MusicCityGal

Hello :) Question about a difficult situation.

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Hi everyone! I'm new here and have a question about a situation I find myself in currently. This might be long but I'm gonna try to include all the details to give a full picture.

I just started a full sleeve a few months ago. First ever tattoo.... I went big lol. The first session was about 5 hours and I just recently finished another 2 on the lower half of my arm and have my third 2 hour session scheduled. The artist and shop is very reputable and well known but I can't help feeling a little frustrated by the experience so far. I initially sent an online request for a ballpark estimate about 3 months ahead of time then stopped in one day to pay the deposit and set up an appointment for my first session. I very briefly spoke with the artist and she said she liked one of the design reference pics I'd emailed and just needed to know what type of flowers I preferred then discussed where I wanted the tattoo and some details about how it would be designed for the best outcome. In all it lasted maybe 5 minutes. I emailed her about 2 weeks before my appointment (while trying not to be a nuisance) to request a sketch. She said she typically didn't start working on the design until a few days before. I waited until a couple days before my session and still never heard anything all the way up until the night before. No response. She had mentioned if I arrived early the day of, we'd have time to discuss the design and make changes but I arrived 1.5 hours early and didn't get to speak with her until my actual appointment time. Since she ran late on the appointment before me I was given extra time at the end of my appointment. Basically the design was already printed on paper and she just wanted to know if I liked it and then worked on placement before transferring it to my skin. I was kind of shocked that I was being asked to make an on the spot snap decision about something permanently going on my body even though I had scheduled my appointment over a month in advance. The design was pretty so I went ahead. During the session there wasn't much conversation, in fact she had an earbud in one ear most of the time. I'd ask questions but it felt a little more like I was bothering her than just talking to someone. I know sometime you just aren't a "people person" but if your job heavily involves customer interaction, you should really make an effort. Especially for a first time tattoo customer getting a large piece. At least IMO. The last session was pretty much the same plus when I had several spots that needed touch ups (I was super careful about following the aftercare, not sure how, but the spots just happened) I was charged for it, which I hear is pretty unusual. It wasn't a set fee but was included in my session time and I'm being charged by the hour. Now that the lower half of my sleeve is almost complete I'm just frustrated that I don't feel like I'm being included in the design enough other than picking the type of flower and overall design which is flowers, mandalas & lace. Feels like the artist is just doing what she wants without it being more of a collaboration. I'm also not 100% happy with the way the roses turned out. They're not bad, but I find them a little too boring and would prefer more details. I really thought for $250 an hour (so far 7 hours and the lower half of my arm isn't fully completed) the design would be more unique and not just something anyone could take pictures from the internet of roses and lace patterns and mandalas and piece together. It's nice but not very original 😞

 

So long story short, I've seen the work of another artist in the same shop which is really good and I've chatted with him during my sessions while he's between appointments. I seem to click better with his personality (he's more talkative & friendly). He does a lot more planning with his clients before starting a tattoo, even for walk in customers. I've also noticed he's super fast and since I'm paying $250 an hour with plans on full sleeves for both arms that will make a huge difference in cost. My questions are 1- Is my experience with my artist's lack of planning and discussion so far normal for a larger piece? 2- Should I be paying for touchups when I'm already paying so much per hour? 3- Is this the price you'd expect to pay for a custom design not just a cookie cutter one or would it cost more for a truly custom piece? 4- Would it be an issue if I switched artists since I'm not completely happy at this point? 5- I was told it would be best to finish one full sleeve before moving to the other arm because the ink would look different if there was too much time between doing the lower half and upper half. Is that true or would it all look the same after it's fully healed even if there was a large time gap before doing the top half?

At this point I feel like I'm gonna end up paying a ton of money and not be happy in the end. 

Thank you so much for any insight or help you could offer!

Edited by MusicCityGal
Correction

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Sorry you're having a bad experience/not the experience you want, but I'd say at the outset that nothing you describe sounds terrible/terribly out of the ordinary. A lot just sounds like a personality difference.

But: 1. if the artist is a true pro it's not so important about the planning: she knows what she's doing. the discussion is more on you to ask ask ask. (That said, I'm doing traditional Japanese where you only pick the subject of the tattoo and everything is up to the artist. So I come from a very different perspective on this.) 2. "touch-ups" in the context of still working on a large piece are different than if it were complete and you were going back months later. They're often necessary, and I would just chalk it up to getting the perfect piece. 3. $250 is a loooottta cash but yes that's what you'd pay for a unique top quality piece. Without seeing it it's hard to judge whether it's truly cookie cutter though, you know, rather than your feeling bad about it given the experience you're having? 4. yes it'd be an issue, and don't do it..... 5. finish what you started. You have to finish things in life.

That's my 2cents, others may disagree/have different interpretations.

Cheers and good luck!

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Not sure if I'm doing this right lol. In response to scottyg:

 

Thank you for responding and sharing your perspective! Honestly sometimes I wonder if I'm not just somewhat nervous about entrusting such a big decision to a perfect stranger. Especially since this is my first tattoo. Maybe it'll improve with time :) It doesn't help that anyone who knows how much I'm paying will constantly tell me I'm being ripped off. That's coming from friends with many tattoos that they've gotten from different artists all over the US. It feels disheartening. As for finishing the tattoo, that's a definite!! The question was never if I'll finish but if I'll stick with the same artist and how I'll finish (do one full sleeve or do both lower half sleeves then add the upper half later). It may seem odd to work on both the lower half sleeves first before completing them in full but I'm trying to cover a skin condition and I'd love to have both forearms complete so I can feel confident to wear short sleeves ASAP vs just one arm but not the other for an extended period of time. Due to the price I'm paying per hour I'm only doing 2 hour sessions every couple months so this is gonna take a little time to complete. Hope that makes sense. Anyway, thanks again! Really appreciate it. 

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10 minutes ago, MusicCityGal said:

Not sure if I'm doing this right lol. In response to scottyg:

 

Thank you for responding and sharing your perspective! Honestly sometimes I wonder if I'm not just somewhat nervous about entrusting such a big decision to a perfect stranger. Especially since this is my first tattoo. Maybe it'll improve with time :) It doesn't help that anyone who knows how much I'm paying will constantly tell me I'm being ripped off. That's coming from friends with many tattoos that they've gotten from different artists all over the US. It feels disheartening. As for finishing the tattoo, that's a definite!! The question was never if I'll finish but if I'll stick with the same artist and how I'll finish (do one full sleeve or do both lower half sleeves then add the upper half later). It may seem odd to work on both the lower half sleeves first before completing them in full but I'm trying to cover a skin condition and I'd love to have both forearms complete so I can feel confident to wear short sleeves ASAP vs just one arm but not the other for an extended period of time. Due to the price I'm paying per hour I'm only doing 2 hour sessions every couple months so this is gonna take a little time to complete. Hope that makes sense. Anyway, thanks again! Really appreciate it. 

it's all relative, if you like an artist and it's a good tattoo that YOU like, then it was worth the money.

tattoo hourly rates vary from $100 to $700, I know a tattooer that says she needs $300 per hour with an 8 hour minimum,(UP FRONT),for anything !

I got a 9 hour one shot one time that cost me $3000., I was fine with that.

I know people that have paid $5000 and up for an arm sleeve.

those people that are saying that to you should keep their mouths shut.

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My questions are

1- Is my experience with my artist's lack of planning and discussion so far normal for a larger piece? If you want more input next time, be up front about it. My first tattoo was a sleeve too. I told the artist to do whatever they wanted in the Japanese style. My only input was when we discussed what to put on my elbow and I suggested a flower.

2- Should I be paying for touchups when I'm already paying so much per hour? As stated, in a multi-session tattoo, yes.

3- Is this the price you'd expect to pay for a custom design not just a cookie cutter one or would it cost more for a truly custom piece? Unless they pulled the design off the shelf or stole it from someone else, it's not cookie cutter.

4- Would it be an issue if I switched artists since I'm not completely happy at this point? Yes, I doubt another artist in the same shop would finish the sleeve and even outside the shop you might have trouble finding a quality artist to finish someone else's work.

5- I was told it would be best to finish one full sleeve before moving to the other arm because the ink would look different if there was too much time between doing the lower half and upper half.  Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, finish one before you start the other.

6- Is that true or would it all look the same after it's fully healed even if there was a large time gap before doing the top half? Ink fades over time, so you don't want to take years to finish a piece.

Stop listening to "friends" who say $250 an hour is too much. I'm not sure what kind of asshole tells someone they paid too much for a tattoo, but that's not something a friend does. It doesn't matter how many tattoos they have. You knew the price going in, I'm not sure why it's an issue now.

Next tattoo you need to set expectations with the artist. If you want to be really involved int he design let them know up front. Not every artist is interested in working with someone like that.

One sleeve and my back I let the artist do whatever they wanted. The second sleeve, I showed a picture and said, "something like this." My first leg, I just said I wanted a tiger and we talked about the other elements. My other leg we just talked about the elements and kicked some ideas around, but I deferred to him. I've never seen a drawing or stencil until it went on me.

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