I visited Gilded Cage the week it opened. I asked the gentleman behind the counter in the shop who I needed to speak to about getting a tattoo. He replied, Me. James. We arranged an initial consultation two weeks later.
I returned two weeks later with reference material. I was told that my first appointment would be in March the next year, so could I bring my reference material back in January? I was nervous about getting tattooed again so I had half a year to be sure of my design.
The year flew by so in January I posted a t-shirt and some internet print outs through the door. James made some notes in our initial consultation, I figured my reference material was just what he needed to pull everything together.
I chased up James at the start of March. I was a little worried because I hadn't seen the design. I had a bad experience with my previous tattoo and I was nervous that would happen again. (It was with a reputable artist in London, I had sent her a deposit and a description. I kept asking to see the designs but I received no reply. I didn't see the design until the morning of the tattoo, but back then I was shy and didn't want to cause any fuss - so I went ahead and got it tattooed. I stupidly quit half way through because I figured the more detail put on the tattoo, the harder it would be to cover up when I do get a cover up. Now I use that tattoo as a reminder about what happens when I don't speak up! I've learnt my lesson.)
I chased up James in March. He asked to see my reference material again. I got a little worried because the t-shirt I posted was no longer manufactured. That t-shirt was found in a charity shop and it had a filigree design and lines that I knew I wanted so badly. Luckily, I had a similar image. I was so nervous that I wouldn't like the design.
The week of the tattoo I still hadn't seen a design. I told myself that if I didn't like it I'd just turn away. The night before I had a sudden panic attack I hope James hasn't designed a reallife owl. Because I had visualized an owl design I had seen on his facebook months before and I wondered if it was mine, I figured if it was he would've sent a copy to me. I emailed James to remind him I wanted a stylized owl. If anything, a tattoo looking like a silver owl pendant.
The next morning dragged. Despite having sat a couple of hours for my first tattoo and knowing I needed to be well-nourished, I couldn't sleep or eat. I was terrified. Not just because of the pain, but the fear of a bad design.
At noon and went into the studio and Fifi immediately made me feel relaxed. I saw my design and I immediately realized it was not what I had envisioned. I got a little bit panicky and spoke to James about my concerns. He had designed it before he received my email about what the stylized owl. He talked me through my reference material and explained that he didn't tattoo the style I had requested. I explained what I liked about the filigree, I liked the idea of darkness but I didn't want to lose the delicacy.
We looked at the design some more. James described what would work aesthetically. After half an hour we had found a design I felt sure of. I knew I liked the linework and James was able to incorporate some filigree into the owl's chest.
It felt like an hour or more was spent placing the transfer. It made the anticipation even more unbearable.
To this day, I don't know how I got through the outline session. I felt like I was going to tap out after a couple of hours. I found out James grew up in the same town as me. I don't remember talking and I can't remember much of the 90s R&B music playing. I just remember waiting for the needle to leave my skin again.
The end of that March day was exciting. I had my first tattoo in over for years. I loved the design so much I would've been happy keeping the outline. In fact, I remember thinking about cancelling my shading session because I was afraid that my love for dark work would distract from the detail of the feathers.
When I first got tattooed I decided only to get my non-visible areas tattooed. I knew people would discriminate, but I also felt the duty to protect people from being offended. Since then, I've become politicized and I now know my body is my own. That realization made me decide it was time to get a chestpiece. I've wanted one for ages. They look cool. And I can always cover up when I visit my Mum (yes, I know! I'm a wuss when it comes to Mum).
I was pleasantly surprised at all the positive feedback I get about my tattoo. I'm sure there are people who don't like it, but they haven't said anything to me. I was expecting to get people abusing me (I come from a small town, where my cheek piercings once caused a ruckus on a bus). But I get people complimenting me on a weekly basis.
My confidence has soared. I wear more fashionable clothes (though I have been told my sense of fashion is revealing cute bag lady) and I just feel like I have reclaimed by body. I'd like to do some academic research into tattoos reclaiming bodies - if you have advice/interest holla' at me.
My shading session was in May. Now that I had sat for a few hours for the outline I felt comfortable with the shading. Shading seems to be less painful anyway. I couldn't believe James could make my tattoo look dark and keep the detail. He has. I completely trust his artistic version.
image via gildedcagetattoostudio.tumblr.com
submitted by: ninamarie
on: 28 June 2013
in Wildlife and Nature Tattoos
Artist: James Robinson
Studio: Gilded Cage