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Tattoo’s; The Good, Bad, and Downright Ugly. Ink, tatts, tattoos, work whatever you seem to call them, it is very unlikely that you will not know at least one person with tattoo’s. I, myself am no stranger to tattoo’s, a fair amount of my mates have them, and personally I have two with my third one being booked in for only 2 weeks away. But how do you know if the artwork you are going to get inked on your body (for the rest of life I might add) is going to be right? I am going to have a look at the history of tattooing along with some good and bad professional tattoo’s and the world of “scratching”. In recent years there has been a large increase seen in people that are getting tattoo’d, what was once a thing that only sailors did in the 1940’s has now become a massive phenomenon for people of all ages. The early beginnings of tattoo’s actually started out well before the 40’s with some known to be dated back to the fourth or fifth millenium BC although in those times tattoo’s were not known for art with a lot of people but to be healing as an acupuncture system. Bring yourself to more modern times you see that many tribes all over the world have found a way of tattooing.

One of the most famous is the Samoans which uses two sticks made of animal bone, one with some needles attached, and another that hits the stick with the needles to help push them into a persons body. It is said to be horrifically painful to most but Samoans see it as a spiritual thing, protection, and a right of passage. Many of these tribes will tattoo the whole body including the face. Although the tattoo world has greatly changed in the past 20 – 30 years, people are getting tattooed now more than ever. I will be first to say I got mine on my 18th birthday, which probably could have waited but more and more younger kids are wanting tattoo’s earlier. I have seen a few done on kids younger than 16 and due to using someone who is not in a professional tattoo studio, now have a blob of ink on them that looks like nothing. Other people I know have had some horrendous tattoo’s also through letting their mates have a go at them in a friends living room. The main concern with this though would be the hygiene of needles and all parts of the machine, it is very easy to give someone a disease through transfer on a needle.

Scratching

This brings me to my point about scratching. If you are unfamiliar with the term scratching the best definition I have found comes from urban dictionary; “An inexperienced, untalented, unclean and untrained tattooer. Though usually found working out of home kitchens, they have been known to find work in disreputable tattoo shops. The word “Scratcher” comes from the look of the, so called “tattoos”, they produce. Looking more like colored scratchs, than recognizable images.”


Scratching is deemed highly wrong in pretty much every professional tattoo shop. To be associated with a scratcher tattoo artist, good or not, it is seen as a bad thing and something that can easily been drawn attention to and destroy a reputation.

Apprenticeship

It is seen as respect that any tattoo artist goes through an apprenticeship with a highly skilled mentor. Some of the most famous tattoo artists can include Sailor Jerry, Bert Grimm, Don Ed Hardy, and Rick “Papa” Walters, but now through means of reality television names such as Kat Von D, Loius Maloy, and Ami James are large names also. Some of these people took/ take on apprentices and others don’t – it is generally personal preference and time that they have to help a student. As an apprentice an artist can pretty much ask anything of you, they get away with asking you to wax their car if they want because it will “build character within the student”. Although it is hard work at the end of the day though most, if not all students will finally end up tattooing and be doing a good job in a well respected studio.

Now to have a look at some of the best and worst tattoo’s that I have seen. Through the power of the internet I have seen a lot of tattoo’s, some that I hope and pray that I never see again. Some of these have included the private parts of some one actually being tattoo’d, a picture of private parts actually tattoo’d on someone, misspelt words, and there are always people with horrific portraits. Some of the worst I have found include the photograph shown below. These tattoo’s just range from plain distasteful to bad skills, especially the third one, which was actually a copy of another tattoo that clearly turned out horribly wrong. At the end of the day when it comes to tattoo’s just remember they are PERMANENT so do your research, find out who you will be getting tattoo’d by and what their reputation is within the industry. Although costly it is always good to go to a shop/ studio so that you know that you are in a safe and clean environment and that the actually possibility of something going wrong is probably very slim. I have found some very lovely and friendly tattoo artists that are always willing to help a customer out so if you are ever unsure about a tattoo, go to a shop, ask the questions, and get their opinion of what you want done. It’s better to know before than regret your tattoo later. Photograph on left page; Snow White back piece and Super Mario half sleeve. Tribal tattoo on a Maori chief, New Zealand, c. 1880 Photograph on right page; Tattoo artist Sailor Jerry. Below; The worst tattoo’s found online.


Double Page Spread - Kirsten Thorpe