I remember when the idea finally hit me: I’d come across a very simple illustration in a children’s story that described the wind and rain. The rain was personified by a woman whose long hair dripped creating weather below. The wind was an old man blowing air from the sky. I was immediately reminded of old nautical maps and epic illustrations of old man winter. Themes of death, rebirth, challenge and change swirled around in my mind; a real, meaningful representation of the events that had conspired over the previous 5 years. The images overwhelmed me until I could think of little else. I could imagine this image on my skin. For the first time this idea seemed right.
I worked up enough courage to go to a shop where I’d gotten a piercing previously to talk my idea over with an artist. I I shared my idea, and was promptly told that I needed to put down a $40 non-refundable deposit and leave notes before the artist could start her work. I was so excited to have something drawn that I gladly paid the deposit and went on my way with very little discussion. But over the course of the hours and days that followed, I found that something didn’t feel right. In my inexperience I couldn’t put my finger on what bothered me about the interaction, but I started to question if I wanted to go to that shop. Could I trust this person to put something permanent on my skin? I wasn’t so sure.
After describing my experience, a friend then took me to Old School Tattoo here in town. He’d recommended one of their artists so diligently that I felt obligated to check it out. I remember walking into the shop and feeling a little intimidated– I could hear the sound of needles humming under the loud metal music playing through the speakers overhead. I waited with my friend until the artist, Steve, had a moment to chat.
I felt instantly at home with Steve. I described what I was looking for, and he echoed it back to me. He was interested in my idea, and immediately took me to the computer to bring up images of Old Man Winter. He drew up a sketch of the wind, and it was like he had dug the image right from my mind and put it on paper before me. It was that drawing that eventually became my chest piece.
As I left the shop that night it finally occurred to me what I didn’t like about that first shop: It was all business. My interaction with the artist was almost clinical. My ideas were met with counter-ideas that lost the initial meaning of what I’d wanted. With Steve I immediately had a collaborator. He wanted to hear me out and consider my ideas. He made suggestions for I didn’t know much about– size and placement of the image on my body, how the ink would eventually fade and what colors I should consider– but he did so respectfully while honoring my original idea.
If I can give any prospective tattooed people a piece of advice it’s this: Find someone you feel at home with (especially if you have an elaborate piece in mind). I’ve gone back to Steve for every single tattoo I’ve had so far, because I just feel so comfortable with him. I lost out on $40 at the first shop with that drawing fee, but I’m so glad I didn’t make use of it there.