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Tattoo - "A tattoo is a marking made by inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment for artistic, ritualistic or other reasons. Tattoos on humans are a type of decorative body modification, while tattoos on animals are most commonly used for identification or branding" (Wikipedia:'11)
I thought i would write a review on tattooing as it is something that is apparent in my life at the moment and is also something that seems to spark controversy and varied opinion. If you are someone who has already got a tattoo, you may relate to some of what i am saying. If you do not have a tattoo, you may also relate to what i am saying, and if you are thinking of getting a tattoo, then hopefully this piece will give you some insight into the topic and some of the pros and cons to be aware of.
Now, firstly i should start by saying that i am no expert in tattooing and only have my own pieces that i have had done to draw on for experience. What i would like to talk to you about is how tattoos are undertaken, some of the views you may find regarding this 'artform', my own experiecne of tattoing and opinion.
So, WHAT DOES TATTOOING INVOLVE?
Well, tattoing has been around dating from the fourth to fifth millennium BC,and have 'served as rites of passage, marks of status and rank, symbols of religious and spiritual devotion, decorations for bravery, sexual lures and marks of fertility, pledges of love, punishment, protection, and as the marks of outcasts, slaves and convicts''. Traditionally, tattoos have have been undertaken using different techniques, from cutting designs into the skin and rubbing the resulting wound with ink, ashes or other agents, Ouch! and unbelievably some cultures continue this practice. In Japan, tattoos are "hand-poked," that is, the ink is inserted beneath the skin using non-electrical, hand-made and hand held tools with needles of sharpened bamboo or steel. This method is known as tebori'. - Information has been taken from Wikipedia: 2011.
Luckily In the western society, tattoo machines do the job very quickly and efficiently, but if you have never seen them, they are very industrial looking pieces of equipment, something you would see out of Terminator (i thought the first time i had had one done). They are metal in make-up and use elctro-magnetic coils to deliver between 1-8 (maybe more) needles into the skin at any one time to give you your tattoo. Colours/ pigments are used, as the needles are dipped into these prior to tattooing your skin - and there, you have your tattoo. There is of course more to it, but i will explain the process i went through when talking about my experience. I should also state that you have to be 18 in England to be tattoed and should not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Tattoos for as long as i can remember have very mixed reactions. I remember as a child, crossing the road when a heavily tattooed and pierced gentleman was walking towards me, and walking to the next bus stop as i did not want to sit alone next to someone looking so 'scary'. As an adult i am quite horrified at my perception of tattooing as a child, always with a negative connotation. I believe that in some areas of the world though, that certain tattoos can symbolise causing violence or death to someone and it is a mark of this. I wonder if television years ago has a part to play in my fear at that time about people with tattoos? Using tattooed actors to play the baddies??
In addition, years ago, you would very rarely see a woman with a tattoo, only men, and the typical ships on forearms and bulldogs on the upper arms were popular. My grandfather had a barely legible ship on his forearm and if he were still alive today would be 90! And even now, on an elderly person tattoos do not look overly attractive?! Is this though, because the skin is older and lost elascicity, or the perhaps that tattooing and its equipment has improved so much in recent years.
There was a time when you would fear not getting a job because of a tattoo, and i work in healthcare, and have a tattoo on my wrist. I covered it up with a bangle at interview, for fear of it causing an issue, but does it mean that because i have chosen to have a small flower on my wrist that it hinders my ability to do my job, or mean that i can have no common sense?! My covering up of my tattoo was something that made me feel better at the time though, yet my employers see it every day and no comment is passed, yet it was my perception of what others would think that made me want to hide it away - something to think about....
I could talk about the stigma of tattoos and peoples perceptions all day, there are so many comments and opinions thrown into the pot. 'What if you dont like it - it is there for life', or 'what is it going to look like when you are 70?' - Well these can be seen as valid points, which is why i would urge anyone wanting a tattoo to THINK VERY CAREFULLY, WHAT YOU WANT, WHERE YOU WANT IT, AND REMEMBER IT IS A PERMANENT FIXTURE! - Well until tattoo removal becomes more accessible.
I really love Dragonflies and wanted a tattoo to reflect this. Between my shoulderblades was the place that i had chosen and chose an expensive, but reputable tattoo parlour to have my tattoo. It may not always pay to go to the cheapest place you can find. Tattoos can vary greatly in price and i paid £50 for my tattoo which is roughly 10-15cm in diameter and coloured turquoise. I remember walking into the room and seeing a heavily tattooed woman (who was absolutely lovely by the way, funny, reassuuring, and competant, which is always a bonus). She was setting up the inks and i laid on my front exposing my back. One of the most vivid memories was the smell. Very clinical and clean, TCP like. Although there were sketches on the wall of projects from my artist, the walls were white and a hint of music in the background made for a relaxing atmosphere. Once she had explained to me what was going to happen, there seemed to be a pause while she prepared the gun, and then came the noise. If you have never heard a tattoo gun on the go, it is a very obvious noise and once heard you will recognise it forever more. Start stop, start stop was what came for the next 30 minutes or so. Dipping into the ink, and then tattooing the body, those 3-5 seconds when she was applying the colour to her needles of the gun were seconds of relief was welcomed by me to be fair. Anyone who says tattoos are painless are either lying or have an extremely high pain threshold. Having 8 or so needles puncturing the skin at speed cannot be painless, nonetheless though, it was bearable. I remember someone telling my its like a scratching. I liken it to the the feeling of when you were a kid and someone pinged an elastic band at you. The feeling that gave your skin, i think is very similar to having a tattoo, although this is clearly continuous! - ouch!
So my skin was prepared and cleaned, and the stencil of the tattoo placed on my skin, and the tattooing began. Once finished, the TCP like ointment that was sprayed onto my skin was the most refreshing feeling, as by this time, your skin feels very hot and may bleed a little. Onced finished, a cream was applied and a dressing to cover. I was told to remove it after 2 hours, and wash the area gently. Then, twice a day until healed, gently wash and cream the area - i was advised bepanthan, but the aftercare of your tattoo may vary from artist to artist.
My tattoo healed very quickly and i love it! So much in fact that i went back a month later and had a further 2 dragonflies added and am now in the process of designing something to add that trails down the whole of my back.
I currently have 4 tattoos, ankle, upper back, arm and wrist and plan to have more. All of my tattoos though can be covered and that was one stipulation that i had in the back of my mind, that i wanted to be able to cover them if i wanted. After all, at 65-70 will i love my dragonflies so much then??
Family often ask me how i will feel when i am older, but to be fair, i really think that in the last 5 years or so, tattooing has become so much more acceptable and popular, and where now i may see someone in their 80's with a tattoo and think eerrgghh, there will be so many more of us with tattoos in this generation and will seem more normal to see one on an older body.
I consider tattooing as an artform, and have a fascination with sleeves (when an entire limb is tattooed). I personally wouldnt have it done because of my profession, but think that they look beautiful if done well. In fact my huband us having one designed at present.
Tattoos can be something so precious to you too. All of mine have sentimental value and have been designed rather than picked off a wall. Not that there is a problem with this, but i do like individuality.
To conclude, i am a fan of the tattoo, but i would urge those wanting one to get one for the right reasons. There can be health risks involved if it is not undertaken professionally and it is on your person for life. They are a beautiful addition to your body i feel, but you have to love it yourself.
4/5 for me, a star off, only becasue it is an art that can be exploited and undertaken without proper thought.
Thank you for reading. I hope you have enjoyed it, and thankyou to Wikipedia for the interesting information
Thought this was really well balanced - I've never fancied getting one myself but I thought you took a really objective approach to the whole subject.
cha97michelle 16.05.2011 16:32
Very thorough and considered. I have one on my shoulder that i never even think about anymore. I think by the time we are in our 80s we will be so used to it as it will age like the rest of us. I guess i won't even be able to see mine.
swindoniansteve 16.05.2011 16:31
Great advice there, I have a tattoo and am getting another one done this week. Great stuff :0)