Questions You've Always Wanted To Ask Your Tattooist, Answered
The Debrief: Spoiler alert: People have orgasmed mid-tattoo.
There aren’t many people who can say they’ve spent their day jobs inking artwork on somebody’s arse – unless you’re a tattoo artist, that is. We chatted with some of the UK’s top tattooists anonymously, and asked them about all the weird and wonderful aspects of the job. Spoiler alert: People have orgasmed mid-tattoo.
What’s the strangest tattoo request you've ever had?
I once had a guy ask for ‘Kelly Clarkson, are you there? Are you watching me?’ across his back. There was also another guy who wanted Wayne Rooney’s eyes across his bum cheeks! Oh, and a full English breakfast tattoo.
Is there anything you’d refuse to tattoo on someone?
I wouldn’t tattoo anything that went against my personal ethics. I’d refuse anything racist, homophobic, sexist, or anything encouraging hatred or inequality. I also refuse to tattoo people on their hands and necks if they haven’t already got extensive coverage. Or just an idea that I think won’t look good as a tattoo.
Sometimes people can be very stubborn about what they want, but if we refuse, it’s because we know from experience. Oh, and I always advise against names of partners. At least 70% of those who don’t take this advice are back for cover-ups or laser tattoo removal.
What’s the weirdest reaction you’ve had?
I’ve had a lot of people scream and cry. There was once someone who repeatedly told me to fuck off, then would immediately apologise, then do it again. There was also a woman who reached orgasm during a tattoo — true story.
Have you ever made any mistakes while tattooing?
I once put the wrong date for someone’s son’s date of birth and accidentally put it in the future. It was on his back and it was April Fool’s Day when it happened, but I managed to fix it and it looked fine. He was happy afterwards and even tipped me. To this day I don’t know if he realised I actually did it wrong, or thinks I was just playing an April Fool’s joke.
Have you ever tattooed someone that has hated the finished piece?
I once tattooed a woman who seemed happy and thanked me for her tattoo, after multiple opportunities to express any unhappiness at the design before we started. I let her see it in the mirror first, etc. She was totally happy for the whole experience, until two days later when she came back in saying she hated it and felt like she couldn’t wear a T-shirt because she didn’t want to see it on her arm.
It was so awful, but as I said, she had so many opportunities to say no. Just because you book a tattoo, you don’t have to go through with it! I had a man book in once who was fine until I had the machine in my hand, about to start and he freaked out. I told him to not worry about it because I’d rather have an afternoon with nothing to do than do something someone would be unhappy with.
Has anyone started up an awkward conversation while you were tattooing?
People use tattooists as their therapists all the time. I know so many intimate details of people’s lives because you’re basically paying for hours of one-on-one time with a relative stranger whom you can trust. It’s nice that people feel that comfortable but it can be a bit too much at times.
I like to talk to people while I work but I don’t want to have a really heavy conversation with someone that will bum me out for the rest of the day.
Do you have any tattoos you’re embarrassed about?
The ones I did on myself when I was learning. I hate the idea of people judging my ability now by something I did six years ago. I also have a pokéball on my arm that I tend to hide away...
What’s the most awkward experience you’ve had while tattooing?
A poor young girl once got her period unexpectedly (and quite heavily) mid-tattoo. I also had three hours of evil glaring from a customer getting her ribs done, and a customer who puked. There was also a guy that booked in for a portrait of his girlfriend, but came to see us on the quiet before the consultation to request that we make it not look too much like her!
Like this? You might also be interested in...
Follow Amber on Twitter: @amberlouiseb
At work? With your gran?
You might want to think about the fact you're about to read something that wouldn't exactly get a PG rating