Tatts Life: how to get a tattoo that doesn’t suck…

These days everyone's got tatt. But ink-collector Anita Bhagwandas has an unpopular opinion on who should and shouldn't go under the needle...

Change arrives with a whisper. 

When I first started working in magazines, I’d watch my editors in picture meetings poring over the beautiful photographs from lavish shoots. Suddenly, they’d all baulk with fright because a model’s tiny swallow tattoo was apparent and would now simply have to be airbrushed out. Nostrils flared at that ‘silly girl’ and abrasive pen scribbles surrounded the offending ink in red lassoes. There was resolutely no subtext here – tattoos were not ‘aspirational’. Nor were they to be celebrated, tolerated or admired as a form of beauty.Fast forward less than ten years, and everything has changed.

Now, some of the most sought-after fashion and beauty models are very visibly tattooed, such as Freja Beha Erichsen, Cara Delevigne and Alice Dellal. Even the hint of airbrushing their ink away would result in the cancellation of their bookings. Their body art is part of their look. Tattooed models have the result of giving conservative brands an edge and now body ink really is everywhere. Posh girls have them, the coolest women about have them and chances are, you might too. But as there is so much confusion over tattoos now that they’re uber fashionable – so I’m volunteering to dive in, tackle it and get real about body ink- no feelings spared, sorry.

TATT FACT 1 – Not everyone should get one
I don’t have a vested interest in selling tattoos as a concept (although I do have seven). Hell, I actually think you shouldn’t get one, and here’s why. I’ve lost count of the number of people who utter these bewildering words: ‘I really want a tattoo, but I don’t know what to get.’ These people – and you may know one of them – don’t actually want a tattoo. They probably just want a new piece of jewellery. Because if you did want one (like, if you really

These are all good, normal things when thinking about a tattoo, especially a larger piece.Tracy D, my tattoo artist, agrees. ‘It’s a warning sign to me when people don’t know what they want when they arrive, because ideally, you should have thought about it six months or so before you get the work done,’ she says. ‘After all, a tattoo is a permanent decision- you do need to be sure. If you’re just getting one on a whim or for fashion, you may regret it, and removal both hurts and costs,’ she adds. That’s not to say you should know precisely how it will look  that’s the artist’s job. When I visited Tracy for my newest foot piece (we filmed the excruciating process on marieclaire.co.uk just for you) and she took my half-baked ideas (a skull, a old fashioned stopwatch and some roses) and made them into a beautiful design. The people who don’t know what they want, who walk into shops and pick a design from a book? They’re the regretters. Don’t become one of them – honestly, just don’t have a tatt done in the first place, k?

TATT FACT 2 – Don’t get one if you’re actually a bit prissy
The other factor that stops women getting tattoos is their wedding day. It’s the one day in your entire life that revolves around professing your supposed innocence and virgin-like qualities and naturally, tattoos don’t always fit in with that image. Radio presenter Katie Parsons ardently disagrees and made her large tattoo a part of her wedding day. ‘I actively chose a dress that showed off my prominent chest piece, because `I love it and it’s part of me. If I had hidden it, I’d felt less like myself’, she says.

That’s the point – if you love tattoos, tattoo art and the culture around them you’ll get them anyway, you’d choose the enjoyment that comes from your ink over anything.Covering them up on the big day is your choice entirely – after all, it’s your day. But if your main concern about getting a tattoo in the first place is whether it will ruin your wedding photos (that’s just one day in your life, people) then don’t get one. Frankly, not only will you regret it, but frankly you don’t deserve one. Soz.

TATT FACT 3 – You’re not a wuss if you cry a little when you get one
Tattoos hurt- and they’re meant to.The process is like being spared by dozen of tiny little angry soldiers for hours on end. Admittedly, if you cry during a weeny little tattoo, you need to readdress the state of your life, but anything big – we’re talking over 40 minutes  will probably hurt like a bitch.And the worst places to get them? Your feet (utterly, indescribable agony), ribs (okay, after 30 minutes it feels like somebody is forcibly stabbing your heart) and wrist (feels like your wrist bone will come jutting out in protest at any minute).‘Other painful places are your neck, the bottom of the back, elbows and inner arms’, says Tracy.‘Taking a couple of paracetamol an hour or so before your tattoo can help, but pain is part of the process, so after a certain point, you just have to del with it.’

 If you’re having a big design done, it’s worth checking that your artist has numbing spray to use in-between and take a mate/ iPad with you for a little distraction. Apart from that, you just have to woman up. No pain, no gain – we know this from childbirth, no?

TATT FACT 4 – The perfect artist won’t come looking for you
Like all the best things (suitable men, matte-red lipsticks and tights that don’t fall down), you have to go out and pursue the perfect one. The same is true of great tattoo artists – you need to put in some effort and do the research (it is fun, though, on the plus side).

Most artists can do the more basic designs or scripts, but if you’re after a certain style or signature design, then it’s worth looking further afield for a truly amazing piece. The easiest way to do this is to head to a tattoo convention – they’re held all over the UK, but the biggest are in London in September 2016 and Brighton in April 2016. They’ll feature artists from across the globe, so you can get inspiration, find the right artist for you, or even book in ahead of time to be tattooed by them there and then. It’s the best way to see all the styles and techniques- such as old school, abstract, Polynesian or Japanese – to make your art truly perfect. It’s also teaming with smoking hot people – just sayin’.

TATT FACT 5 – Being old with tattoos is better being old without them
One of the things that outs people off tattoos is what they’ll look like when they’re older. Here’s a really simple experiment. Type ‘old people’ into Google. Depressing, right? You’re now wondering what the point is in anything, when life is just a sleigh-ride into a nursing home until you’re being force fed mushed up food. Now, type ‘old people with tattoos’ into Google. Badass, much? Youthful looking? Free-inspired and inspirational? Right – that one’s sorted. Plus, when you’re 90, you’ll be more concerned with spasmodic incontinence than a bit of ink on your skin.

TATT FACT 6 – Other people will think your tattoos are their business
So you’ve got a tattoo- or you’re about to get one. You need to prepare yourself for this – your tattoo is now public property. Well, in reality it isn’t – it’s yours alone. But in the eyes of the scornful woman sat next to you on the bus, or disapproving ‘tsk-er’ on the train platform it is. Sometimes they’ll be positive (this should always be the case but, sadly, there are more than a few ignorant douchebags out there). But, sometimes it will be entirely inappropriate – like having a tattoo means you enjoy being offended. The truth? Tattoos have always been a far bigger deal to those who don’t have them than to those who do, so here are some standard responses to learn. Behold:

A: ‘What does it mean?’
B: ‘I just wanted it.’
A: ‘Won’t you regret that in the future?’
B: ‘No more than you’ll regret that putrid hair colour. Also the future won’t exist because, in 15 to 20 years, we’ll all be cyborgs living in a pseudo reality, anyway.’
A: ‘I’m sorry, tattoos just look cheap.
B: So does your Prada ‘inspired’ tote. SS14 – fact. 
A: I just hate them.
B: ‘I’m not hugely keen on you face. Could you kindly turn away before I projectile hurl my Cheerios all over you? 

At the end of the day, whether you get one or not is your call and I hope you do, because they’re beautiful, addictive and undeniably inspiring. Watch me being tattooed (PAIN) and watch a mini-documentary about professional; women who are proudly rocking their ink in our film Behind The Ink

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