Oh Christ! More?!?
"Oh Christ! More!?!" cried my best friend, horror on her face, upon seeing the newest piece of body art to grace my skin. It was the latest addition, my 5th tattoo, and I'd neglected to tell her I was getting anything new.
I've been fascinated with body art (but especially tattoos) from an early age. What others saw as "ugly" or "horrible" I thought were gorgeous forms of self-expression. This early fascination seems a common trait that separates those who crave tattoos and those who
don't. My best friend (in one of her many attempts to dissuade me from getting more ink) sent me a photo of a 60+ woman, walking around mostly naked at what looked like a biker rally, her aging skin absolutely covered in ink. The email was entitled "Are you prepared to look like this in 40 years?!" My gut response was "I'd love to talk to that woman. She looks like a fascinating person to get to know. How cool is that artwork!" Probably not the response my friend was looking for. Heheh.
I was always the quiet girl in school, the one with her nose buried in a book, always handing in her homework on time, getting good marks, never speaking up, never getting into trouble. I went onto university, got myself a PhD (in plant genetics) and have just recently taken time off studying to work as a software programmer for a few years. Not the sort of person you'd expect to be an ink addict.
I had my first two tats done by one artist (no names mentioned, the place has shut down now anyway). A small eye of horus (not exactly original, but I wanted to test the waters first). My bad-ass cool rating with my friends (what little I ever had) pretty much died during that tat. I passed out for 5 seconds near the end (I was too nervous to eat breakfast and didn't know that the shock would make my blood sugar dive so badly). My second was much more personal (a complicated celtic knotwork triple spiral, based on a friend's silver amulet. In a freaky coincidence, she lost the amulet the same day I got my tat). I wasn't happy with the way the knotwork healed. I followed the tattooist's advice, but it led to heavy scabbing, some of which got pulled out and took the ink with it. After that bad healing experience, I took a 2 year break from getting new tats.
8 months ago, I moved to a large city and finally had the money and the time to get more tattoos. I wanted to fix up my celtic, and I had spent 8 years working in a research lab filled with carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals, others that were radioactive, and some that caused "heritable chromosome damage" (according to the bottle). I felt a biohazard symbol would be a public service announcement more than anything.
I wanted to find somewhere new to go for my tats, so I started looking around. I found a couple of recommendations for Kevin's Kustom Tattoos at the Randburg Waterfront and later bumped into a guy with the beginnings of a full sleeve anime tattoo on his arm who had had his work done there. We discussed our respective ink and after I pointed out the bad work on my celtic, he showed me a piece on the back of his neck done by the same artist who had done my celtic. He'd also healed badly and had to have it touched up.
Deciding to take a chance, I grabbed my biohazard symbol and trotted along to Kevin's. There was a shelf full of awards behind the counter (Best Male Tribal, Best Overall Male Tattoo Artist, some from this year), and a thick portfolio book stuffed with photos of previous work.
I wasn't as nervous as I had been for my previous two. A lot of that had to do with the atmosphere in the shop, which was relaxed and the shop was humming. Three sets of needles going at once. A young guy was in getting his first set of tats (his father, with his own large collection of ink, was on hand to snap photos to send to mother to review). Another guy with a full sleeve was getting a touch up. And I was getting my biohazard. There were several other people standing around chatting with the artists and the guys getting inked. The whole atmosphere was welcoming and relaxed. Faadi carefully placed the biohazard on my wrist and got to work. It was weird how this one on my forearm hurt so much less than my last two. The young guy getting the stars turned into the vomiting cavalier about half way through his 5 stars, much to the general amusement of the shop. I was told to put Bepanthen on, 4-5 times a day for the first two weeks, not to soak it in the bath etc. It healed beautifully.
I was back a month later to get a pair of pure black flying ravens done on my shoulder blades (Odin's ravens, Hugin and Munin). I was nervous, since it was the biggest amount of ink I'd had in one sitting. The guy behind the counter was teasing me while he helped me get into position (sitting backwards on the chair, with my arms crossed across my chest). "Ooooooooh! She's nervous!" he singsonged as my tattoo artist started setting up his needles and ink. New needles, new gloves, ink in disposable caps, spray bottles of disinfectant and rolls of clingwrap, generally a good feeling about how the shop handles their hygiene. "Why are you nervous? Come on, it's not your first!"
I tend to bleed heavily when I get tattooed, and I have no idea why. After I'd had my ravens done, I was waiting around watching a coworker from my job get her leg tattooed. I deferred getting my new ink covered up until I left the shop, as the tape tends to irritate the hell out of me. I walked out to the front of the shop to chat to another friend and rather badly freaked out a very nervous Indian woman waiting to have her very first tattoo, a teeny tiny little butterfly. And there I am, walking around, streaks of blood leaking slowly down my back. Sorry, ma'am, hope you got your tattoo after all.
Then I went back two weeks ago to get five Norse symbols done above my biohazard symbol. They spell out W-O-L-F-(MAN), the last symbol either spelling an M or the word MAN. "Wolfman" has been my IRC nick and my online handle for over 13 years (yes, I'm female, and straight. I just love the fact that it confuses the hell out of people). It reminds me of all the fantastic times I had at university, and is a final closure on that part of my life. Like all my previous work by Faadi, it has good clean lines, dense dark filling ink and once the first peeling was over, the final tattoo was just as dense, dark and solid as when he first did it.
I'm the only person amongst my large group of friends to have any ink. And my anti-tattoo friends are just going to have to get over it, because there's going to be a lot more coming (probably two full sleeves eventually). So, if you're looking for good ink in Joburg, go to Kevin's Kustom Tattoos at the Randburg Waterfront.
submitted by: Anonymous
on: 29 May 2008