A friend told me he wanted to get tattooed this weekend. He explained he’s been saving up some cash, and wanted to get a piece by a solid artist. I hesitated before I answered, and asked what exactly he wanted. “I was thinking of a super realistic bright piece on the back of my calf.” A somewhat intricate description of his tattoo followed, and I found myself hesitating again. I explained to him with what he described, he would be better off contacting an artist and setting up an appointment instead of just walking in and getting it on the spot.
I knew he didn’t want to hear this, but felt like this was the best advice I could offer (and I still do, for the record.) I could see the look of disappointment on his face, but he understood why after I explained my thinking, which I will now share with you as well.
Typically, walking into a tattoo shop and getting a piece on the spot means it’s not going to be the incredibly intricate and personalized tattoo my friend described. While that may not always the case, I think in most situations it’s a safe bet. If you’re interested in getting a traditional piece with a slight twist, you’ll probably be ok with a walk in to any reputable shop. If you’re looking for a silly outline of a camel on your big toe (think about it,) you’ll be ok. However if you’re looking for a fairly large piece that needs to be drawn up, just walking into a shop is probably a bad idea.
Anyone with visible tattoos has experienced this–once you have a tattoo that people can see, they start asking you where to go. It’s a responsibility that comes with the step of having visible tattoos, and it can get old after a while. For some reason everyone “needs” the tattoo done right away. They have Tuesday off, and want to get it done then. After all the time they’ve spent saving up cash, it’s burning a hole in their pocket. I understand; they have the itch, they want it now.
When someone comes to me asking where they should go, I try to assess the situation.
- - Is this person actually going to listen to what I have to say? Sometimes, no matter how much you tell them, they’re going to go get a tattoo on Tuesday. If I think this is the case, I try to at least send them to a decent shop.
- Does this person really want to spend a hundred dollars (or more) an hour? Cash rules everything around . . . . us. If not, again, I’ll at least suggest a decent shop that does average work. At least they won’t wind up at “Big Tim’s Tatz & Bongz” shop.
Even if I’m not sure about where they stand concerning the two criteria above, I’ll explain the options. I’m pretty open about the price, the process, and the quality difference. They can make up their own mind–after all, they are at least 18.
Several days later, I usually find out what the person wound up doing. They either run at me showing off the piece, or eagerly tell me they scheduled an appointment. A thank you for the information and my opinion is usually inserted the conversation, and regardless of their decision – I tell them congratulations. Getting a tattoo is a neat thing, and they’ll always have a memory associated with that process and experience… I’m just hoping it’s a positive one.