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Getting some new ink from South Carolina


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Hello Everyone!

A a long time ago in a galaxy far far away I had some ink done ("Zacks" and "Hopey the Tattooing Nurse" both in Jacksonville, NC - vintage 1992). Nothing major - Zack did a USMC upper arm piece of a USMC flag/US Flag behind and Hope did a 15 minute small custom tribal piece that a group of us all got. Shortly afterwards I got married...she was not really a fan of ink. I always admired good work (though there are a lot of stupid ass tattoos out there) but didn't really think of getting more. Flash forward, wife is now ex-wife. Another minor concern was professional - though you can always keep the ink under clothes. These days ink is so much more common and accepted, and with the bitch out of the picture, I figured "Why the hell not?"

So a bit of background here... I am a classically trained engineer who is fairly successful, having worked up to executive management in a highly technical field. In other words, I get paid to over think everything and manage a large team to implement my designs precisely. Yep, based on other posts I have read here I am sure more artists are thinking "Pain in the fucking ass." Oh, I should add that the only exposure to the world of tattoos in 20+ years has been strippers, waitresses at Twin Peaks/Flying Saucer and every episode of Ink Master. So of course I am an expert on all thinks ink related. :D

One tat I really like the look of is bio-mech. Not bio-organic or the new school cartoon look, but the highly detailed ones with a true depth to them. So I decided I would get one on my outer calf, ankle to knee. I wanted an element of computer circuitry added to personalize it and have it mean something to me. Now, those with no engineering backgrounds, let me let you in on a secret. Give up AutoCAD or manual drafting tools and EXACT dimensions, angles and straight lines and we can create some masterpieces. It's an illusion though - all math. We absolutely SUCK at art in it's purest sense.

So my quest begins. I Google search (what the hell would you use today?) for "Top 10 Tattoo" and find several Skin Magazine and other Top-X lists. Living in South Carolina, All or Nothing in Smyrna, GA (just outside of Atlanta) was in the top 5 on a couple lists and had some great work on their web site (though it's a bad web site - what's up with you guys? You are artists and have some horrendous web sites!). The owner, Brandon Bond, does some amazing work in my opinion, but not really the style I was looking for. My thinking was that at his level he would probably only have decent artists working in his shop. Is this a reasonable assumption? So I go through the work of other artists there, drive to the shop (about 4 hours), look through the various books and decide on Matt Dunlap. He didn't have anything exactly like the style I wanted, but he had some good detail work and I read his bio that stated he had computer design experience. Despite being a relative newcomer (his profile said 3 years experience, but I do not know how out of date that was), after talking to him and setting an appointment I felt that he could deliver what I was looking for.

So I have read several threads here from artists on bad clients, bad tats, etc. but you guys don't see out side. I haven't had ink in 20+ years so I am kind of re-virginized. I have zero clue of what an artist wants/needs, what it means to sit well, what good etiquette is, how much a tat costs these days ($100? $1000? $5000?), how to prep (do I shave my own leg?), how long a session lasts, how much pain to expect or even how to describe what I want. I spent 75% of the time saying over and over in my head, "Don't be that asshole client you see on Ink Master." Matt asked for reference materials and ask that I email them to him. I sent a couple LONG emails with links to what I like and didn't like, etc. but honestly didn't give him a lot to work with. Again, from TV I have this idea that you tell an artist kind of what you are looking for and they whip up some magic. I was not sure if I should provide more information and ideas (and some threads here say that clients suck because they don't know what they want - other threads say clients suck because they come in with a drawing and say "do this exactly") or if I should trust the artist and let him do his thing. So the end result was that after the more general web pictures of what I like and what I don't like and a few ideas I would like added I let him come up with a design entirely on his own. Made the first appointment, paid the deposit.

So first session I think I was actually under the needle for about 5 1/2 hours, there about 7 hours - outline and some shading finished. Second session was all color fill, fewer breaks and maybe an hour or so longer under the needle. I have a whole renewed respect for those inked up strippers! Ya, while Matt said I sat great (I think he was being nice) that shit hurts. I would do it again, it isn't THAT bad, but on a scale of being burned alive to getting a blow job it's definitely on hell fire and brimstone side.

So the end result (which is healing as I type this) is pretty awesome. I am please with how it turned out and I think Matt was a great guy and easy to work with. I don't think he is the kind of guy that would say I was a pain in the ass even if I was - seems too nice or professional to be negative. I would definitely not hesitate in recommending him to anyone.

So back to the point of this post - an intro. I now have three pieces and will be getting more. There are a few styles I like, but seem to clash (Japanese Koi and the wispy red/black French stuff for example). So I have some decisions to make. I also know more about the process now.

** I wish I found this site BEFORE I got my ink! ***

So here are some thoughts combining ideas from threads here and my experience:

1) I still have no idea if I provided the right amount or type of reference, but based on the results I would say I am good (or rather Matt is).

2) I had a co-worker drive me and she waited and worked on her laptop in the couch waiting area. Didn't really come back unless I text'd her to bring me a drink. This type of third party seems to be OK.

3) Yes, I said text'd. And emailed from my phone. Matt had music playing and over that and the machine we couldn't talk anyhow. I let him do his thing and I did anything to keep my mind off of it - which meant emails. Most of you apparently hate that. Noted.

4) I did not ask for progress reports, did not constantly want to see it. I figured at that point it was like parachuting - you do your prep work but after that last step there is no turning back, so let the man do his job. In both sessions together I may have asked how it was going or how I was sitting 4-5 times. This seems to be preferred.

5) When we broke for lunch the first session we did bring food back and eat in the couch area. Reconsidered the second session and ate someplace else. Figured that one out on my own.

6) Tipping...ya...I had no idea in the world that this was a thing for a tattoo artist. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem tipping someone, I just didn't know it was a thing. I don't tip my doctor or dentist... Fortunately for me after the second longer session when Matt wanted the same coin as the first session I reminded him if was longer and asked if he was sure and he said "Yes, but you can always tip the artist." Hint received, tip paid (20% of total cost of both sessions - hope that is appropriate).

So lessens learned and it was a positive experience. As a new client I would strongly suggest that shops type up a little 1-page "What to expect" type sheet with pain level setting, expectations for reference/ideas, what to expect the artist to be able to do and not do, a couple hints on what doesn't work/heal right (2pt font for example), etiquette of your shop, tipping policy, etc. Don't be shy. You all have strong opinions posted here - but unless a client reads forums like this first we have no way of knowing these things.

So final thoughts...you guys have a hell of a tough job. You have to turn crazy ideas in to ink that will be on a person for the rest of their lives (after torturing them and charging for it). A bad day for you is a bad 50 years for a client...no pressure though. I think you guys do an amazing job given that you probably get all kinds of crazy requests, have a moving canvas, do not have an eraser and have your own problems and challenges that you have to put aside every time to start pushing ink. For that, thank you.

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Sounds like you are headed in the right direction, now.

There are some really great shops and tattooers near you, as well. I used to work at Holy City Tattooing Collective in Charleston, SC. Jason Eisenberg is a great tattooer, as well as Dennis Hickman. In Conway, there is Jeff Cribb's shop, Hero Tattoo. Great artists there as well. Also check out Danny Reed and the guys at his shop in Asheville, NC "Hot Stuff Tattoo".

" but on a scale of being burned alive to getting a blow job it's definitely on hell fire and brimstone side." Great analogy

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