I received my first tattoo when I turned 18, for typical 18 year-old reasoning: “Ooo naughty!” and “Only $100 you say?” $100 was just enough to make it seem like a meaningful decision – money was sacrificed, therefore the commodity which was purchased was worthwhile.
I’m not proud of my first tattoo, although neither am I embarrassed or ashamed by it. My first tattoo is a piece of flash which was chosen right off of the wall with hardly more consideration than I had probably given that day’s lunch. The placement is horrible and unflattering to the art (such as it is), and was chosen because the artist said it wouldn’t be a very painful location to have tattooed. To be fair, at the time I envisioned my entire torso covered in ink by the time I was in my mid-20s – at the least the area reasonably covered by a work-appropriate skirt hem, a short-sleeve shirt and a modest neckline. I remember thinking that if the first tattoo wasn’t great, then I could hide it or incorporate it into a more complex piece later down the line.
About a year later I purchased my second tattoo. It has much more personal meaning to me, but it was still flash – this time picked out of a book while a mountainesque woman sighed impatiently over my shoulder and waited for what she probably thought was a spontaneous college girl to decide on a pattern that she had etched onto dozens of other spontaneous college girls. She in fact had me dead to rights; I had driven from Winona where I attended WSU to LaCrosse specifically to get a tattoo from that shop, which means I gave the whole process about two hours of cogitation, and that includes the 30-minute commute. When I walked in and told her that I wanted to get a tattoo, she said “Been drinking?” I said “No ma’am.” An hour-and-a-half and $120 later I had my second tattoo.
I haven’t gotten any more ink since that time. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to, it’s just that I want my next tattoo to be original art, and that means finding an artist and commissioning a piece. And that means money. I have ideas for future work, but no real desire to seek out an artist with whose work I connect. I also want a larger piece – no more attempting to capture grand ideas in one-frame comic-sized daubs of ink.
If I had wads of money to blow, I’d probably continue getting new bits of art here and there, fulfilling my younger dreams of covering my body in art. But I don’t want to hire more strangers to put impersonal marks on me. I’d love to have tattoos from powerful events and moments in my life. I’d get tattoos from people who mean a lot to me, for all of you special people to leave physical signs on my skin to go along with the emotions and memories you leave in my mind and heart. But…ahem…I’ve seen some of y’all draw, and uh…you ain’t coming near me with a sharpie, let along a permanent tattoo gun!
These thoughts of tattoo came about after reading a neat article in Jezebel about Jessie Knight (article by Irin Carmon, tweeted by @ClinicEscort), a British female tattoo artist who practiced in the 1930-60s. There are some great photos in the article, and when I went looking for more information about Ms. Knight, I found this YouTube video – replete with classic 1950’s “little woman” music. The video manages to be charming, patronizing and inspirational all at once.