Tattoos were not popular when I was growing up in Canada, but after 15 years in Japan where the massive full-body tattoos popularized by a certain group there first shocked and then awed me, I have come to appreciate how beautiful these creations in ink can be. It’s also made me think it would be neat to get one.
But it did get me wondering why we see so many today, where to get one, if they’re safe, and what design will look great, not only today, but long into the future.
So, I went over to visit two friends at All Day Tattoo to learn more with ten questions in hand.
Tattooing was very much a subculture up until the early 2000s, after which it has become progressively more mainstream and by some estimates, over 50% of American adults have at least one tattoo.
It seems people have become increasingly connected digitally but less so with those around them. And although personal liberties in society might have lessened along with a push for people to conform to certain parameters to make a decent living, progress with social issues means society, as a whole, has become less prone to judging someone by their appearance or personal choices.
This has created a perfect storm for creativity and an environment where people want to take control of their bodies and express themselves in a personal way with the tattoo industry providing an outlet to express who they are, how they feel and what is important through body art.
Of course, there will always be people who want to get a tattoo because they like a style or design, as art is meant to create an emotional response or for a more traditional reason, to commemorate a loved one, overcoming a struggle or perhaps a trip of a lifetime.
How can you judge the quality of a tattoo studio before getting work done?
The first thing to check is the quality of the tattoos the studio is producing which is simple as most studios have a website, Facebook page or Instagram to highlight their work.
The second point is to ensure safe, hygienic accepted best practices are place. On entering a studio, expect to see or ask to see their Department of Health Certificate along with documents proving they are a registered business.
Thailand has quite a stringent licensing process for tattoo studios and while the process is arduous, if a studio has not made the effort to meet the standards required, you need to ask yourself why. This is important as a client risks suffering from an unnecessary rash or infection, or worst case, hepatitis or even HIV.
A third point to consider is the service provided. Do they offer advice and help to not only select a design, the right artist and once a tattoo has been completed, help with the healing process and any problems that might result if care is not taken.
In Thailand, the language barrier can be an important issue for many clients and when it comes to tattoos, it is extremely important the studio and the artist know exactly what is wanted, with no misunderstandings.
Another concern is make certain an artist is skilled in the tattoo style wanted, and with 14 artists on staff, All Day Tattoo is certain to have one skilled in anything from Japanese to Polynesian and from the most modern to traditional styles.
Tattoos are permanent but life changes. If you get a tattoo you love at the time and it is delivered well, it is unlikely you will come to regret as it is a representation of where and who you were at the time.
However, as we do not know where life will lead, give yourself the choice to cover a tattoo easily (with work clothes for example) and avoid getting hand, neck or face tattoos unless certain it is a step you want to take.
Why should someone not get a tattoo?
If they feel under duress for any reason, they should not get one. This can be, for example, someone being forced to get a tattoo to ‘prove’ their love or devotion.
Even though the legal age for a tattoo is 15 in Thailand, All Day Tattoo policy is to only tattoo people 18 years or older as someone must be a legal adult before being allowed to make a permanent decision about what to put on their bodies.
What types of tattoos are popular?
As tattoos are so individual, there is a huge range of different styles, designs and concepts that people get.
To get an example of what is available and what they can do, their website has detailed articles and examples of different styles so people can learn about them in more detail before visiting.
Being in Bangkok of course, Thai-centric tattoos as well as Sak Yant (Thai traditional) tattoos are popular.
More and more, people decide to get a tattoo to cover scars that might be embarrassing, in particular, self-inflicted scars they would like to forget and be able to hide.
Finally, some come in because they want to cover up a poorly done tattoo done elsewhere, or something they had done a few years ago that was popular but not today.
What should people avoid when getting a tattoo?
Getting a tattoo need not be a stressful process when clients are guided through the process from deciding what they want, finalizing a design, scheduling appointments to ensure each visit is not too long and finally, providing advice and supplies when the work is completed.
While there is a belief that being intoxicated makes the process easier, this really isn’t the case and often makes it far more stressful for the client’s body and mind than it needs to be. In fact, they will turn away someone if they come in drunk as the decision to get one could, in fact, be misguided or regretted a few hours later.
Many studios will charge ‘per piece’ which means a client is at risk of being charged what a studio thinks they can get away with on that day.
All Day Tattoo charges based on tattooing time only - 3,000 Baht per hour or 2,500 Baht for less than one hour. While some clients have spent 100,000 Baht or more on large pieces, the average cost of a tattoo falls somewhere between 5 to 7,000 Baht, although of course this will depend on both the size and detail of the design.
If it takes less time than estimated (which happens often) the customer pays less than estimated. On the other hand if, after finalizing the design with the client, it is clear it will take longer than originally thought the client is able to make a decision whether that works for them without having to worry about awkward renegotiations of a quoted price,
In the end, a happy customer is the best advertising and having clear and fair pricing is just the first step in making sure that happens.
How long do different tattoos stay looking fresh?
Most of us have seen tattoos on older people from the 1970s or even earlier which have faded or turned green, and this can make us question the longevity of tattoos. However, things have come along a huge way since then.
Inks are much higher quality and as we use only the highest level branded and FDA approved inks from the USA, we use the best on the market. This will ensure that as far as possible, the tattoo will stay looking fresh and bright for a long time to come.
There are some tattoos however, such as ‘white ink only’ tattoos which are meant to fade and leave behind a faint scar that’s barely noticeable and this is by design.
There are also certain body parts, hands, and feet especially, where the skin is different and often struggle to retain ink.
How painful is it to get tattoos on different parts of the body?
Pain is relative but something that we have found to be true is that getting a tattoo is far less painful than people expect.
In terms of areas of the body, the fattier or more muscular the area the less likely it will hurt than bonier areas of the body.
What else information or details would you like clients to know?
One important thing to remember is that it take about two weeks for a tattoo to heal and during that time a person needs to be careful, stay away from swimming, for example, to follow instructions and to make the most of after-tattoo care kits.
So, if you want a tattoo, do it at the end of a holiday or at a time when you can carefully follow advice about what to do to ensure nothing untoward happens.
In this way, you will walk away with a beautiful tattoo, one you can be proud of for years.