Saturday, August 25, 2012

Permanently Mine

Those of you who follow me on Facebook ( or Twitter (@caitmiller) will know that I got a tattoo this month. It’s not my first, I tested the waters about 5 years ago with this on my right shoulder blade:

It was really painful and it did put me off for a while but eventually, like most people I wanted more. I’ve always been a fan of tattoo art and most of my family have ink, whether it be a small memento or full body coverage. I was well versed in the hazards and the correct way to do things. It took me a long time to decide what I wanted, I didn’t want to regret it. That’s why I chose the thistle, it meant something to me.

Pride in my country.

I also wanted a design that no one else had and in fact the thistle I chose was actually a brooch. I let the artist see what I liked and he drew it for me.

Five years later I can honestly say I don’t regret it and I wanted to be able say the same about this time. I took time to decide what I wanted again, this time I wanted to dedicate it to my love of books and escaping into other worlds. I also have a long time love of dragons. Put the two together and the artist and I came up with something we were both happy with. A dragon flying out of an open book.

Go big or go home, right?
Truthfully, I wanted to get a bigger tattoo this time though I hadn’t really thought it would turn out as big as it did but I trusted the artist and let her do her job. She estimated it would take 2-3 hours and we set a date to come in.
I was nervous but as prepared as I could be when I went to the shop that day. By hour 1 I was wondering when the ‘endorphins’ I had been told about would kick in and help with the pain. By hour 2 I had concluded that either they were lying or that I had none. By hour three I had lost all awareness of the time. By hour 4 I was shaking and, thankfully, done. I asked the artist what was the longest time anyone had sat for her and she said 4 hours. “I don’t know how anyone could do that!” I said and she laughed and pointed at the clock. I was very proud of myself and actually have no idea how I managed it.

In the next couple of weeks the tattoo healed. There was blood, pain and finally itching so bad I wanted to scratch the skin off my back. You never know how a tattoo will look when it heals and 3 weeks later I wasn’t entirely happy. There wasn’t enough colour in it, the head of the dragon was indistinct and it just looked too dark. I really didn’t want to go back for more, there hadn’t been enough time for me to forget. Equally, I didn’t want to live with it so I reluctantly went back to the shop. They looked at it and agreed that it needed a bit more work so we made another appointment. I don’t know if it was psychological but this time it hurt even worse. It took another hour and I couldn’t have sat any longer than that. It was enough though, I was thrilled with the result but not with another two weeks of pain and itching. It’s now almost a month since I had the art done…do I regret it?

Ask me in five years.

I thought I’d share some of the things I know about getting a tattoo below, I’d love to hear if you have any more.

Be sure about your design. Give it careful thought, remember it’s for life. Generally names of boyfriends/girlfriends, wives/husbands are a bad idea. Some artists even believe them to be bad luck.

Research. Find a reputable shop and visit it to make sure it lives up to its reputation and website/facebook page. Most shops have an online presence now but it’s easy to look your best in pictures these days.

Pick an artist whose work you like. Ask to see the artist’s book, the portfolio they keep of their previous tattoos. Meet them before and talk to them about what you want. It helps if you like them too. You might be spending a while together.

On the day:
Make sure you’re well rested and well hydrated although you might think you are too nervous, eat. Nothing heavy but have something filling a couple of hours before.

Wear appropriate clothing, something you can easily expose the area you want tattooed. Make it black and not something you will miss if it has to be thrown away. Tattoos bleed and black won’t show any stains from blood or ink.

Take water and a sugary drink and a snack. This is especially important if you will be getting a big tattoo. Your blood sugar can drop during the process and you can feel faint, a shot of sugar can help.

Follow the instructions the artist gives for aftercare. Most will advise some kind of ointment but I personally used Bepanthen nappy ointment. It works really well believe it or not.

Don’t be afraid to go back if you’re not happy with something, they will help if they can. It’s their reputation too.


Lynn LaFleur said...

It's a beautiful tattoo, Cait, and I think you're very brave. Four hours is a long time!


Diana Hunter said...

You've more guts than me, Cait! But both are beautiful and well worth the time (and anguish!). Go dragons!