Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Who's Confident?

 This will be a bit of a rant, so let me set this up properly.

 I get a text message from a friend who asked, "If you were getting a tattoo tonight, what tattoo shop would you go to?" For me, that is both a simple and difficult question. I have a tattooer who is AMAZING but who may not have been available for a walk-in tattoo. His shop was the first on my list in my response. I have the privilege of knowing a lot of great tattooers in Austin, guys and gals who I would happily get work from at any time. From that set, I listed four other tattoo studios that I consider highly reputable and who host consistently great tattooers. My friend hit me up simply because she was confident in my opinion and knowledge about the local tattoo offerings.

 A little bit later, I get another question. "Do you ever setup without gloves?"


 Hell no.

 Being the inquisitive type, I asked why. What was happening was her boyfriend was in the mood for the sweet, sweet feel of a tattoo needle, and wanted to get some ink. Not being familiar with what might be available, especially since I was not (available), they asked my opinion. Trusting me (and that is important), they went to one of the shops I recommended.

 Let me reiterate: I recommended the shop they went to. They went to this shop on my recommendation.

 The tattooer at this particular shop was not the tattooer I would go to at this shop. At the time, that was simply because I did not know the guy like I know one of his co-workers. He does, however, have a favorable reputation locally. He happened to be available the night my friends went to the shop I recommended. When a tattoo design was selected and a price agreed upon, this tattooer went about setting up his station.

 He did so without gloves.

 My friend, herself a tattoo collector, questioned this. She recognized that she was seeing something that in her years of getting ink she had not seen before. Her dude asked the tattooer about the lack of gloves. The tattooer's response?

 "I am confident in my method."

 I am not going to name names, or put anyone on blast. The shop this guy works at is a great shop, and should not be besmirched by this guys lackadaisical attitude and ego. I DID, however, recommend to my friend that she contact the owner. When she asked if they should stay or go (they had not paid yet), my advice was to walk.

 My friends on Facebook agreed (they must read my blog).

People must be reading my blog...

 I am not even going to rail on the BASIC NECESSITY of wearing gloves when you setup, about how your station should be as close to a small surgical bay as possible, and how gloved hands should be the only things that make contact with the tools used to tattoo anytime. No, that is not what this rant is about.

 He said, "I am confident in my method."

 Is he really the one who should be confident in his method? Friends, I do not care how cock-sure your tattooer is, YOU need to be confident about what they are doing. If you feel something is amiss, a professional tattooer will do what is necessary to address your concerns. It is your tattoo. If something bothers you, your worry should not be casually dismissed.

 The proper tattooer response to, "Hey, aren't you supposed to wear gloves when you setup?", is to stop what you are doing, agree with your client, apologize for letting this simple step slip your mind, tear down your station, clean everything your touched, and setup with clean gloves on. There is no other excusable response.

 Gang, I don't care if he had a bucket of hand-sanitizer at his station that he was dipping into every few minutes. He is leaving bits of himself on everything he touches, bits of himself he would then be sharing WITH HIS CLIENT. We make mistakes. The professional thing to do is own it and correct it.

 Blowing-off your client's concern is a dirt-bag move. It suggests a lack of character and confidence; trying to ignore your mistake instead of admitting it. The sad thing is that this guy is a good tattooer, but moves like the ones he is making kill careers.

 Added to this is the fact that I recommended his shop. Maybe not him, but in the minds' of his clients and my friends there is no distinction. If asked again about where to get a tattoo, or getting a tattoo at this particular shop, I would still recommend it.

 But I would add a caution about that particular tattooer. For the sake of my reputation and their safety, I would tell whoever was asking to not get work from that guy.

 To my friends who trusted in my recommendation and had this poor experience, I am sorry. I know this is not my fault, but it is the kind of thing that brings all tattooers down.

 Jason Sorrell is a writer, tattoo artist, satirist, artist, and generally nice guy living in Austin, TX.  He loves answering questions about tattoos.  Shoot him an email at

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Tips for Getting Your Next Tattoo

 Getting a tattoo is not a common experience for most people.  You walk into a studio wanting a tattoo, there's art an the walls, tattooed people behind the counter, and no clear instructions on how to proceed.  Professional tattooers will happily walk you through the process, answer your questions, and make the experience a positive one for you.  However, with a little forethought and planning, you can make that experience a great one.

1. Know what you want (at least in general).

 Walking into a tattoo studio just to get a tattoo is rarely a good idea and leads more often to tattoo regret, especially since those that do are often looking for what they can get within their budget rather than a great tattoo.  Have a tattoo concept in mind before you go to a studio.  Know where you want it on your body.  Bring reference material to help your tattooer understand what you want, as well as offer some inspiration for your tattoo design.

2. Do some research.

 Once you have your tattoo concept and know where you want it on your body, it is time to start looking for a tattooer and tattoo studio.  Talk to a few studios in your area and find out about their rates to establish an average price per hour.  Keep in mind that some tattooers price their work by the piece, but most have a general hourly rate they can offer as a guide.  Knowing the local average tells you what you would pay for an average tattoo... And, no one should want an average tattoo!  This will help you gauge your price when you find a tattooer and shop that suits your needs.  Keep in mind that good tattoos are not cheap, and cheap tattoos are not good.  Check online reviews, ask others about their tattoos and their experiences with local studios, and get a feel for what to expect as you shop.

 3. Select a tattooer based on their style.

 Every tattooer develops a particular style that they specialize in, a style that will be apparent in their tattoo portfolio.  A tattooer may be willing to work outside their style, but you may be happier with a tattooer who works in the style you want (as well as get a better price getting a tattoo in the style the tattooer is familiar with). Look for a style that you find aesthetically pleasing, one that you would like your concept translated into.  Be open to your tattooers ideas and suggestions.  As a tattoo-professional, they will have an understanding of tattoo design and placement on your body that will provide a more pleasing result.  Tattooers are artists, and always tend to work better when unfettered.

4. Express all your concerns about the tattoo while it is being designed.

 Tattoos should be a unique expression of your concept by your tattooer.  While you should listen to their suggestions about your tattoo, you should also be confident in discussing what it is you want. Don't settle for a design that you think is "alright", point out the areas you have concern about!  Once you are in the tattoo chair and the needle is in your skin, it is typically too late to bring-up concerns about the design.  Ultimately, it is your tattoo, and if you and your tattooer cannot agree on a design that excites you, you may want look for a different tattooer.

5. A tattoo is an investment.

 Be prepared to pay for the work you want.  If you find a tattooer and a studio you like, then accept the price-point being quoted.  Knowing the average price in your area, you should be prepared to pay an additional 50-100% of that rate, based on the quality of work you seek.  Haggling for a better price is a delicate matter, as trying to low-ball your tattooer or bringing-up the prices offered at other shops almost always leads to a negative situation.  If the price is more than you can afford, tell your tattooer and see what they may be able to do for you.  Your tattooer may be willing to work in sessions, allowing you to pay for the work in installments, or may be willing to come down on their initial quote slightly. Ultimately. however, a good tattoo in the style you like is worth the price your tattooer quotes.

6. Plan ahead for your tattoo appointment.

 Usually, you are welcome to bring a friend, but don't bring your whole crew.  If you have children, make arrangements for childcare. Don't bring your kids to the studio, even if you have a friend to watch them for you (your kids will want your attention).  Plan to allow for as much time as necessary for your tattooer.  A good rule of thumb is to double whatever your tattooer estimated time is (if your tattooer says the tattoo will take two hours, be prepared to spend four).  Have a snack an hour or two prior to your appointment, but bring yourself something to drink during your session.  Let your friends and family know you are getting a tattoo and not to call you on your cellphone unless it is an emergency.

7. Practice some basic etiquette.  

 Arrive for your appointment at least 15 minutes in advance, and be prepared to wait while the tattooer's station is set for your tattoo (calling your tattooer in advance to tell him or her you are on your way can help reduce the wait).  Arrive sober to your appointment.  Do your tattooer a favor and also make certain your have showered recently and brushed your teeth.  They try to smell good for you, do the same for them. Plan on not eating while you are at the studio, or if it is going to be a long session on eating during a meal-break.  Try to keep your breaks to no more than once every hour or two.

8. Be prepared to tip.

 While tipping your tattooer is not necessary, it is greatly appreciated.  10-20% is a fair tip.

9. Pay attention to the after-care instructions.

 The vast majority of problems with a tattoo are the result of the customer not taking care of it while it heals.  Listen to the instructions given by your tattooer.  Do some research about tattoo care prior to your appointment, and ask any questions you may have about what you need to do.  Put clean sheets on your bed before going to sleep.  You've spent some serious money on your art, do what you can to protect it.

10. Celebrate your tattoo and tattooer.

 Your solicitation of a tattooer for a tattoo is a compliment. Your tipping the tattooer after the tattoo is appreciated.  Celebrating your tattoo and your tattooer takes it to a whole new level. Grab a stack of business cards from your tattooer and the tattoo studio on the way out the door, and pass them our to your friends.  Tell people on social media about your experience, befriend your tattooer, like their tattoo pages, and post your tattoo.  Your advertising their work will mean the world to them.

Jason Sorrell is a writer, tattoo artist, satirist, artist, and generally nice guy living in Austin, TX.  He loves answering questions about tattoos.  Shoot him an email at