So, my tattoo is of a dahlia flower on my right rib in memory of my grandmother. My maternal grandparents basically raised my sister and me alongside my parents since we shared a two-apartment house. My grandmother and I had a particularly close bond, and she passed away of ovarian cancer about four years ago on my eighteenth birthday. She was the strongest and most intelligent woman I have ever met, and has been one of my major role models throughout my life. The memory I have of her that inspired my tattoo relates how much of a green thumb she had. Every summer, she would cover every inch of our backyard in countless varieties of flowers and vegetables, but she would grow massive dahlia flowers in particular. She would pull me over every year and show me how much they had grown and expressed how proud she was of them. This memory, along with many others, holds emotional and symbolic significance regarding our relationship and the impact she still has on my life today.
I had been thinking about getting this tattoo ever since she passed, and after three years of my design and placement never changing, I finally gained the courage while studying abroad in London to get it.
Eventually, I just thought to myself: “Screw it, I’m just doing it.”
If she were still alive she would probably hit me and yell about how much she disapproved of my decision, which I personally find hilarious. However, I am solely responsible for my body and my actions. This tattoo is a constant reminder of my infinite gratitude for everything she sacrificed throughout her life and raising me to be the woman I am today.
Tips and My Experience:
If you know me personally, you would know that I need to be as prepared as possible when going into situations. Getting my first tattoo was no exception! I did extensive research on various tattoo parlors in my area, pricing, artists, pain levels, aftercare, and other people’s tattoo stories. Here is a list of tips I came up with as well as some personal anecdotes about my experience:
Do your homework!
Research the parlors you’re interested in
I started my search by going on Google and looking at tattoo parlors in London with the highest ratings. You can also look at Instagram as well! I got mine done at Vagabond Tattoo in London by Andy Hulbert. If you’re interested in his work, check out the Vagabond Tattoo Studio website, the studio’s Instagram, and Andy’s Instagram!
Once you find a parlor (or a few) you like, you can always pop into the parlor and just check the place out. See if the people working there are nice and welcoming, and if the parlor itself is clean. Parlors that are professional and popular are used to people just popping in, and it’s not a big deal at all if you don’t book anything right then and there. However, if they try to push you to make an appointment, GET OUT OF THERE. This means that they don’t get much business and they have to pressure you to get yours!
Also, look at the parlor’s pricing. Usually parlors will have a shop minimum, and if you’re not getting a tiny tattoo, an hourly rate in addition. Keep in mind that price should not make or break the parlor you choose. You’re paying an artist for their work, and good tattoos are going to be more expensive. When you go in either to check out the parlor or for a consultation, show the artist a picture of your idea and describe the approximate size. They should be able to give you an estimate of the price of your tattoo, as well as approximately how long it will take to complete. Mine was £140 total and took about 45 minutes from start to finish. When you do enough research and compare prices, you’ll have a good sense of what price is worth it.
Research your artist
When you are looking into specific artists at parlors, check out their portfolios of past work they have done. Usually you can find them on the parlor’s website or a physical copy when you actually go in for a visit. Also, nowadays many artists have their work on Instagram, so be sure to check if they have their work posted there too!
When you’re looking at the artist’s portfolio, be sure to note the artist’s style of tattooing. DO NOT go to an artist who doesn’t specialize in the style you’re looking for! Although they might be able to do what you’re asking for, they might not be good at it. You’re much better off finding an artist who matches your style and has the skills to execute what you want.
Consider your aftercare process
Usually, people want to get tattoos right before the summer so they can show their fresh ink off at the beach (or whatever they say…) Please don’t do this! Depending on the size and detail of your tattoo, it can take a while to fully heal. While it’s healing, you shouldn’t swim, tan, and you should keep it clean. For me, I had trips planned for warm places a month after I got my tattoo, so I asked my artist if I should get my tattoo done before or after that trip. Thankfully, since mine is pretty small and doesn’t have much shading, he said that it would be healed after two weeks. If you know you will be unable to care for it properly, get your tattoo at a more appropriate time.
Aftercare is equally, if not more important than getting the actual tattoo. Most people get botched tattoos from a lack of aftercare. Pay attention to what your artist recommends, and ONLY what your artist recommends. Your artist knows how his or her tattoos heal and how to take care of it best, so don’t follow other people’s instructions you find on the Internet.
Make sure you’ll be happy with the tattoo you’re going to get.
I know people always say things like, “you know, it’s permanent,” which can get incredibly annoying, but it’s true! This is going to be on your body for the rest of your life (unless you want to potentially endure a cover up or an expensive laser removal), so make sure it’s something you like. I personally don’t think a tattoo necessarily has to have a meaning or significance. You can get a tattoo just because you like it and think it looks cool, but just make sure it’s something you’re going to enjoy for a long time. My suggestion would be to put a design or sketch of it somewhere where you’ll see it everyday. Maybe you can put a picture of it on your bedroom mirror or save it as your computer or phone wallpaper. If you’re not sick of it after a long period of time, go for it.
Consider the placement of your tattoo.
Look 10 years ahead. Again, this tattoo is going to be on your body for the rest of your life, so consider where you’re going to be in 10 years. If you’re considering going into a profession such as being a doctor or lawyer, would a highly visible tattoo hinder your opportunities and success? Unfortunately, society has not advanced enough where it can accept tattooed people as just people, so take that into account.
No pain, no gain. Also when considering placement, think about the pain level. If you know you have a low pain tolerance, maybe reconsider getting that rib tattoo as your first one. Pain for each part of the body is difficult to determine because each person has their own experiences and tolerances. Personally, I have a decently high pain tolerance. In my experience, the outline was the least painful. For 90% of the time, I would rate it a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10. It was uncomfortable, but not painful. At certain parts though, it got up to a 7 or 8 when my artist was working closer to my armpit and my breast. However, he took frequent breaks and so the painful parts lasted only a couple minutes at most. The detailing was a little more painful though since the needle was thinner. My artist compared the feeling to a knife, which was a very accurate statement. It definitely felt sharper, but didn’t exceed a pain level of 7. Tattoos are never pleasant to get, and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying!
Thanks so much for reading! If you have any questions about my experience, don’t hesitate to ask! I am not an expert, but I’ll try to answer to the best of my ability. Thank you to Andy Hulbert and the Vagabond Tattoo Studio for giving me such a beautiful piece of artwork.
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