My First Tattoo

Think before you ink.

It’s a mantra I have been repeating to myself for years.
Not because I’m particularly afraid of committing to having something which will be on me for the rest of my life, but more because when you choose to get something which will be on you for the rest of your life, you kinda need to like what it is, and, well… I’m terribly indecisive.

Growing up I adored the concept of tattoos. I loved that you could quite literally walk around wearing art on your body, and from the age of sixteen getting a tattoo was something I found myself regularly thinking about. In between homework and socialising I’d often find myself wondering what tattoo(/s?) I’d have, where I’d have them placed and before long it changed from me adoring them as a concept, to planning when I was going to get my own. I’d toy with different ideas for months and what I wanted ranged from something delicate all the way up to getting a sleeve, and don’t even get me started on how addicted I became to following incredible tattooists on Instagram. (Cally Jo and Niki are my original favourites in case you were wondering).

The first time I went to get a tattoo was in 2012.
I was feeling confident on our first trip to Thailand and had spent ages thinking about it.
I’d had a drink or two for a little liquid courage, I’d envisioned what I wanted and I was sure I could handle the pain (I’d been making S pinch me all night to make sure). I was ready. The only problem is the tattooist I wanted had a man with his pants down getting his buttcheeks tattooed (to join his leg sleeve – not just randomly) and as I sat there chatting away to the man with no pants I realised I was hungry and wanted to go dancing.
So that was the end of my attempt.

Fast forward 3 years and I finally got my first tattoo!
Last year I was scrolling through the geolocations on Instagram being nosey on various locations (good way to find local Instagrammers in case you were wondering) when I happened to fall upon Mike‘s Instagram account. I loved how fresh his designs were and the clean lines and dot work made my eyes happy and so I followed along. Months later I saw that Mike had begun tattooing at Skinned Alive in Brighton and it all clicked into place. I already knew that I wanted a paper plane (because let’s face it, getting a Boeing 747 on your arm just doesn’t have the same appeal) but I wanted it to be a little different, so I popped Mike an email and asked if he’d be interested in designing me a tattoo and when he was available for me to, in the words of my nan, “permanently mark my body”.

A date was made and the design process begun with Mike sending me over drafts of different angles to choose before he sent me over the final design.

A photo posted by Mike Stout (@mike_stout) on

Everyone says that when you have a tattoo you should pick one with meaning, and you should to a certain extent, but the truth is that if you do you may end up thinking too long and hard about it because meanings and objects aren’t always directly representative of one another. For example I didn’t chose my tattoo because I love paper planes, I chose my tattoo for many reasons, some of which I have written about here.

The day of my tattoo went pretty effortlessly.
We arrived at the parlour and I began chatting with Mike about sizing and positioning on my wrist. He resized the design multiple times until I was 100% happy (a very non-negotiable percentage when it comes to permanent things!) before sitting at the chair. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. I have the pain threshold of… Well, something with an incredibly low pain threshold.
But the truth is that it didn’t actually hurt. The sensation was weird because in some places I couldn’t feel it (He’d done two lines before I even realised that he’d done so) but then every so often it would feel like I’d been scratched by a cat fresh out of hell for a few seconds before disappearing again. But 40 minutes later and my wrist was wrapped without a tear in sight!

Not my best photo but see.

I honestly love it so much and months later and I still smile every time I catch sight of it on my wrist.

Now obviously one tattoo an expert does not make, but just in case you’re considering one yourself, here’s some tips which may (or may not!) help.

Pick The Artist Not The Tattoo.
Tattoo designs can be easy to pick. You may want an animal, or a balloon or a super cute quote but not every tattooist is an artist (You only have to watch two minutes of Tattoo Fixers to know that!). For example almost everybody can write, but does that mean you like everybody’s handwriting? Nah. And the same is true for tattoos. After all, not every tattooist will be able to capture the shadows required in a portrait or the detailing required for an animal and so I think it’s important to truly choose somebody whose work you admire and trust. I know everybody says this, but when you have to live with your tattoo forever you really do need to like it.

Take Your Time.
In choosing what you want, whether it’s the tattoo itself, the design style, the placement or the size, you want to be happy with all of the elements. Because again – you gotta look at it everyday so sorta kinda need to like it.

Speak up.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions – tattooists may seem cool and slightly intimidating sometimes but they’re just humans doing a job they love. They’re there to tattoo what you want so don’t be afraid to speak up if you’re not happy with something.

Keep going until it’s perfect.
It took three resizings and about the same number of placements before we got the tattoo exactly where I wanted it. We even left it for a few moments to check that I didn’t change my mind (I mentioned that I’m indecisive, right?).

Listen to the aftercare advice.
How you treat your tattoo in the aftermath of having it done is crucial to how long it will last. Colours fade, skin dries out and sometimes you’ll lose detailing so make sure you listen. I’m one of those weirdos that likes to read manuals on things so I followed the advice to a tee and I don’t think a single part of me has ever been as well moisturised as my wrist has been since having it done!

What about you?
Do you have any tattoos? Let me know in the comments!