged by tattoo master Oliver Peck and multi-media artist and tattooist Chris Nunez, Ink Master gives American tattoo artists a chance to fight for their title, and $100,000. While the show does not depict the standard tattoo career, it does accurately highlight some of the biggest challenges in the industry: time management, convention stress, constantly learning and improving techniques, and adapting styles to suit each client. Add to that Peck’s remarkable eye for detail and brutally honest criticisms, and the result is a truly entertaining and informative show.
MIAMI INK/LA INK – while both shows are now defunct, to not mention them would practically be criminal. Two of the most-watched and most-debated tattoo shows of all time, both walk us through a day in the life of a busy and popular American shop. Allegedly, anyway. With ever-rotating casts/crew, unheard-of artists opening their own expensive and fully-booked shops and getting their own spin-off shows, celebrity clients, and apparent “walk-in” customers in shops that boast year-long waiting lists, it’s hard to view these shows as “reality”. Love them or hate them, these are the soap-operas of the tattoo world.
TATTOOS AFTER DARK – from the producers of Jersey Shore (yes, that tells you all you need to know about it), T.A.D. is less reality show and more freak show. Featuring the most over-the-top clients one could possibly imagine, episodes have thus far included flamboyant performers wanting tattoos of themselves, pregnant clients begging to have their tummies tattooed (thankfully, even ratings weren’t enough to convince the artists to go for that), a couple that just met that night wanting matching tattoos to profess their undying love, and a marriage proposal or two. While T.A.D. may be a bit too much for many, it is unarguably amusing, and sets itself apart by featuring not just tattooing, but piercing as well – a side of shop life that is shamefully ignored by most reality shows.
TATTOO RESCUE – this Spike production may just be the golden nugget of tattoo TV. Rather than focusing on petty disputes and forced drama, tattoo veteran Joey Tattoo visits failing shops and gives them the wake-up call they desperately need. And, best of all, he does it by ripping apart their health and safety standards, calling attention to unsafe practices and poor image. Not only does his show aim to improve standards worldwide, it also offers sincere and extremely important information to potential clients everywhere.
BAD INK – a seemingly perpetual advertisement for the hosts’ various ventures and History’s “Vikings” (a friend of theirs is a crew member), it’s difficult to tell where the show begins and the commercials end. Bad Ink’s hosts cruise the Vegas strip in search of bad tattoos to ridicule, and, occasionally, fix. While the show itself may leave a bad taste in some mouths (and leave most of us wondering where the line between reality and fiction now sits), there is one valuable lesson to be learned from it – as host Dirk is prone to repeat, don’t drink and ink.
As tattoos become more and more common, boundaries get pushed further and further. Rather than a small tattoo on the ankle, many are opting for full sleeves or back pieces. And we think that’s cool – afterall, your body is yours, and you should adorn it as you see fit. One particular trend, however, needs a bit more thought than just whether it would look cool or not.
We’re talking, of course, about your hands. Hand tattoos aren’t new in and of themselves, but the popularity of them certainly is. The last few years have seen a huge spike in people wanting to take their sleeves one step further, or make a statement with a bold, in your face hand-piece. And who can blame them? If you Google “hand tattoos”, you’ll get a huge selection of bright, beautiful, intricate designs. What you don’t see, however, is what went into getting them that way.
If you read our (or any, really) tattoo aftercare suggestions, you’ll notice that they include not soaking your new tattoo, keeping it clean, and avoiding a lot of friction. This is almost impossible to do when it comes to your hands. Most people get their hands dirty, several times a day. Most people wash them a few dozen times, for that reason. Most people use their hands constantly. Avoiding dirt, water, and action is literally an impossible feat when it comes to one’s hands. This means that your new tattoo is not likely to heal well – it will need several touch-ups, and sometimes will need to be completely redone a couple of times before it looks the way you hoped it would. And that’s just for the tops of your hands. If you’re thinking about tattooing the sides of your fingers, it gets worse. If you’re thinking about the palms of your hands, it gets way, way worse.
Hand tattoos also carry with them two major social issues: there is still a lot of stigma attached to them, and very few employers that will allow them. Now, we don’t want to be that guy, the one that lectures you condescendingly about your choices. We’ve all dealt with that guy, and we’re not a fan. But we’d be lying if we said there are no consequences to hand tattoos. While we’ve made great strides in tattoo acceptance, we’re not there yet, and hand tattoos still have a pretty negative reputation. A lot of people that see them instantly think “criminal” or “weirdo”. Employers see them and instantly think “hell no”. If you are planning on becoming a school teacher, a business person, a lawyer, a doctor, or any similar sort of professional, a hand tattoo is a great way to ensure that never happens. You want to think very, very carefully before marking your hands for life.
We’re not, of course, telling you not to get them, though our artists – and a lot of others – will be admittedly hesitant to do them unless the client is already heavily tattooed and fully understands the inherent issues. We want to make sure that your tattoo experience is the best it can possibly be, and for that reason, need to put our knowledge and concerns to work for you. Getting a visible tattoo in a high traffic area can come at a fairly hefty cost, both financially and socially, and can take a lot of work to get perfect, so please, please think long and hard about it, and take your artist’s advice, before deciding whether hands on or hands off is the way to go.
Anyone with a tattoo, piercing, or even brightly coloured hair or make-up has likely heard their fair share of ridiculous questions and comments. Some are innocent enough – asking us what our tattoos mean to us, or whether that lip piercing hurt are understandable, I suppose. But there are a few common statements that get really old, really fast. Here are our top 5:
1. Aren’t you going to regret those when you’re older? On the outside, that may seem like a valid question. I must admit, I’ve silently asked it when seeing an 18 year old with a tarantula on his face, or a young woman with “HARD CORE” tattooed across her knuckles. And, you know what? Some people WILL regret them later. But that is their business, not anyone else’s, and it annoyingly presumes that everyone with a visible or controversial tattoo has failed to give it any thought, which I can assure you, is not true.
2. You’d look so much prettier without that. Pretty well every woman that has ever dared to get a facial piercing, tattoo, or dye her hair purple has heard this, more than once. Stop it. No, seriously, stop. Body-mods are about autonomy, not about conforming to someone else’s standards of beauty – we like the way we look with our tattoos and piercings and weird hair and make-up. If that’s not your thing, that’s ok, but it is ours, and that should be ok too.
3. Good luck getting a job! Yes, it’s certainly true that there are still some professions that frown upon visible mods, but that doesn’t make this statement any less obnoxious. It assumes far too much – that the person doesn’t currently have a good job, that they will eventually want a job in which mods won’t be permitted, that all professions worth having disallow mods, and that the person in question hasn’t already given that some thought.
4. Can I buy some pot? Okay, perhaps that’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but there is still a perception amongst some that heavily tattooed or alternative looking people are criminals, drug dealers, gang members, or just plain ol’ bad people. This stereotype has never been accurate, but it’s especially untrue and outdated now – the last few decades have seen huge strides in tattoo equipment/ink, piercing methods and jewelry, and artistic collaboration, allowing body-modification to grow into a more than legitimate art-form. We’re not criminals, we’re canvases.
5. Why would you do that to yourself? I think we’ve all encountered this person before, as well – the one who sees body-modification as mutilation or masochism, and thinks there must be something wrong with anyone who wants to do it. That a tattoo is a cry for help, that a facial piercing is a sign of low self-esteem, that a microdermal is some new-fangled form of torture. While, I suppose, from the outside looking in, it may seem a little odd to want a bunch of holes in your body, or some permanent images on your skin, it must be kept in mind that every style, every subculture, every clique, seems odd to someone. Odd needn’t mean negative, however – there’s no reason to believe we’re doing something bad just because it’s something you don’t understand.
Having worked the desk of a couple of tattoo shops over the years, I’ve found the hardest part – by far – is having to tell a very excited potential client that their beloved idea just won’t work. Most people that come into the shop already know what they want, and have their heart set on it. Our artists of course always try to make their ideas a reality, but on occasion, someone comes in with a design that will not turn out the way they are hoping. Most of the time, it’s because of the size, or the location. We never like telling people their idea isn’t the best one, so here are a few tips to ensure you get the perfect tattoo for you.
1. Size does matter. This isn’t to say you cannot have a small tattoo – you most certainly can – but in the tattoo world, small=simple. Over time, lines spread a little. Not enough to be noticeable if the tattoo was an appropriate size to begin with, but if you attempt to take a really intricate design with a lot of tiny lines and shrink it down to the size of a quarter, what you will end up with in five years is a lovely ink blob. If you want a detailed design, it’s going to have to be on the larger side. If you want a tiny tattoo, it’s going to have to be fairly simple.
2. Location, location, location. Where you get it is almost as important and what you get. A good 90% of your body is fine to tattoo, but you want to give some thought to it nonetheless. Inside of your mouth, palms of your hands, side of your finger? Not such great ideas. This doesn’t mean you can’t do it, only that it’s going to heal badly, and possibly fade away entirely over time. Some artists, in fact, are now refusing to tattoo those areas, as they tend to heal so poorly that they feel they’d be doing a disservice to the client by giving them a tattoo they know will look terrible, or disappear, in a few months’ time. Even “normal” locations need to be thought about – do you want the tattoo to be visible all the time, or do you want to be able to hide it? Is the design something that will work on a wrist or ankle, or should it be given a larger canvas? If it’s text, do you want to be able to read it, or do you want others to?
3. Tattoos don’t come with spell-check. If you want text, particularly in a different language, check, double-check, and then check again to make sure the spelling and characters are correct. The most regrettable tattoos tend to be script that was misspelt, or foreign language tattoos with errors in them. Check online, check dictionaries, and, highly recommended – ask a native speaker if it’s correct. Once that script is on you, it’s on you – we cannot go back and change the spelling or insert a different character.
We want you to get a tattoo that not only makes you happy right this second, but will continue to make you happy for years to come. Taking just a little extra time to ensure your tattoo will work can make all the difference in the world.
With a new year comes new things, and I-Kandy has plenty of them in store. One of the biggies is a new website, which will be launched in the next week. As we put the final touches on the site, we’d like to hear from you!
What would you like to see included on the website? What blog topics are you hoping to read about in the new year? What are you hoping to see in our soon to be launched online store? Let us know in the comments of this post.
It can be assumed that most of our readers are from the lower mainland, and therefore already know about the fantastic Vancouver Tattoo & Culture Show, scheduled this year for April 25-27. But what if you live elsewhere, or are prone to world travel? Here are 6 must-visit tattoo shows happening around the world this year.