The no-nonsense guide to getting tattooed! PART 2 – During

In our first instalment, I talked to you guys about the ‘before’ process in getting your tattoo.

It probably frustrated a lot of people that I didn’t get into the real meat of actually getting tattooed, but I wouldn’t have felt comfortable without laying the whole process out, I wouldn’t have been giving you the whole picture.

So today let’s focus on the super fun and pretty painful bit! ‘During’!

GET THERE ON TIME!

I shouldn’t really have to say this at all. As a responsible adult, who has taken the time to get to this point and book your appointment, you should WANT to be there on time!

Being late creates all kinds of problems for yourself and your tattoo artist. If you’re rushing and get there late, you’re going to create a bit of tension from the offset, and work yourself up. This isn’t good, as you’re spending the next few hours with this person tattooing your skin. You don’t want to create an awkward environment, or make your tattoo artist think you’re not as serious as you should be about your appointment.

If you think you are going to be late, for whatever reason, just call ahead and let your artist know. Then apologise when you get there. Artists understand that there are some things you just can’t control, but if you give them the heads up, they can be sure you are still coming, and you’re not going to be a no-show.

DON’T BRING AN ENTOURAGE

Unless previously agreed with your artist, it’s not usually a good idea to bring friends with you to watch you get tattooed.

Having friends and family present can be distracting for both yourself and your tattoo artist. Your guest may feel the need to give their opinion on the design of your tattoo, or may create an atmosphere that puts the artist under great pressure.

I feel most comfortable when I turn up to my appointments alone, as I can really connect with my tattoo artist and create a very personal experience.

BE PATIENT AND BE HONEST!

Your artist will have to set up for your appointment, so you may have a little wait at the studio. There will sometimes be a selection of tattoo magazines for you to flick through, and you may even be offered a cup of tea while you wait. Modern tattoo studios are very welcoming places, and nothing like the stereotypical, intimidating, testosterone filled shops of the past.

Your artist will show you a line drawing of your tattoo around this point.. They want to know whether this is what you had in mind, and they want you to be honest. If you have communicated with your artist well up to this point, it will be everything you hoped for and more!

If there are elements that you would like to change, your tattoo artists needs to know this. They are aware that this piece is on you forever, and they want to give you the best! Things like sizing, positioning of small elements like background flowers etc, colour choices, wording positioning and the actual positioning of the tattoo on your body, can all be tweaked a little before you start. Please don’t be afraid of asking for something like this to be changed!

If you find you totally hate the design (which is very unlikely if you have done your research), then you must still say something. It’s likely in this case that you would have to re-arrange your appointment, and you may lose your deposit. Please do not argue with your tattoo artist about this, they need time to make sure they get your vision right!

When you are happy with your design, it’s time to apply the carbon paper transfer to your skin! At this point, it all gets pretty real, and nerves may kick in…

STAY CALM!

These days, I’m usually excited about getting tattooed. I tend to prepare myself for the inevitable pain by just letting myself get super stoked about the design itself!

If this is your first tattoo, I’m not going to tell you it doesn’t really hurt, or it’s not as bad as you think (because I don’t know what you are thinking) But I will say, it’s really not the worst pain in the world. At all. You can deal with it, and as soon as it’s over, you will forget all about it.

If you feel you are panicking, faint, nervous or sick, please tell your artist immediately. They will only start your tattoo when they know you are comfortable. Take a breather, pop to the loo, make sure you are comfy in the chair and keep yourself calm.

During your tattoo, you may find there are a number of things you can do to distract from the pain. I like to count things, like ceiling tiles or floorboards, I don’t know why it works, but it does! I also find that watching the artist working on the tattoo calms me down, but I guess that makes me weird because most other people I know HATE watching it. Just do what you think is best!

BE FRIENDLY!

Some of the time, you may find that an artist doesn’t seem to say much. This is because a lot of artists take their cues from you, as their customer. They do not want to distract or upset you by talking to you, if you don’t deal well with conversation whilst being tattooed. Don’t let this put you off starting a conversation though, as conversation is one of the best ways of managing pain and creating a distraction for you.

I will mention at this point, that a real studio doesn’t work like the ones you see on those tattoo ‘reality’ TV shows. You’re artist is not there to be your therapist, and it can be a little odd for them to have to listen to someone pour their heart out, and explain their reasons for getting a tattoo. If you want to talk about it, that’s great, but try keep it light and concise. On TV, the customers share their long and elaborate stories for the benefit of the cameras and the audience at home. There are no cameras here, so you really don’t have to lay it on thick.

Have a laugh and a joke, or sit in the peaceful quiet. Either is good, just make sure you are doing everything you can do to create a positive and awesome atmosphere!

COMMUNICATE

Need a pee? Need to wiggle your fingers, stretch your arm/leg/torso or take a five minute breather? Let your artist know! They can’t read your mind, and they want you to be as comfortable as possible whilst they work on your tattoo.

It can be hard, but it’s best to keep as still as possible while the artist is actually working on your skin. Moving a little to get comfortable is fine, but usually it is best if you let them know you need to reposition yourself.

It is important to remember that there is absolutely no need to cause a scene for attention. Your artist is already giving you and your tattoo all of their attention, and it is actually very distracting for them if you wiggle , scream, squeal, shriek and cry for dramatic effect. In the long run, if you squirm around and cause the tattooist to have to stop and start the whole way through, you may end up having to pay more, as the tattoo took longer than expected. Try to keep those yelps and wriggles to yourself, it’s in your best interests to stay still and try not to whinge and be negative!

DON’T BE NOSEY

There’s nothing wrong with asking questions, but please be aware of what you are asking. It’s fine to enquire about things, but most tattoo artists find it distracting and unsettling if customers ask questions about brands of ink, types of machines, and other industry specific paraphernalia.

They know you are just curious, but they may want to keep some things to themselves. If you want to know about the sterilisation of equipment, and issues that affect you as the customer, your tattoo artist will be happy to speak to you about these aspects, and I would be worried if they didn’t want to.

Tattooing is an art form, and an incredibly difficult industry to get started in. It is very likely your tattoo artist has worked hard to collect knowledge and learn about tattooing specifics, and it is not really the ‘done thing’ in the industry to then impart this closely guarded knowledge willy nilly on everyone who asks.

LISTEN

When your tattoo is done, your artist will explain the aftercare process to you. You need to listen to their advice and follow it to the letter. If you do not feel the advice they have given is adequate, please ask them to explain or elaborate, so you can really understand the best way to care for your healing tattoo.

BE POLITE

ALWAYS say thank you, that’s just good manners!

PAY WELL

You should always bring plenty of money with you to pay for your tattoo. If you have been given a quote, try bring a little more, just in case. This means you can avoid embarrassing and unnecessary trips to a nearby cash point after your tattoo!

When the time is right, your artist may ask you to move to the reception area to make you payment, or wait until you indicate that you are ready. It can be a little awkward at this point, as paying for a tattoo is nothing like buying something from a shop, but I usually say something like ‘what’s the damage?’, ‘let’s square up!’ or simply ‘how much do I owe you?’. Keeping it light stops it from being awkward.

It is not compulsory to tip your tattoo artist, but it is polite and nice. Obviously it’s not always easy to afford this, as you may have had to save very long and hard to pay for the tattoo itself, but if you do have enough to say an extra ‘thank you’, it can be a great way of letting your artist know how much you appreciate their hard work, and it also helps to build a relationship with your artist. Everyone likes to be appreciated! It’s totally your call, but please at least consider it!

That’s all for the time being, check back in a couple of days, when I will share a short guide on the ‘After’ aspects of your tattoo!

Thanks for reading!

Kate xx

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The no-nonsense guide to getting tattooed! PART 1 – Before

Hello!

In this three part post, I thought I would talk about tattoos, because I love them, I have them and I am just about to get another!

What I REALLY want to attempt is a very simple, very straight-talking guide, to getting tattooed. I’m not just talking how to get what you want, what you should expect and how much you should pay, I’m also going to be brutally honest about how to be a good customer, how to trust your artist, and whether you really should be getting that tattoo at all!

The ‘before’ steps…

REALLY WANT A TATTOO?

Just ask yourself ‘why?’. Why do you want a tattoo.. disregard what the design is for a second, sit and think long and hard about that shit being permanent, and then ask again, why?

A lot of people wouldn’t expect me to say that. A lot of people want me to go ‘oh hey yeah, get tattooed, it’s the best ever’. But here’s why I won’t do that…. The only answer to the question ‘why?’ should be ‘for myself’.

Any reputable tattooist would never coerce or persuade you into getting tattooed, and any good friend wouldn’t either. Put simply, if you are asking the artist, or a friend, five minutes before the needle hits the skin ‘do you think I should get this?’ then you absolutely shouldn’t get it. You need to be 100% sure in your own head, without seeking approval first, that this is what you absolutely want to do.

WHAT SHOULD YOU GET?

By golly, this is a difficult one. Chances are, if you have no idea what to get as a tattoo, you really need to leave it be for a while, and wait until the inspiration comes to you. Don’t try seek something out just for the sake of getting it tattooed, I speak from experience, that you do not want to be left with two hearts’n’crossbones on your hips because you just wanted SOMETHING.

On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with getting a GOOD piece of flash tattooed. (Flash is the name given to the sheets of designs that hang in tattoo artists studios). By good, I mean a well sourced, well researched piece of flash. If you know what you like, chances are you know which artists flash to look for, and if you know who you want to get tattooed by (usually because you already like their style), there could be a piece of flash by them just waiting to adorn your skin. Generally though, it isn’t a great idea to walk into any old studio and just pick something. Do your research!!

I can’t tell you what to get tattooed, I can tell you what I think works, and what doesn’t work, what I think will be timeless, and what will date in five minutes, but ultimately, it’s up to you, and my opinions are just that.. opinions. I am no authority on tattoos, I don’t claim to be and I don’t want to be, but I won’t deny that I am somewhat informed.

You should probably avoid anything fad-like or something that will only be significant in the very near future. ‘Fashions’ in tattoos come and go, and have never made any sense to me. A tattoo is a very personal thing, so getting something because a celebrity has it, or a lot of other people have it, really isn’t a good reason.

There are a myriad of different styles of tattoo.. black and grey, traditional American, Japanese, realistic, abstract, bio-mechanical, tribal, new school… the list is pretty much endless, and it’s your choice, and ultimately yours alone as to what you want BUT….

TRUST IN YOUR TATTOO ARTIST!

If you have done your research carefully, and have chosen someone because you value their artistic vision, have faith in their technical ability and totally adore their work, then please, for the love of whatever god you do or do not believe in, just LISTEN TO THEM!!

If you have picked a truly great artist, then your tattoo artist knows best in terms of design, and the technical aspects of your tattoo. They know how close the lines can be, so it doesn’t turn into a blue blob in five years, they know whether something will look confusing if you try and add too many elements, they know that most of the time, subtlety can work wonders. If you disagree with anything your artist is trying to tell you regarding the design or technical elements of your tattoo, please don’t demand the tattoo ‘your way’, instead go away and think about it, or source a different tattoo artist to realise your vision.

I will mention here, that I realise if you have been looking at a design you want that you have seen on the internet, or in a book, or that a friend has drawn for you, that you will most likely want it to look EXACTLY how it does on paper. I can promise you though, that is not practical.

Many tattoo artists have to politely explain to customers that getting a design exactly as it appears on paper, or exactly how it was drawn by someone who isn’t a tattoo artist, isn’t a good idea. Put simply, your tattoo artist knows how a design will flow with the curves of your body, they know what kind of line thickness will be needed to achieve the best results, and they know how big and detailed they are physically able to go with something without it looking weird. Please be open to interpretations of your design, and work with your artist to create something that will really work on your body. I guarantee you, you will love it more than the original image!

HAVE A DECENT BUDGET

I am not about to tell you how much your tattoo should cost. I would never, ever attempt to do that. If you are totally new to getting tattooed, and you are worried because you have no idea what a reasonable price is, do your research and find well trusted, technically great artists to look into. Any decent artist would never hike the price up for a new customer, it’s bad for the industry and bad for their business personally, every good tattooer will quote you a reasonable price from the off.

I have had many conversations with people about the price of my tattoos, just as a hint though, it is a very rude question to ask someone.. you are essentially saying ‘how much money do you have?’.

There’s a saying, that translates perfectly to what you can expect for your money from a tattoo artists price quote. ‘Cheap work ain’t good, and good work ain’t cheap’. Be prepared to spend good money on that thing you so desperately want on your body forever, or you will quickly regret it!

Oh, and please understand.. Paying a deposit is not only normal, but extremely important. Your tattoo artist is committed to giving you the best tattoo they can, they need to know you are committed to getting it. Pay the deposit, don’t be difficult about it, and expect that if you cancel without adequate notice you will lose that deposit.

Please bear in mind that you are not just paying for the time it takes for the artist to expertly craft that tattoo into your skin. You also pay for their experience, their years of learning and knowledge that is being used to create something beautiful on your skin, the hours it takes to research to perfect reference material, the faffy task of placing orders for supplies, the lack of social life because of their dedication to the craft, the draft after draft of design, custom made for you, and the time taken to create a final drawing, which leads me onto..

DON’T WORRY ABOUT YOUR DESIGN

No one likes to be awoken at 1am by text message, when they were just trying to sleep. I’m pretty sure tattoo artists don’t like it either, but I know it happens. Don’t be that customer who texts, emails and calls into the studio, weeks before your appointment, to ‘have a look’ at the design.

Tattoo artists are busy people, the chances are, they haven’t even thought about your final design yet. A lot of artists draw up final designs just a day or two before your appointment. I appreciate this tattoo is important to you, but your artist has other clients, and is constantly working, they will get to your design when the time comes. This doesn’t mean they don’t care, they are simply doing their job.

If you need to constantly ask to see the design, this means that trust we talked about earlier isn’t there, and you need to re-think whether this is the right artist for you. Talking of re-thinking…

DON’T BE A NO-SHOW

Think about how long it’s taken on this blog post, for us to get to this point, and I still haven’t even mentioned anything about what happens when you actually get tattooed. Now imagine that all these things we have been through on this post, have actually happened and you have been planning, and have booked in, your tattoo. It can be a fairly long process, a fairly long and sometimes scary process, but it would be a great shame to spoil all the build up now by not showing up for your tattoo.

There are many reasons people don’t show up… fear, lack of funds, family disapproval, unable to get time off, etc.. but there is NO excuse for it (aside from maybe sudden hospitalisation or violent illness, but don’t lie… that shit’s just plain wrong)

Every tattoo artist would rather you let them know the very second you decide you won’t be able to make it, and also the reason. If you are scared, an artist would rather have the opportunity to put your mind at ease, and still be able to create that beautiful artwork for you, if you are broke, you need to suck that shit up, forget your pride, and be honest. Whatever the reason, you simply HAVE to tell them if you can’t make it.

Not turning up to your appointment is the equivalent of your work phoning you to say they don’t need you to go to work, and they won’t be paying you. Tattoo artists have rent to pay, they pay bills, they have to feed themselves, they also may have families to support, projects to fund or simply nice things they are saving up for. Please remember that!

If you let your artist know with enough time to spare, they may be able to move your appointment, instead of cancelling it, they will be able to book someone else in, so they still earn money that day, and most importantly for you, you won’t lose your deposit.

 

You’re almost ready for your tattoo! In part two, I will talk you through what to expect at your appointment, how to behave in the studio, and how to make the whole experience really enjoyable for you and your artist! Stay tuned, and if you have any questions for me, please ask!

Kate xx

Harajuku Shopping Guide – 1. Takeshita Dori Area

I’m going to have to split these posts up.. Harajuku is surprisingly big, and it takes me three days to shop it all! There are literally hundreds and hundreds of shops, some tucked away, some quite well known.

Before I start this guide I need to make you aware that the turn around of shops in Harajuku is quite rapid. Fashion trends come and go and the stores reflect this, you may find that if you search for a shop I have raved about, it could very well be gone!

I made my last trip to Tokyo in July 2012, so all the shops I will tell you about were still trading in Harajuku at that time.

So let’s begin!

Harajuku Station and Takeshita Dori:

You probably got to Harajuku by train (since Tokyo’s rail and subway systems are some of the most reliable and easy to use in the world!). Harajuku subway station is directly opposite the main shopping street of the area, Takeshita Dori. You will know you are in the right place if you can see this..

Image

(by ‘this’ I mean the signage, not the slightly awkward chubby blonde girl that I used to be)

You want to cross the road towards this signage, which hangs over the ‘top’ of Takeshita Dori. It’s a fairly steep slope, and on a busy Saturday or Sunday this offers a perfect opportunity to look straight down to the end and witness the hundreds of people crammed in this narrow street. You need to take a deep breath, and head on down it!

The top of this street plays host to a number of ice-cream cafe’s, pancake houses and gimmicky shops. It does seem that this part of Harajuku has been marketed towards more of a tourist demographic, especially at the top of the street. Here you will also find the AKB48 store, a whole shop dedicated to merchandise and memorabilia of the Akihabara based all-girl super geek pop group (for more information go here.)

As you head down Takeshita Dori, try not to become too distracted by shops selling wacky, cheap stuff. It’s tempting to buy a glittery trucker cap and eight pairs of frilly knee high socks but all those odd couple hundred yen add up! Instead, drink in the atmosphere here and people watch. Look to others for style inspiration and then go find the items in the many stores that line the street. My absolute number one tip is not to buy anything on this street when you see it straight away. Takeshita Dori is the street that sells all the items that tourists would find ‘quirky’ and ‘unique’ and because of this, practically every shop sells the same things at different prices.

Nearish the top of the street you will come across ‘Daiso’, a sort of Japanese version of the pound shop. Daiso is your go-to for any little cheap gifts, emergency socks and toiletries, stationery, snacks and stuff that you want to buy purely because it has ‘Hello Kitty’ on it. Everything in here is 100yen!!! Give yourself a budget, and get shopping! If you don’t have a budget you end up taking home a lot of junk and having to miss out on buying something you REALLY NEED later on. Trust me… I speak from experience.

As you continue down, don’t forget to look up! A lot of the better shops are on the second and even third floors of the buildings around you, the vintage shops and independent traders often rent out these higher units. Don’t be afraid to climb the stairs and look around. Another tip here: you may find the sales assistants in Harajuku to be what we would call ‘pushy’ with their customer service. This is a common misunderstanding. Sales assistants here and in the rest of Tokyo take great pride in their work, and will literally do ANYTHING to make sure you leave happy. If you feel they are following you around, watching you all the time or just generally being a bit creepy, this is not their intent. Try to see it more as their desire to be your personal shopping assistant from the minute you enter their shop, don’t be afraid to ask for different sizes, colours or styles if you don’t see what you like.

Oh, and if you feel like everyone is shouting at you when you go into a shop, they probably are! It is customary in Japan for the sales assistants to shout ‘Irasshaimase!’, which is basically a short way of saying ‘welcome, please come in and look’.

Quite a bit further down from Daiso, and past many little shops you should have browsed. You will come to a building with stairs on the outside. The store at street level sells all types of awful ‘gangster’ wear, and is probably best avoided. Climb the stairs though and you will find ‘Bodyline‘. Bodyline is a store selling lolita, gothic lolita, sweet lolita and more. As someone who isn’t necessarily a hardcore full-blown ‘loli’, this place is heaven, all the items are affordable.. almost ridiculously so, and still super cute. Bodyline items are not in the same league as more exclusive ‘loli’ brands such as ‘Baby The Stars Shine Bright’, ‘Angelic Pretty’ or ‘Metamophose’ so if you are looking to buy something that will impress any gaggle of full on lolita girls you would be shopping in the wrong place, but if like me, you would like to incorporate a bit of ‘loli’ into your style, Bodyline is the perfect place to start!

Near to Bodyline is a store that doesn’t seem to have a name but to which I refer to as the ‘Sequin Drag Shop’. This store is dedicated solely to selling super glitzy costumes COVERED in sequins and gemstones. Perfect for showmen and women, performance artists, drag superstars and sparkle enthusiasts, this place ain’t cheap, but it seems to be THE place to get your bum skimming sequin American flag hotpants and feather headdress. If you don’t have any use for these things, it is definitely well worth looking. Shop assistants really don’t mind, just try not to manhandle the stuff in here too much… It’s crammed in pretty tight and you don’t want to be crushed by an avalanche of diamante bustiers.

On a side road opposite Bodyline and just off Takeshita Dori you will come across a second hand Vivienne Westwood store. I don’t *think* the store is official Westwood, but they take great care to ensure all items are genuine and come with all relevant boxes, packaging and labels. Although still pricey, some items here can be a lot less than if they were bought new as many Japanese people dislike buying second hand clothing. Saying that though, if you are after something super rare for super cheap you won’t get it here.. These shop assistants do know their stuff and rare gems could end up double or triple the original price. It is still a joy to look at, as the staff treat the stock with an almost museum like respect, you get the feeling everything here is ‘curated’. 

Further down this side street you will stumble across a strange building that looks like an apartment block. It is two storey and these levels connect with thin, rickety looking metal staircases. As with most shops in Harajuku, ignore the ground floor level (yet more gangster streetwear) and trot on up to the first floor. Here you will discover the ever evolving ‘Jack’s Vintage’ (sometimes referred to as Jumpin’ Jacks). This vintage store gem is owned by Tokyo mini-celeb Elovis ‘Jack’ Sato, a vintage and retro loving rockabilly extrovert who has appeared on Japanese MTV, popular films and on stage at various rockin’ gigs and events across Tokyo. He’s a dear friend and a joy to be around, but unfortunately doesn’t appear in the shop very often. You should still call in here though, as Jacks staff are just as friendly and interesting as he is! If you have an interest in going to burlesque gigs, rockin’ nights, rockabilly events and Japanese rock’n’roll CD releases, they will pile you up with flyers for a plethora of gigs and events you could only usually dream of discovering! The store itself sells expertly hand picked vintage items. Incredibly rare bags, original bowling shirts, american baseball jackets, college sweaters from the 1950’s, and beautiful costume jewellery nestle amongst Jack’s own merchandise, modern rockabilly inspired labels and novelty mid century style gifts. It can be pricey in here but I can tell you this is categorically THE BEST vintage store in all of Harajuku.

Head back the way you came, and onto Takeshita Dori again. Keep heading down it… towards the main road that cuts it off at the bottom. You won’t have to go far before you notice ‘Pink Latte’, and trust me, you WILL notice it! Though Pink Latte sells fairly tame teeny bopper style accessories and gifts, the store itself is impressive in design. From the outside you notice why, at least 60% of the inside of this store is made up of a full reconstruction of an aeroplane. This makes for a great photo and a surreal experience! The items however are a little bit of a disappointment, covered in branding and not amazing quality.

That’s it for my picks on the stores on Takeshita Dori and the immediate surrounding area. Next time I will take you over the road to what I call the more ‘niche’ area of Harajuku and where the real treasures are! Don’t forget… I have only told you about the stores that stuck in my memory… you should definitely look in EVERY SINGLE SHOP that takes your fancy. Now, why don’t you head back up to the station and buy all that crap you resisted on the way?!

Kate x