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Bad tattooist/good tattooist

Everyone gets tattoos for difference reasons. I guess the reason that I started getting them was because it felt like my body was incomplete somehow and that by getting it decorated, it was making it prettier to my own eye. Piercings never really took to me, having had rejected navels and nipple, I wasn't used that heartbreak when you have to retire a piercing. Tattoos were always more beautiful albeit permanent adornments.

Unfortunately for some reason my tattoo choices have been quite impulsive, going with designs that I chose on the spur of the moment instead of choosing the ones that I'd been deliberating over for months. I had this light blue coloured shooting star on my arm when I was nineteen and I'd spent five years trying to think of ways to cover it up. I wasn't even sure that it could get covered up.

I had found a lovely design that I took from a craft stamp of a bouquet of lilies and initially wanted to get them tattooed on my rib cage. But I soon abandoned that idea for two reasons, one because apparently the ribs are a really sore place to have a tattoo and secondly, because I wanted to get the old one fixed before I start new ones.

I hadn't been in Aberdeen for long so I wasn't sure where to go for a tattoo. I'd heard bad things about some places, with tattooists not being too friendly but that was word of mouth, not personal experience. The other places were far too busy, having appointments booked until August (this was in December)

I found a shop that was pretty quiet and the counter staff were standing around talking.

I should have seen this as an alarm bell but I was so happy to have found somewhere that wasn't busy. The tattooist there told me that they could book me in the next week and they would only charge me £150. I was surprised, I was expecting about double that price (again, I should have took this as a bad omen) so I gave them my design and skipped back down the street.

A week went by and I was really excited - as we all get when we're going to get ink - but there was something amiss. I'd been tattooed many times before and I wasn't used to dealing with someone so quiet and nervous looking. He sat me down in this tiny room where this other girl was sitting about to get her foot tattooed and went away to have a cigarette. I knew the piercer from when he used to work elsewhere so I spoke to him for a bit before my artist came back and went to work.

What I noticed was that it was taking a long time. It was hard to judge how much time has passed especially when I had no watch or clock nearby. The outline looked like it had gone on okay once he had done it. He put some ointment on, wrapped it in cling film and sat me out in reception whilst he had another cigarette.

When he started putting the colour in, I noticed that the colour he was using wasn't really the colours we had discussed the week before. I'd told him that I wanted dark purples but the colours he was putting in was blue. Maybe I should have said something but something stopped me. I think that perhaps I was scared to, I mean, I hate to be the person that points out his oversight. He was also using this big flat chisel like needle that I'd never seen before to put the blue in. It didn't seem like he was colouring in the whole flower, just colouring in the middle parts and it looked pretty sparse.

I did ask him what the needle was and he told me that it was called a magnum and was used for large expanses of colour.

After five hours, he told me that I would have to come back in January to get it finished. Other people (the piercer, the other tattooist and some kid that hanging around the shop) came in the room and oohed and aahed about how "great" it looked but I couldn't let myself get excited. I knew something was wrong. I paid my £150, took the recommended tattoo soap and left, somewhat dissatisfied and in a hurry since the kid hanging around the shop was really keen to walk me to my car.

A week later, I knew something was definitely wrong. My arm was swollen to three times its size almost which I knew it would swell but not this bad surely? The skin was cracked where the tattoo was and it looked so different to when I had my half sleeve done on the other arm. It was so sore and after a while of carefully following the instructions on the tattoo soap, balm and cream bottles, I ended up getting little whiteheads all around the skin on my arm. My tattoo was infected.

I wasn't altogether sure what to do because I really didn't want to go back to the place where I had it done. I called the tattooist I should have went to in the first place and spoke to Chris there. He told me that he knew who did my arm even before I had told him because I wasn't the first person to complain about a badly done tattoo. I asked him if there was any chance that I could get someone there to fix it and he told me to come in by and see one of the guys there.

I felt relieved in a way, because I finally admitted to myself that there was a problem with my arm, despite being in denial for a little while. I also felt relieved that I wasn't the only one who had this problem with this studio. It made me feel less stupid.

When I got there, the tattooists were busy so Chris gave me a cup of tea and sat me down on the sofa. We chatted for a while, I told my story and he told me that I wasn't the first person to have a bad tattoo done by that guy. He wanted to see it and he was pretty appalled at what he saw. Moments later, Stix and Kev, the two tattooists came out to see me and they were outraged at how bad my arm was. Stix asked me if he could take pictures of it to put on his website. I obliged.

He then went on to tell me how just because you can draw, it doesn't make you a good tattooists. He went on a long rant about how Miami Ink has encouraged people to think that just anyone can do something he's spent twenty years hard work doing. He told me that he wasn't telling me off but it's important to go to a tattooist who's reputable and that I should have went with my gut instinct.

He told me, having said that, he would fix it for me and booked me in for February.

February comes around and I end up in the chair again. Even going over the outline again makes it seem so much better. He manages to do the leaves, outline and two of the flowers before my two hour session is due to end. He doesn't want to traumatise the skin anymore because it's still a little fragile after my bad experience in December.

My arm looks amazing at the end of the session, it's getting finished at the end of March and I'm so excited.

I guess I learned a harsh, not to mention expensive lesson about tattooists. They're very much like doctors, you want to put your trust into them because they're dealing with an important part of your body. Infection is always possible as is badly done ink. If I ever go anywhere I'm not familiar with again, I'll make sure I see some portfolios first or even better, if I get recommended by a friend a place.

Oh, and by the way, that guy at the first tattooist, he eventually got fired.


submitted by: Anonymous
on: 26 March 2008
in Tattoos

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Artist: Stix
Studio: Draconian
Location: Aberdeen

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