How to Find the Best Design
The first thing I like to ask people when they visit the shop is, “Why? Why are you wanting to get tattooed?” The reason you’re getting tattooed is very important, and by telling me the reason can inspire some really awesome designs. And avoid the same ol’ stuff everyone gets off the internet. For example, I was getting ready to tattoo a young woman, and she was asking for an infinity symbol. At this point in time I was doing almost four or more infinities every day, so I was very tired of them. I asked her why she was getting tattooed, and she said it was for her grandmother. I asked her, “Does your grandmother have an affinity for infinities?” She said, “No, I’m just going to love her forever.” I responded, “Okay, a tattoo in itself is forever, so it’s like saying, ‘forever-forever.” And we both laughed. I ask her if there was a memory of her grandmother that really stood out to her, something that brought her joy.
She went on to tell me when she was a little girl her grandmother would make these amazing blueberry muffins. She went on and on about the texture, the size, the consistency, how they smelled, and how the aroma filled the house. As she was telling the story, several people had gathered around and we all wished her grandmother was still alive so we could try one of these amazing muffins. I asked her, “See, that’s amazing! Why don’t we do a super yummy blueberry muffin?” She responded, “Ew! I don’t want food on me.” Everyone around her was shocked at her response. The saddest thing is, her response kind of destroyed that entire memory. It weakened the joy, connection, admiration, even the sacrifice the grandmother made for her loved ones, to just, food.
As I was tattooing her infinity symbol, she asked me what I would get for my grandmother. The conversation went like this,
”What would you get for your grandma?”
”For my mom’s mother, I would get a ham and turkey sandwich.”
”My grandmother would always buy the really nice bread. You know the kind, the short, wide loafs that have the grains on top? Then she would go to the butcher, which you don’t see very much of any more, and get the best cuts of meat. She would also grow all her own veggies, and you know that takes work. Whenever my sister and me, and our cousins would roll into the house, we would barrel into the kitchen, grab the items from the fridge and barely being able to reach over the counter, we would push the ingredients up. She would make these sandwiches with Miracle Whip. Oh man, Miracle Whip is sooo good. I don’t even know if I actually like Miracle Whip, or if I enjoy it because it takes me back to those days. But she would make those sandwiches, cut them in half, put them on a saucer with some chips, and each kid got a half. We would all sit at the kitchen table as a family and have a snack. It’s not about the sandwich, it’s about what the sandwich represents; love, sacrifice, family, commitment.”
What I’m saying is, think about the imagery related to why you’re wanting tattooed. It doesn’t have to be just for a memorial of a lost loved one, but it can also be something as meaningful as your favorite foods, favorite hobbies, favorite tv show. A tattoo can mean a ton of things, or nothing at all. All I’m asking is how can the design be more personal to you rather than the same ol’, same ol’ on the internet.
After you’ve figured out what you want in your design, you need to find the artist that’s best for you. Visit tattoo shops, look at the portfolios, and once you’ve found the artist you like, meet them and have a consult. Not all artists are the same. For me, I do prefer a particular client. I like a client that’s open to ideas, willing to consider suggestions when it comes to art and the tattoo process. I feel a tattoo is a serious modification. It’s not like a haircut where it’ll grow back, so let’s do it right the first time and consider all of our options.
Before you come in to the studio to have a consult, have these things ready to go.
1. References. Have them organized on your phone. It’s annoying for us standing around waiting for people to search through their galleries and Pinterest. It might not be a big deal for you, but we have to stand around an wait multiple times a day, every day.
2. Style. Know what kind of style you’re looking to get. References can help with that, but also heavily consider the styles the artist you’re speaking to specializes in. If you allow them more freedoms in the things they love, you’ll get a much better piece of art and overall tattoo experience. Remember, you’re not just getting “tatted,” you’re commissioning an artist for their artwork. You can also view my Tattoo Style blog HERE.
3. Placement & Size. Know where your tattoo is going and how big you want it to be. As I always say about Style, Placement, and Size, “I have a list of skills and techniques I can put into your art, the smaller you make the tattoo, the smaller that list gets. The smaller the list gets, the less options you have artistically.”
4. Budget. Tattoos have a range of prices. Style, Placement, and Size can affect these prices dramatically. It’s important to not only have all your information, but to listen to your artist. If you don’t have a budget, then that means to us that we can have the freedom to do what we need to make the best art we can. For me, I don’t always pick the most expensive option (i.e. Realism), because it is one of my least favorite styles to work in. But know knowing “how much is too much,” will help the artist figure out the best course of action for your design. If the design you really want isn’t within your budget, you’ll either need to adjust your design, adjust your budget, or consider sessions if the piece or artist will allow it.
I hope this helps you figure out how to get a cool design. You’ll be wearing this tattoo forever (unless you get it lasered or covered), so let’s consider all the options available, and do it right the first time. I want you to love your tattoo forever and also build healthy relationships in the tattoo world.