Good afternoon altrocklifers! Today I thought I’d cover something a bit different, and discuss the ins and outs of getting tattooed. A lot of the articles and blog posts I read around this topic are very America-centric, which isn’t much good to us UK tattooed folks as the culture (especially around tipping) is very different. I’ve already got four tattoos, and I just booked my fifth one, so I thought I’d walk you through the process of finding a studio, picking out the right artist for you, and booking the appointment itself.
My robin and hydrangea upper arm tattoo, done by Ana Tatu at Immaculate Chaos Collaborative, Bournemouth in February 2016.
My teacup inner arm tattoo, done by Ana Tatu at Immaculate Chaos Collaborative, Bournemouth, in April 2016.
My rib/side tattoo, done by Ana Tatu at Black Lodge, Bournemouth in November 2016.
Step one – decide what tattoo you want
Deciding what tattoos you would like can sometimes be a long and complex process, and sometimes very simple. Sometimes the ideas behind tattoos can have significant meanings – such as my robin and teacup tattoos, which are memorial tattoos for my grandparents – and therefore it’s very important to find an artist who will translate your perfect design into a tattoo. Others – such as my poppy tattoo – don’t have as much meaning, so as long as you find an artist who’s work you like and you trust, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get the end result you’re looking for.
In my case, I have a number of different tattoos I’d like to get, some with a lot of meaning, and some with little past “I think this design/concept is cool and I want it on my body”. Either way, before committing to getting any of my tattoos, I gave the ideas themselves a lot of thought over months or sometimes years to help to prevent potential tattoo regret. Tattoo regret is something that I reckon most tattooed people feel about at least one of their tattoos, so by ensuring you find the right artist, you can minimise the risk of coming out with a tattoo you’re less than totally happy with.
Step 2 – finding your ideal artist(s) and tattoo parlours
This step can vary depending on your circumstances: for example, this weekend I’m going to Manchester, so I looked up Manchester tattoo parlours to find a good artist for me. First, I checked out the websites of a number of parlours, both to look at artist portfolios and to see if the website was a) well made, b) had high quality photos of the artists’ work, and c) was of a decent quality with good spelling and grammar throughout. That last point might make me sound like a bit of an elitist, but for me a well written website helps to reassure me that the parlour and its artists pay attention to detail and will provide a high quality service.
Then, I start to look for the artist, or artists, that I would like to tattoo me. This is where Facebook or Instagram come in to play, as sometimes website portfolios can be out of date so artists’ most recent work can usually be found on social media. I’ll take a look through the tattoo parlour’s page, identify the artist or artists that I like, and then look for that artist’s personal page to see even more of their work. Thanks to Instagram I’ve identified a number of tattoo artists with incredible portfolios dotted all over the UK and abroad that I would love to be tattooed by some day.
Step three – booking the appointment
This step can be a bit of a long one, so I’ll try to break it down for you. Booking an appointment with an artist will vary depending on how they organise their books: sometimes, the artist will manage the bookings themselves, and sometimes, the parlour they work in will organise them for you. I’ve dealt with both: when getting tattooed in Bournemouth, I dealt with the artist directly, but I booked my appointment in Manchester through the tattoo parlour.
Booking with the artist directly
This step can sometimes start with a consultation with the artist. Before I got my first tattoo by Ana Tatu, I messaged her via her Facebook page to book a consultation, and spoke to her so I could get to know her a bit better and decide if she was the right artist for me. Some artists will book tattoos via social media, but others will only communicate through email, so make sure you check out their bio to find out how they do things! Otherwise, your message might not be seen and you could miss out.
If the consultation goes well and the artist wants to tattoo your design, they will usually then ask for a deposit. Most parlours I’ve seen only take cash, so I’d advise taking out some money beforehand – deposits can vary from £20 to £100 or more depending on the size of the piece and the time it will likely take. If you’re booking the tattoo over social media or email, the artist may ask you to pay your deposit via bank transfer or PayPal. This deposit will then secure your booking, but if you have to cancel the appointment, the deposit is likely to be non-refundable.
The artist will usually then ask for you to send some reference pictures to them – these can either be pictures of other peoples’ tattoos that you’d like them to take inspiration from, or simply photos of the animal/item/landscape/person you want tattooed. They can then work on designing your tattoo! Remember, don’t expect your artist to copy another tattoo outright – this is art theft, and the mark of an untrustworthy artist if they are willing to copy another person’s work. There’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from other peoples’ tattoos, but copying is always a massive no-no.
Booking through the tattoo parlour
The process of booking through a tattoo parlour is slightly different to the above – in my case, when booking the tattoo I’ll be getting this weekend, I haven’t actually spoken to the tattoo artist at all! First off I messaged the parlour’s Facebook page to ask if my preferred artist had any availability on the dates I’ll be in Manchester, and if they were interested in tattooing my design. They then asked for the rough size of the piece – this makes it easier for the parlour to book me in, as it gives them an idea of how long the tattoo will take. They also asked for some reference pictures, so I sent over some tattoo designs that I liked, as well as some photos of my tattoo subject.
The parlour then confirmed roughly how much the tattoo would cost, how much the deposit would be, and gave me details of how to pay said deposit. Then, this morning I phoned the parlour, paid my deposit by card over the phone to confirm and book the appointment, and gave the parlour my contact details so they could get in touch if anything changed.
You’ll remember that earlier I mentioned tipping culture as being different in the UK to the US. Over in the US it’s expected to tip your artists, but as the UK doesn’t have much of a tipping culture, it’s definitely not expected to tip your tattoo artist here. I’ve personally never tipped my artists, but I’ll usually ask if they’d like me to bring them a drink or snack if I’m picking one up for myself. If you think your artist has done an amazing job, and you’re not sure if they accept tips, just ask! I’m sure they’ll be flattered that you asked even if they don’t like accepting tips.
So there you have it! Did you find this information helpful? Have you had a different experience of booking tattoo appointments in the UK? Let me know on my Facebook or Twitter page, or in the comment section below this post.