Sunday, May 8, 2011

First Tattoo? What To Know, What To Do and Who and What To Avoid.

Gold Butterfly in Flight by Russell Fortier- Lucky 7 Tattoo
and Piercing, Kings Beach-North Lake Tahoe, California

   Some of you who read my blogs, or know me in the flesh, are familiar  the story of my first tattoo experience back in 1985. For those of you who do not let me just tell you - it was a crazy situation involving a guy I was dating. Going to the first shop I could find, picking a design for the wrong reasons and having that tattoo covered years later after working in a good tattoo shop and detesting my poor first choice of design and artist.     

It is now 25 years later. Having worked in or owned tattoo shops for 20 years I have a great deal of hands on experience in all aspects of this industry - customer service with first time clients, AND I have worked with some of the best and the worst tattooers of the past and present. What I offer below is NOT a standard list of "make sure the tattoo guys wears gloves or ask to see the business license" This list is to give you much more useful information that pertains to your tattoo experience as a whole. 

(Fine Line Script By Russell Fortier / Lucky 7 Tattoo)
  1. Carefully consider where on body/temple you are going to wear this art for the rest of your life. You will never get a job at a Fortune 500 company with a tattoo on your neck, no matter how much more socially acceptable tattoos are, than compared with even 5 or 10 years ago. Also, not every tattoo design works well on every part of your body. Think about a possible second location for your skin art just in case the design does not fit properly or look pleasing on the first area you pick.
  2. A phone book is no place to choose any type of service professional, EVER. Ask your friends who have GOOD tattoos what shops and artist they like the best. If you see a stranger with a tattoo you admire, say hello then ask who their tattoo artist is. Look at reviews online. Sites like Citysearch or Yelp are very helpful with reviews by previous customers. Make sure you get the full working name of an artist as well as the shop name. Very good tattoo shops can still have a lousy artist.
  3. Beware of any person who says they are a tattoo artist - yet works out of their home or comes to yours. It does not matter if they say "well I am between shops right now" or "it's much cheaper if you get tattooed outside of a shop." Why would a so called tattooer be selling their "skills" this way? If someone if truly good at what they do, and they pass a background check, then a shop will give them a job. Tattoo shops are governed by county Environmental Health Departments for a reason. To keep you and the tattoo artist safe and disease free. All good tattoo shops staffs are trained in how to handle any possible mishaps and have undergone bloodborne pathogen training. Shop owners gladly pay out money every month for you to have a safe, pleasant tattoo experience. Ask yourself this question: "If this tattooer was really any good, would he  have to advertise on Craigslist - saying he will trade ink for patio furniture or marijuana?" Which leads us to.....
  4. "Good tattoos are not cheap, cheap tattoos are not good." This saying has been part of the tattoo industry since FOREVER, for very good reasons. Tattoo artists make a good wage for doing a highly skilled and artistic job. Tattooing can be fun yet stressful in the very same moment. Good shops and their tattooers spend money constantly on the best inks, sterile needles, tattoo machines, tubes, disposable single use goods, books, training, etc...the list can be quite long when a shop cares about the tattoos they create and their customers. If you are on a budget explain this to your artist. There are options with the pricing you may not know about. (In Lucky 7 we have a lay-a-way program.)  Perhaps the tattoo can be divided into more than one appointment? Size and placement can greatly increase or reduce price (the soft, stretchy inside of your upper arm will cost more and take additional time than your shoulder.)   To save yourself and the tattooer embarrassment, DO NOT start loud talking about how some other shop said they would do the same tattoo for half the price you were just quoted. Your tattoo is not like a pair of Levis 501 jeans.  We always quote a fair and upfront price in our shop. Good, well managed tattoo shops want you to come back again, get more tattoos and recommend them to others , and will not gouge you with an over the top, unfair price. If you do not care about the look and quality of what is on your body then price shop every hole in the wall chop shop you can find, getting the "art" dirt cheap. You will be back to see us at a later date, (after your friends and family clown you and your shitty cheap tattoo) for us to cover up your "bargain." 
  5. Do some dreaming, then some homework. At Lucky 7,as in other shops, we are happy to give our thoughts, expertise and advice while you are working on your tattoo design ideas. We can assist on what you could incorporate.  Or even expand or redesign an existing tattoo that just isn't quite what you had in mind. Before you contact a shop you might like spend some time thinking about the following: How do you see the tattoo in your minds eye? Color or black and grey? The size and placement? Any certain type of tattooing styles you most enjoy seeing on others? Write all your thoughts down, then assemble them into a list of important key points. You can even draw a pencil sketch! No one in the shop is going to laugh or give you a bad time for trying! All artist appreciate you making an effort. As you can imagine it is impossible for a tattooer to be a mind reader or a copy machine. 
  6. When the time comes to go check out a shop in person call ahead or check online for their hours. Very few tattoo shops are open 'bankers hours." If you have a certain artist in mind you want to work with check to see if they will be in the shop that day and if he would be able to chat with you about your tattoo? Is there a best time to stop in?
  7. Once you arrive and walk into the shop, take in everything with all your senses. Does the staff great you warmly, or blow you off with a nod? Is the lobby separate from the tattooing area? Is the overall feeling clean, neat and business like or messy and dirty? Does the tattoo area have a washable floor covering or is it carpet? Dust and smudge marks on the displays and portfolios? Is the music too loud and jarring or fun and upbeat? Ask to use the bathroom. My dad always said "you cant trust eating the food in a restaurant that has dirty bathrooms." WORDS TO LIVE BY- THANKS DAD! -  Watch the staff do their jobs. Do they answer the phone in dirty gloves, or even worse, then go right back to their work without changing them? Food particles on tattoo or piercing work areas? Are you getting a good vibe from the entire place or just feel like you want to walk out? ALWAYS listen to your gut.
  8. Speak to the staff. Do they answer your questions thoughtfully and want to be helpful, or do they act as if you are bothering them?( Do keep in mind tattoo shop staff are not going to kiss your ass, and if they fall all over you trying to convince you to get tattooed RIGHT NOW, with fake charm, they are desperate for work, and that means something isn't right.) Staff should be cool, but not cold. Does your artist listen? Or talk all over your sentence? Good tattooers listen to everything you have to say about the design so they can do the best job they are capable of. You might want to skip the parts about the "reason I am getting purple in the tattoo is because it was my great grandmothers favorite color and she died 10 years ago with her cat in her lap while watching church on television." See what I mean? Too much information for the artist, but tell your friends on Facebook when you post a picture of the tattoo you LOVE, from a shop you liked very much because YOU DID YOUR HOMEWORK AND GOT A GREAT TATTOO AND HAD FUN WHILE GETTING IT! 
  9. Many good shops require a Drawing and/or Appointment deposit. It is not to be "mean" or because they don't like you. Each shop reasons vary. At Lucky 7 we charge the drawing deposit because it shows real intent from the potential client to get tattooed. Sadly some people like to waste an artist time by having them draw designs they cannot afford or having the artist draw all kinds of different designs so they can "see the tattoos man, and think them over til I get some money and figure out if I really want any of them." Artist are happy to draw for you more than once. But they want to know that the design is going to become a tattoo soon. Appointment deposits are to avoid customers having to wait around all day to get tattooed. Sadly, when no money is required for an appointment, some folks book the artist time not even sure they really are going to go through with getting the tattoo. Rude people don't even call to cancel. By then the shop has most likely turned away other customers who have called or come in for a tattoo. So the artist and shop then have no one getting ink, and therefore make no money for hours that day. At Lucky 7 we always use the deposits toward the total price of the tattoos. BUT they are non refundable, so make sure you have everything lined up for work and babysitters.
10. For everyones comfort, please do not bring your entire family and every friend you have. Of course bring your best friend, spouse, priest  - whoever you enjoy having around for companionship when you are nervous. Or if they are an important part in your personal story of the tattoo. That is totally cool. We want you to relax as much as you can and enjoy the moment. Please, no children under 12. Most shops never allow kids. We do not "hate" children folks. Sometimes adults are partially nude while getting tattooed. Even with room dividers it may not be comfy for them to have children around. Kids get bored with how slow the tattoo process is. In some cities, you must be 18 years old to even enter.

Black and grey skulls by Russell Fortier at Lucky 7 Tattoo
Kings Beach/North lake Tahoe, California

    Lucky Koi  by Corey Boobar @
    Lucky 7 Tattoo and Piercing, Kings Beach/North Lake Tahoe, Ca.            

    We have covered some new territory than previous blog "tattoo shop/what to look for" lists. A few of the other most common things to know are all over the web. The information is worth a look. Most of the contents are about sterile needle packs, gloves, etc. The easiest way to remember that boring yet important shop sanitation stuff is this:
    The tattoo shop staff should be just as conscientious as any support staff you would see in a doctors office. Changing their gloves after the touch anything besides you. All needles being removed from sterile, single use packaging. Autoclave spore test available. (This test, by an outside lab, makes sure the shops sterilizer is working properly at all times.) All areas wiped down after use.

    Thanks for reading. Hope you found it helpful. if you have questions feel free to email me. If you enjoyed this blog, please click any ad on this page that may interest you and recommend it to a friend. Check out my personal blog

Aztec by Russell Fortier at Lucky 7 Tattoo and Piercing,
Kings Beach / north Lake Tahoe, California

Jessica Rabbit By Russell Fortier @ Lucky 7 Tattoo
Kings Beach / North lake Tahoe, California