Smart questions to ask to ensure a safe, positive tattooing experience

Hannah Hunsinger | Collegian Rhett Ehriquez, junior in kinesiology, gets his first tattoo (a cross in memory of his late father) from Anthony "Hollywood" Christensen in Syndicate Tattoo on Poyntz on Friday, Feb. 1, 2013. Ehriquez said he chose Syndicate based on word of mouth reviews and liking the look of it when he came in.

As tattooing grows in popularity in American culture, many people know what they want in a tattoo but still have questions about how to ensure a safe and positive experience. Though tattoo culture might appear confusing to the uninitiated, a few insider tips can shed some light on the process.

An important part of getting a tattoo is deciding where to get it done. Picking a shop could be the best or worst decision you make when getting a tattoo. It can be an incredibly simple process for those with previous experience, but making the right choice can prove difficult for first-time clients.

Matt Goss, owner of Syndicate Tattoo, located at 423 Poyntz Ave., said word of mouth is one of the best ways to find out about reputable tattoo shops and artists.

“If you like your friends’ tattoos, ask them where they got them,” Goss said. “There are also a lot of people who go back to the same artist, no matter where the artist goes to, due to the quality of work the artist does.”

Reagan Proctor, senior in elementary education, said she returned to the same shop for both of her tattoos because she liked the space and atmosphere.

“What I saw, I liked,” Proctor said. “The space looked badass — what you would expect a tattoo shop to look like, but it wasn’t overwhelming. For me, as a small white girl, I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable in the shop if there were all these big guys and the place was dark and such.”

The artist is another important factor in a positive tattoo experience. A tattoo artist’s personality can make all the difference, said James Wood, chef for Sodexo Inc., the K-State Student Union’s food service provider.

“The most important quality I look for is personality,” Wood said. “Is he or she going to listen and try to give me what I want or are they going to try to convince me to do it their way?”

Of course, first-time tattoo clients also need to look for an artist whose style will mesh well with the tattoo design itself.

“It also comes down to their style of art and how confident they are in whatever I throw at them; if they are like, ‘hell yeah’ or if they are like, ‘I can try,'” Wood said. “I also like to do a little research on them to find out if they’re heavy-handed or light-handed. I also look for the cleanliness of their work area and equipment.”

In the state of Kansas, every tattoo artist employed by a shop must be certified. Before applying, artists must complete 1,200 hours of apprenticeship, and after becoming certified, they must complete five hours of continued education every year. Kansas also requires clients to be 18 years or older with a valid state identification card to receive a tattoo.

There are always people willing to do tattoos cheaply in their homes, but that is never recommended, Goss said. He said there are many health hazards associated with getting tattooed in a home or in another unlicensed facility, including the possibility of contracting hepatitis due to poor sanitary practices.

Doing research, asking questions and knowing what to look for can help make any tattoo experience a positive one.