I’m going to go out on a limb here and just say “Tattooing is Essential!” Maybe it’s not comparable to eating food or necessary medicine but too many of us it’s almost as important. The bond we have with tattoos and the process of getting them pairs with the necessary human interaction created in the environment of a tattoo studio. In many cases it’s one of the most important things in our lives. Our tattoo therapy can feel just as essential as our need to drink water every day.
Let’s start off with the truth that, of course we don’t need tattooing to survive. The world won’t end end if we don’t get that new ink we wanted. It’s not going to kill us if we miss a few tat sessions. Or will it?
I wanted to talk about this subject immediately when the 2020 Covid Quarantine began. For myself like many others, it took me a minute to find inspiration to write or even create art during that time. There is a depression that I feel hit all of us in some form or another. Maybe we’re new to that feeling or maybe it was a strong familiar sense. I write this with hopes to inspire or even let everyone know that we’re all feeling the same things.
As I create this I’m feeling hopeful and excited for the future. It seems businesses are starting to open again, social distancing is getting lighter and many signs of day to day normalcies are on the horizon.
In many cases the need to get tattooed is the exact medicine necessary to keep our mental health strong. Getting tattooed is there to help us get through crazy times. It’s there to help us celebrate and it’s there to help us remember. It’s not really the actual tattoo but the social factor and the familiarity of our “tattoo day” that’s the medicine we really need.
To understand my personal perspective I want to touch on a realization I had about 16-17 years ago. I finished a sleeve on a wonderful client and now friend of as many years, Shannon. I was honored when she asked me to tattoo another piece for her and we probably spent a solid year completing it. It was her sleeve so we went once a month every month on the first Tuesday. Once it was finished we did some photos, a few high fives and hugs to celebrated our accomplishments and called it a “finished tattoo.”
The funny part about it though and something I never expected and I don’t think Shannon did either was that exactly one month later she showed back up to my shop. It was pretty much the same time as her usual appointment. She didn’t know exactly why. It wasn’t because she forgot something. It wasn’t because it was still on her calander. Shannon told me that “she just didn’t know what else to do with herself that day.”
We laughed about it and hung out for a bit anyway and caught up on our usual topics. Somewhere during that encounter I realized just how important the repetition and consistency of getting tattooed on a regular basis was. Just how incredibly important it is to those of us that choose tattoos as our outlet. How the ritual and repetition, almost muscle memory of showing up to our appointments (tattoo therapy) really is one of the most necessary things in our lives.
I tell the story of Shannon often as a fun anecdote to the uniqueness of tattooing but over the years I’ve come to realize the true weight that the tattoo process bares. It inspires me to finally share this story with everyone and I really hope that what I write both helps inspire tattoo artists and collectors as well to honor the necessity of tattoos.
It’s not just getting sick tats, it’s the relationship that is formed and the consistency of getting tattooed every month or two that keeps us sane. It’s the medicine of having a tattoo appointment to look forward to. The many people involved in your tattoo day are all part of your ink therapy.
It’s the simple things like your local coffee shop wishing you luck the morning of your tattoo session.
It’s the comfort of rolling into your tattoo shop like a second home.
It’s checking in at the front desk with a nod to all the other clients waiting for their work.
It’s even just saying hello to all the other incredible tattoo artists in the studio that now know your name and are just as excited for your tattoo project as you are.
In the end it is the amazing community that comes with being a tattoo collector and being part of a tattoo family.
I’m looking forward to seeing all my clients again. I cant wait to share our days together at the shop and have that tattoo interaction that is most definitely so essential.
With respect and hope,
(Now, Fast forward 20+ years. I am still tattooing Shannon and her husband Mike. Full sleeves on both of them as well as legs, chests, ribs and yes, even Mike’s head. Our clients need tattoos just as much as we have the need to tattoo them.)
First sleeve I completed for Shannon
This one we started way back when I lived in Breckenridge, CO
A few shots of her 2nd sleeve