Getting heavily tattooed in Australia
m not certain how many people suddenly decide to become heavily tattooed. Certainly in
my case, the decision happened gradually.
I had always wanted tattoos since I was pretty young, like about six or seven, although it was another ten years before I got my first. The first one was a snake on my right bicep and I was pretty damned proud of it. The pain was nothing to what I thought it would be and once it was healed, I found myself admiring it often. So often in fact, I thought it really needed a friend, and less than a month later I had a large peacock put on my other bicep. That, as the say was the start of it.
Back in the early 80's, tattooing here in Australia still wasn't admired by as many people as it is today and you were more or less a thug, which I really wasn't in a bad way, to have tattoos. Still that stigma did not particularly influence my decision to get more. Of course, most of my mates had them and a couple were fairly heavily tattooed by their late teens and once I had my third, a dragon place on the left of my chest, one of these dudes said there would be no stopping me now. I remember asking him what he meant and he said some guys get one or two and then stop, but if someone went back for a third, you could almost guarantee they'd become an addict.
That is an interesting statement. If you look around you see quite a few people with one or two but you see more reasonable heavily tattooed people (by that I mean over six pieces) than say three. I don't quite know why. At that stage though, I honestly had no intention of say getting a full body coverage. That sounded too extreme. Six or so months after that third tattoo and several wild arguments with my parents, I had added a couple more on the upper arms and calves.
Of course, with the mates I mixed with, bar the two mentioned previously only a couple of us had regular sessions at the local studio. It was a pretty rank joint and looking back today; there would be absolutely no way it would ever pass the health regulations today. Still, at the time, it was pretty much run of the mill and we did not know any different in any case.
We would head there with some beers and sit on raggy looking couches and wait for our turn
in the chair. The ashtray was always full in the waiting area before we got there and the flash was
stuck up, stained on the walls on loosely on a couple of tables. There wasn't much scope design wise
and the bloke always shat himself if you asked for any alteration to the design. If you did, he would
painstakingly change the transfer; a process that took so long, for something that really was pretty
simple that you began to regret ever asking for it. Compared to today however, it was pretty cheap.
Although given the hygiene situation, it is probably a good thing the place is no longer there.
On one of these Saturday sessions, one of the guys asked the tattooist (I call him a tattooist now because, he really wasn't much of an artist in all honesty) to put a couple of blue-birds on either side of his neck. We all thought this was a pretty wild idea this mate Matty had, although the tattooist wasn't too sure. Taking a swig on one of the cans we provided for him (always hoping he'd knock something of the cost of the tatt - which he usually did) he relented rather easily and began on Matty's neck. He waited, for some reason, until he'd just begun, to tell Matty that he hoped he realised people would probably geek at him all the time now. Matty just laughed and said something real gung-ho like 'let 'em'. Well in no time he was done and we all admired the work. Matty thought he was pretty cool.
Anyway one of the other guys went next and I cant really remember now exactly what he got because the three of us sat and spun some bull and drank and listened to the footy. By the time it was my turn, I'd had a few, not totalled of course, but a few and told the old bloke I'd get the birds like Matty got. By this time, the old bloke I reckon had also had a few and put up no objection and of course Matty was pretty keen for me to get them too and in no time I was on the chair, stencilled and outlined. Once the outline began, I started to think in my head 'fuck what am I doing' but didn't want to look a chicken in front of my mates.
They didn't take long to do and I must say I hardly felt a thing. Whether or not that was the booze, I can't say, although I'd had more booze than that before and felt more pain - especially on the chest. I looked in the mirror and saw them both. I couldn't actually see them both face on, still cant! But there they were each in the centre of the side of the neck.
After this we all went back to one of the guy's houses and watched the rest of the footy went out that night somewhere and I got home about 1am. In the morning when I got up and had a shower I looked in the mirror and thought, "FUCK!". I didn't exactly not like them, just there were in a place where they would be always on view.
Needless to say the shit hit the roof when I finally went out and face my folks. My dad freaked one a beauty, in face he even called me a freak. My mum cried, of course, and said I'd get the sack from my job. At almost 19, I was still in my apprenticeship as a painter and that was a very likely possibility. It didn't help to have Matty arrive to pick me up to go out.
Luckily, my boss called me friggin' idiot but didn't give me the sack and at 37 I'm still painting away.
I now have half sleeves that have been reworked, a full back job of colour bio-mechanical, chest covered. My legs are pretty much as were and my latest piece was a dolphin on my hand - I kinda figure now once you got your neck done placement isn't really that important. Occasionally I get the odd look from someone in the street but not so much these days. I really love my tattoos and at 37 am a very happy heavily tattooed bloke, although I guess, it would not suit anyone.
If any other tattoo devotees would like to get in touch you can get me at email@example.com
submitted by: Anonymous
on: 15 May 1998