How many tattoos do you have?
In 1995, when I had background texturing added around all the work I had gotten up until that point, I stopped counting. When it all touches, how do you separate it? My usual response to that question is, "I don't have tattoos.... I am tattooed." The work I have on me presently was described by a friend of mine as a "tattooed shawl." My tattooing goes around my upper back and shoulders, covers my upper arms, and goes down my chest and the center of my torso. I also have a tattoo on the back of each of my calves.
When did you first decide to get tattooed?
I got my first tattoo about two weeks after my 21st birthday. I'd wanted one since sometime in high school. However the more I thought about the meaning of "for the rest of your life" the more I wasn't in a blind rush to do it. I wanted to make sure I'd make a design decision I could live with forever.
What was it like getting that first tattoo? Were you scared?
My father had driven around with me the week before to help me find the shop. I went to Tattoo Stiggy, a former tattoo world record, holder, back in NJ where I was home for the summer from college. My mother gave me some money before I left as she didn't want me to be short on cash. (yes, my folks are that cool)
I was afraid of moving if it hurt too much more than anything else. Stiggy was old school, told a million crazy stories the whole time. As soon as that needle hit my arm, I knew I was supposed to be doing this, that I'd been tattooed in a past life or something.
When I came home, Mom wanted to see it right away, and was bummed when I said I had to keep the bandage on until the morning.
Do you ever regret being tattooed?
No. I got very early on the concept of "for the rest of your life." Sadly, many, many people do not. All the time, I have people come up to me, look at my ink, complement it, and then show me something on their own skin, saying how much they hate their own tattoo(s). I don't know what to say to those folks. I believe you get the tattoo you deserve.
Do you have any future tattoos in the planning?
When I first started getting inked 16 years ago, I was jazzed and thinking of the next one before the most recent had even finished healing. My first three tattoos were five months to the day apart. I don't push to get them now, I let them come to me. I told myself I wanted full sleeves by the time I was 40 and I know what I want on my forearms so I guess that's what the tattoo design part of my brain will be working on over the next couple of years.
If you'd like to learn more on this topic, you might like
Spiritual Tattoo: A Cultural History of Tattooing, Piercing, Scarification, Branding, and Implants
by John A. Rush
The Tattoo History Source Book
by Steve Gilbert