armpit tattoos - two of my favourite things
This is the story of how I came to have a pork pie and a bottle of cider tattooed in my armpits.
I have a lot of tattoos already, and decided a few years ago that I was aiming at a complete bodysuit, leaving no skin untattooed. This would mean tattooing a lot of awkward places such as armpits, backs of knees, genitals and the rest. When I started getting tattooed I had no real plan, but since getting a few very large pieces I have been thinking more and more about the overall look I want to create. One of my arms is already sleeved, and I have a large rib piece underneath, leaving my whole armpit blank. I wanted to get something in that space to join everything together, but didn't have a clue what to do.
The idea for the pie and cider bottle have been in my mind for a while. Pie and cider is the best combination of food for a meal, in my opinion. A good quality cold meat pie plus some rough cider is true happiness. I knew I wanted them tattooed on me, and my partner suggested I get it on my buttock. I vetoed this as I plan to eventually have a full backpiece of one single giant image extending from the back of my head to the bottom of my arse, so that was out of the question. Anyway, one night I was at Into You. I'd just got some work done by Xed Le Head and I was waiting around for him to finish tattooing my partner so we could go home, when I got talking to Duncan.
I had seen lots of Duncan's work before, as his station in the studio is right across from Xed and I have always really liked what he does. His work tends to be black and grey, with very strong, thick outlines. The whole look is remeniscent of woodcut prints and is very clean and distinctive. I knew I wanted something from him but didn't have a clue what.
Anyway, we were sitting in the waiting area having a cup of tea and I told him I'd quite like a pie and a cider bottle tattoo. He asked me where I wanted it, and I said I didn't know, then jokingly suggested my armpits, expecting him to say no. Instead he said it was quite a good idea, as I have a lot of 'serious' tattoos on the rest of my body and if these were in my armpits, then I could show them to people if I wanted, but otherwise they would be invisible. I thought about this for a couple of days, then thought, hey, you only live once, so I went back to the studio to make the appointment.
Into You is my favourite studio, and I think that pretty much every tattoo I get in the future will be done by someone there. Everyone who works there is not only a phenomenal artist, but also truly enthusiastic about what they do. It's impossible to go there and not leave feeling thoroughly inspired.
I sat down with Duncan and he got his sketchbook out, and started to draw. I loved the quick sketches he did, they were exactly what I had imagined, apart from one thing... they were huge. I asked him how big he intended to do the actual tattoos and he told me the size he was drawing now. I was a bit shocked, I was expecting to get something no bigger than 5 by 5cm, but these were a good 3 times the size. I voiced my concern, but he explained to me that to properly fill the space I had they needed to be big or they would look a bit lost and it would be hard to see what they were. I knew he was right, after all, he is the artist, so we selected a date for the tattoos, I paid my deposit and I left, feeling both excited and apprehensive. As the day of my appointment grew closer, I began to worry about what I was letting myself in for. I asked a few friends with armpit tattoos how it was (and I mean a FEW friends, armpit tattoos seem to be relatively rare), and I got a range of responses from painless to excruciating. I searched on BME as well, but I couldn't find a single experience relating to armpit tattooing. The only thing I had as a guideline was remembering how painful my sleeve was when it got near the armpit. Both times (the initial tattoo and the coverup) it made me cry and swelled horrendously. I also asked Alex, the owner of Into You how it was, and he told me that it would not be as bad as I was expecting. All I knew was I didn't have a clue what to expect. The day of my appointment dawned, and I headed to Farringdon. I stopped at a pub on the way for some orange juice (alcohol would have been a silly idea) and some food, and headed over to the studio. I was greeted by Duncan, who told me that in fact he would only be tattooing one of my armpits today, as doing both would cause me problems with moving around and be quite annoying to heal. I was really thankful about this, so I went to wash off my deodorant and he applied the stencil of the pie. I lay down on the bench and braced myself for agony and... ...it was just fine. Tickly in a few spots but totally bearable. I started to laugh and Duncan stopped and asked me if I was ok. I told him not to worry, just that the pain level was a pleasant surprise, and he got on with it. Once all the lining was done we both went out for a cigarette break, then it was back to it, with all the black ink in the middle of the pie and the greywash shading on the crust. It hurt more as time wore on, and I must confess that the outer parts of the tattoo where it goes onto my inner arm and where it gets near my ribs at the bottom, were pretty painful. Dncann is a true perfectionist, and I thought we were done at least three times, but no, I had to lay back down so he could touch up a tiny imperfection he had noticed. I didn't mind at all, in fact it was great to be tattooed by someone who takes such an obvious pride in his work. He cleaned me up and I looked in the mirror, and I was astonished. It was just amazing. (I found out later that he had purchased an actual meat pie and done my drawing from it, a fact that makes me really happy.) Clingfilm was taped over the fresh tattoo, and I put my clothes back on, paid, and set the appointment for me to get the cider bottle a few weeks later. Healing this tattoo was a pain in the bum (oops, sorry, armpit), and far worse than the actual tattooing. I looked after it just like any other tattoo I've had, and the majority healed within five days, apart from one crack right across the middle of the pie where my arm folds. This part was scabbed for about two weeks and I was worried it would scar or that I would lose ink, but my worries were unfounded and it came out just fine. Yesterday I went back to get the cider bottle in my left armpit to complete the project. The process of the tattoo was much the same as getting the pie, apart from Duncan had a lot more freedom with where to position the stencil since I have no existing tattoo work on my inner left arm. The linework was once again almost painless, but this was certainly a more painful tattoo than the pie. I think the reason for this is the bottle is shaded first with lots of little close-together lines in black, with some soft grey shading over the top. Once the lines were done I went to smoke a cigarette and when Duncan started the shading it really bloody hurt. It was, however, not a 'this is a painful spot on the body' pain, more of a 'my skin is already swollen and sore, why are you going over it again' pain. It was over before I knew it though, and once it was all done I was ecstatic. It feels great to finally have the pair.
I will be treating this tattoo the same as the pie for healing, so I can estimate that it will be at least two weeks before it is all fully healed. I am very happy with my tattoos. They have filled up some awkward spaces (although I am very glad I only have two armpits), and they look great. They make me smile every time I see them, and I think they are proof that tattoos that aren't entirely serious can be very artistic and look great from an aesthetic point of view. Duncan did an excellent job, and I would heartily recommend him to anybody. As well as being a great tattoo artist, he's also a lovely chap and it's a pleasure to spend time with him, whether getting tattooed or not. I'll certainly be back for more from him, and I am in the planning stages of a large piece to go on my inside left thigh. I will add good quality photos of my armpit tattoos to BME just as soon as they are both healed up.
submitted by: Anonymous
on: 01 May 2008