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Call me jumpy

My husband and I are frequent visitors to the United Kingdom. When in Glastonbury this past April, we stumbled upon an out-of-the-way tattoo shop called Kustom Kulture directly across from a scenic church. We had no choice, of course, but to go in and take a look.

My husband had long wanted to join the ranks of the tattooed, but had never really coordinated the time and money to do so. He made the decision to get his long-awaited tattoo from this shop. I, having 4 other small tattoos, knew exactly what I wanted for my "souvenir" as well. We contemplated our schedules, our finances and our willingness to board our 8 hour flight back to the United States 3 days hence with newly tattooed skin. In addition, we spoke at length with 2 of the artists and finally decided to rearrange our itinerary to include an extra day's stay near Glastonbury so we could return the following day for our appointments.

During the night, we planned to return to Glastonbury early the following morning to seek out books bearing our respective design ideas at the local used book shop. My husband found a suitable design (a Welsh dragon in the middle of a Celtic knotwork band) nearly immediately, while I was far more particular about mine. I am very spiritually connected to the British Isles and wanted a symbolic tattoo. I therefore selected a Book of Kells dragon design and manipulated the image to suit the placement on my lower back between my hips. I loved it. I wanted it kept very simple, without color, to represent a carving rather than an illumination.

I returned to the shop and waited while my husband was having his tattoo done. Mine was supposed to have been done concurrently by the other artist, but his very precise work on another client took far longer than anticipated. As I am sure that client will agree, I would much rather have an artist take his time and do an almost surrealistic job than to have mediocre artwork permanently embedded into my skin by an artist under pressure to complete his work and move on. Even though I was feeling a bit impatient, I wholly understood the wait and obtained permission from the client and the artist to watch while he completed a very detailed sword down the man's spine. Finally, it was my turn to get into the chair.

Because I have other tattoos (an ankle flutterby and 3 adolescence-condoned India inked, needle and thread "tattoos" I had given myself) I was no stranger to the pain associated with them, however, it had been 10 years since I had the butterfly done, so my memory was foggy at best. In hindsight, I should have gone with a smaller tattoo and had it done in a less painful area. My selected design stretched almost from hip to hip across my lower back in a "V" type design. My bravado (the artist had actually asked my husband if I would chicken out) did not serve me well that day.

I straddled the chair with its back pressed against my stomach while my lower back and butt were exposed as the artist's canvas. When the gun began to do its work I immediately thought that there was no way I could last through the entire session, but my pride kept me seated and silent, well...at least for awhile. I want to stress that Luke, the artist, was extremely kind, patient and kept talking to me to ease my nerves. Unfortunately, my body had other ideas and I twitched and flinched against my will. Of course, certain areas were considerably easier to tolerate (lower toward my bottom) and others nearly intolerable (like right on my spine and in the flank areas.) This tattoo should have taken about 2-2.5 hours to complete, but because I tensed, flinched and my skin swelled excessively (I think I may have been mildly allergic to the ink as none of my others produced that kind of swelling and I came down with a low-grade fever that evening,) I had to take frequent breaks standing in the crisp spring air to reduce the swelling enough to do a bit more before we repeated the procedure. I felt like a whiny baby and was seriously embarrassed by my reaction, albeit not intentional. I would have killed for some ice! Anyway, after almost 5 hours, I could take no more and we stopped. I will need to have it detailed a bit and perhaps boldly outlined to cover the slight imperfections from the swelling distortion. The tattoo does not look "incomplete" as it is, but there are obvious marks where I jumped or flinched.

I am still very happy with the work Luke did for me that day under such adverse conditions. It is a shame I do not live closer so I could come back again and give him a 2nd opportunity to touch up his art (but he is likely glad I cannot easily return ;)) Still, if it had been someone less experienced, I believe my tattoo would be unsightly with the amount of flinching I did.

He kindly placated me by telling me that the lower spine is one of the most painful areas on which to get tattooed, but I think it was said to make me feel better. If anyone has a comment about that, I would be very interested to hear it. I can be reached at night_shade@england.com. My tattoo photo can be viewed at http://www.angelfire.com/ok2/playwithme/

Misty D. Cerny, St. Paul, MN, USA

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 15 June 1999
in Tattoos

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