Adventures at the Tattoo Parlor

So Mo came to town last night– the reasons were manyfold– Mr. Mo is running in a big local race this Sunday, she wanted to hang out with me (hooray!) and also, her favorite tattoo artist, who is booked out for six months at a time, offers a first-come first-serve line the last Saturday of the month. Guess where she was early this morning? She was out the door early, and was second in line, and waiting through a hailstorm to keep her spot.

Having never been in a tattoo place before, after lunch, when her spot came up, Mr. Mo took the kids for me and I headed down to check it out. Ages ago, back when motorcyclces and bad boys were regular parts of my life (have I told you about those days?) it was suggested that I become a tattoo artist. I have drawn lots of tattoos for other people to take their skin artist of choice, but I’ve myself have never actually gone under the needle, and never seen anyone else do so either. I was excited to see a process I didn’t know much anything about and see what all went into it.

First, the tattoo parlor in and of itself is an experience that might make some with delicate constitutions blanche. This place has a fantastic reputation, and the artist working on Mo is well known on the west coast as being top notch. But it’s still a tattoo parlor, and genteel leaves when you open the door. They swear like drunk sailors, it is not the domain of women, Reservoir Dogs was on the TV providing more swearing, and the guys make off-color raucous jokes. There is a motorcycle bar next door and rows of Harley Davidson motorcycles line the street. (saw an FLH, the same bike I rode to Sturgis)

I know better than to think much of the rough exterior though- within minutes of sitting down, it was clear these guys were not only nice and very friendly, but that they knew their stuff, and we quickly fell into talking about geekdom, Star Trek, Firefly, comics, and BSG.

Mo was getting her favorite icon put on her bicep, and the artist was very open to showing me what he did as he moved through the process. He even invited me to his side of the table where I could see better, saying he never minded boobs near his ear- but he said it with a smile and a laugh. Sometimes you just gotta roll with it. The wall is covered in awards and licenses and accolades for this guy’s work, as well as photos of his family and drawing by his children.

I got to watch as he prepped all the needles and ink, and got his supplies together. He transfered the artwork to Mo’s arm with a special transfer paper, just a simple outline that belies the detail that will be added later.

And then he got to work. Even the very thin solid lines that he lays down to start with are actually a cluster of seven needles- which was a surprise to me. There was very little bleeding, which was also a surprise to me- and Mo said it feels like being burned. It was fascinating. The fine needles vibrate incredibly fast to puncture the skin and deposit the ink sub-dermally.

Once the outline is fleshed out (ha! see what I did there?) he swaps the gun out for a different set of needles- this time an array of eleven fine needles that are not clustered tightly like the liner, but spread out so the artist can begin to shade. It’s akin to stippling, creating fine dots of pigment in order to shade. It was really cool to watch the process- he controlled the intensity with pressure, tension on the skin and minute dilution of the inks. He was very patient with my questions and letting me get in close to watch.

After about 3 hours, this was the result:

Rosie the Riveter on Mo’s arm.  From a rough outline, to an incredibly detailed and nuanced tattoo. And I have a new experience to add to my cache. It was a fun way to spend the afternoon and while I may not be lining up to get myself inked any time soon, it was interesting to consider different expressions of art and creativity. Broadening of ones horizons is never a bad thing. Got any ink?

p.s. Mo wants me to tell you all that she was very brave and didn’t get all girly and cry or anything, even though it freaking hurt.

18 thoughts on “Adventures at the Tattoo Parlor

  1. I like Rosie too! Really nice tattoo! I love the idea of body decoration, but don’t like the permanence of tattoos, since I remember all the images and icons I loved in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, etc. and think how cheesy most would seem now. Still the process is fascinating and I think they look great on other people. Interesting experience. Thanks for reporting on it!

  2. May I ask a question? I am not sure, but if I’m not mistaken, is Mo LDS? If so, how does the church view tattoos? I was under the impression that they were discouraged. Just curious about it. 🙂

  3. This is Mo responding to Christina’s question under Tracy’s name:
    Discouraged perhaps, but not forbidden. This is one of the gray areas where we are guided but left to make our own decisions. Our bodies are our temples, and temple walls are adorned with many lovely works of art in homage to the wonderful and joyous spirit within.
    Through my husbands many deployments I have suffered great emotional pain. This particular tattoo is a physical representation of that pain and a reminder of my strength and ability to carry on. Beautiful art makes me happy and allows me to rejoice in my unique inner beauty. I have no doubt in my mind that the Lord understands my intents and embraces my chosen form of self expression.
    This is not a decision for everyone. Tattoos are something I find very beautiful, I know not everyone feels that way. I would never encourage someone to go get a tattoo just because. But for many people tattoos are a deeply personal symbol of strength, love, or healing.
    I am a faithful,temple recommend carrying, LDS woman. None of my tattoos do anything to change that…

    • Thank you Mo for responding to me. I first off love your tattoo! I have a few myself so certainly didn’t come from some Puritanical pov. I have just been curious about the LDS culture for some time now and have found it to be generally conservative so was interested as to your thoughts and feelings on your decision to get the tattoo. I love that you are a faithful LDS woman who still makes decisions for herself and you view art and beauty as part of God’s creation. That’s really wonderful.

      Thank you again for sharing. And please know that my inquiry is in complete respect for you and the LDS culture/religion, I am simply curious. 🙂

      • I have no problem with honest inquiries Christina! I can acknowledge that I am not a typical cookie cutter Mormon, and I embrace my delightfully unique attributes wholeheartedly! God made me the colorful boisterous woman I am, and who am I to question Him?!
        But many people tend to forget that Church culture is not Church doctrine. It’s one of those things I find difficult about Mormons 😉

  4. Would have been even cooler, in an MC Escher kind of way, if Rosie’s arm had a tatoo of Rosie on it, which had a tattoo of Rosie on it, which…


  5. This slightly lessens my anxiety about the unexecuted (so far) tatt for which my daughter pines and plans.

    • My mother told me I had to wait until I was 18 and she was no longer responsible for the medical bill in case anything went awry.
      Another friend’s parents told her that if she chose a design and still wanted it a year later she could get it. She’s now in her late 30’s and still tattoo free…

      • My daughter is 27. When she was a minor, I never forbade her from getting tattooed (after age 18), but told her to be prepared to save a lot of money to pay for the best artist you can find. Since then I have added the caveat to take plenty of time (years even) to plan what you want to live with permanently engraved on your skin. If I had done something stupid like put my foot down, she’d have a lot of bad art by now, or laser scars like some of her friends.

        She’s now mature enough to handle the aesthetic decisions, and it is her body, not mine, but I feel like I have something of a proprietary interest in her theoretical body art, since I originally made her skin.(haha) I find other people’s well-done tattoos to be interesting and acceptable, and I have actually designed a few, but somehow when it comes to my kids, I have a resistance to the whole idea. It’s inconsistent, I know. Don’t really care about that.

    • To leave simply a quote is dirty pool and does nothing to further meaningful discourse. Much like women who constantly denigrate other women for their appearance or their “lack” of homemaking skills, you have done more damage to your fellow Saints than could ever be considered acceptable. I only hope that the free agency of another faithful member is the most difficult thing you ever have to deal with.

      Mosiah 29:12 Now it is better that a man should be judged of God than of man, for the judgments of God are always just, but the judgments of man are not always just.

      I am happy, the Lord loves me and I am surrounded by family and friends who do too, even through my imperfections and differences of opinion. The gospel is for everyone, even people you don’t agree with.
      As my husband once remarked to the child who asked how he would feel if someone painted on the temple “They do paint it, they paint it white”

  6. Yes, Wendy. And? We could all find quotes all day that support whatever position we want- the fact remains that having tattoos is not a question on a TR interview, and they in no way effect ones worthiness to be a full-fellowship Latter-day Saint. Agency is a beautiful thing. So is the gift of receiving revelation and guidance for one’s own life, and being able to discern ones own path.

    • Thank you Tracy. For the post, for Mo’s response (I’d hug you if I could), and yes, for your response to Wendy. Amen.

  7. I am also a temple recommend holding LDS woman and I have a tattoo I got a little over a year ago. Mine is small and not where anyone can see it, but I still have it and love it. It’s part of me and also reflective of the military 🙂

  8. MO!
    “The gospel is for everyone, even people you don’t agree with.”
    SO going to embroider that on a church bag. ::grin::

  9. It looks good, I think. Tattoos kind of fascinate me. I would think they hurt like hell, so I’m not going to get one because I’m a wuss. Also, I don’t think I could pull it off. I like them on other people, though, except basketball players. I know, I’m terribly inconsistent.

  10. Tracy — as one sporting a tattoo and pondering a couple more, I loved this. I hope I can see you and hug you soon!

    Mo — a thoughtfully chosen tattoo can say a lot about a person. Yours tells me a lot about you — strength, independence, willingness to go through something painful for a beautiful result (and I’m not just talking about the tattoo).

    And it was me, the microbiology geek, making sure they had an autoclave, used disposable needles and ink on Facebook while this was happening this weekend. I’m anal like that…

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