Things your tattoo artist doesn’t tell you (Part One)

empathy overloadThe tattoo we do for you is just a tattoo. For me, it’s a way to make something awesome that someone gets to keep forever no matter what. It’s not ‘therapy’, ‘psychology’, or some kind of healing…for you it may serve some of those purposes but that does NOT HAVE TO INVOLVE ME. It’s not my place to heal you, listen to your life story, or pick up your emotional weight for you.

If you use your tattoo for healing that is great. Tattoos can do that. But be careful of anyone who claims THEY can heal you, that they are the one doing it. They’re not. It’s YOU doing it.

If they say they can heal you? They’re just as sheisty as any snake-oil peddler.

I don’t need to know why you are getting a tattoo. In fact I usually would rather NOT hear the long tale of woe or history behind your decisions. I can’t see your tattoo from my house, I can’t fix you, my knowledge of your reasons isn’t going to make the tattoo better at all. It might in fact distract me from my actual job; making something beautiful that you will want to look at until you’re ancient.

Sometimes, a tattoo is funny, or offbeat enough that I ask why. This isn’t because I can help you, or anything like that. It’s because I, the person, not the tattooer, not some shaman- just geeky little me as a person, am curious about it. I like getting to know people! I like you guys, my clients. A lot. You’re awesome people. Which is why I don’t want to know you as “dead uncle lady”- you know?

If I am having a good day at work, and about to draw some beautiful floral piece on you, and you remind me that it is because your baby was killed by dingoes, I AM NOW SAD. I’m human. I have to go on with my day and be ok for the next person AFTER YOU. When you leave the shop, someone else is next. I understand that you’ve been led to believe that telling me a sad story is part of the process. It’s not.

Remember, we’re at work.

I know on TV you see people with these long amazing stories and shit, and they have to tell the artist all about their cousin who was hit by lightning while fishing in the carribbean after losing his arm to a monster lizard…but trust me when I say that IN REAL LIFE artists don’t really care about any of that. Your backstory is just that- YOUR story. When you talk to people about your work, tell it! These stories have meaning, they’re important. But you don’t need to inform your artist about every bit of related information that’s ever happened in your life.

They do that on TV to fill time. To make it more than just “watch a dude get tattooed”. Because people like watching shows that explain why other people do things.
Unlike the TV viewing public, tattoo artists know that there are a thousand and one reasons to get tattooed. We don’t need it explained to us. You don’t have to justify your choices to us. WE LOVE TATTOOS. We are glad you are getting one. You’re under no obligation to explain yourself.

I think the TV shows have also made you guys think you need to cram as much meaning as possible into a single tiny tattoo. NO! You don’t need to incorporate every last one of your relatives by name, or every significant date. Why not get an image of an object that represents “FAMILY”? It will work, it will have all that meaning. And it won’t be a mess of scribble.

Because the thing is, EVERYONE has a backstory. When we’re getting a tattoo, it’s the only tattoo we get that day, week, month. When you’re doing a tattoo, it’s the third of four that day, the fifteenth of twenty that week, the fortieth of sixty that month. SIXTY LONG DEPRESSING STORIES ABOUT DEAD PEOPLE; no, that isn’t a fair weight to put on the shoulders of someone who has to also draw something awesome on you AND keep you safe while doing it.

I mean, by all means, use the tattoo process for your own healing. bring your headphones with your music. bring your dead best friend’s old, smelly shirt to hold on to. bring your healing wishes and your shaman vibe. But that’s not our job, tattooers are tattooing you, not doling out (unlicensed) therapy.

I know I’ve posted about this before, but recent developments have prompted me to write it all over again, just now.

I love you guys- my clients. Some of you, I get close to, all of you, you can tell me anything. Just be aware that I’m not magical- at least not the way some might think.

(Also omg tons of you guys read this! part two will be up soon. in the meantime, go check out my horror coloring book!



PPS: part two is here!