Sometimes, when things don’t go as planned, there’s a reason for it.
In fact, I would venture to say that EVERY time things don’t go as planned, there’s a reason for it—we’re just not usually privy to the why, that we so often desire.
That said, lemme tell you about my latest tattoo adventure.
To be honest, I’m actually not much of a planner. But there are some things—such as getting your body marked (permanently), that one may want to put at least a little thought and consideration into. If I’ve learned nothing else (and trust me, I’ve learned a lot), from the musings of artist Miya Bailey, it’s that you should do your research before getting a tattoo. Namely, on the artist (s) and the shop.
There was a time, that I’d walk into any shop and let anyone take their needle to my skin—but, when you know better, you DO better (luckily, for me, this has never resulted in an issue—I have always been fortunate enough to luck up on great artists).
There’s lots to be considered when choosing an artist. Have you seen their portfolio? Do they specialize in a certain style of tattooing? Does their style match your tattoo idea? Do you even HAVE a tattoo idea? Is it a reputable shop? Just a few questions you should be able to answer before even bothering to hop into someone’s chair.
Before I continue, it should be noted that, from my very first visit to City of Ink, I knew that I trusted any and every artist in that shop to do my work—they are an incredibly unique, and talented bunch. Even the shop itself, which is more of an art gallery, than an actual shop—blew my mind.
That said, while work produced in that shop is of the highest of calibers, the style of each artist is also entirely different. Therefore, you select your artist according to their particular style and how well it coincides with the art that you want.
My goal, is to eventually have a piece from each artist at City of Ink. Prior to yesterday, I’d been inked by Miya Bailey, Sophie C’est La Vie, and Tuki Carter (former co-founder, but no longer affiliated). For this go-round, I’d chosen an artist whose work I’d been following for the past year and couldn’t be more excited at the opportunity to be his next canvas.
At the time that I’d selected him, I wasn’t really sure exactly WHAT I’d wanted, but I knew whatever it was—I wanted him to do it, and I was sure that he was fully capable.
And then one day, while listening to Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady”, it hit me. I wanted a modified version of Banky’s “Lovesick” piece.
Except, I wanted “bags” instead of hearts…the implied impression is…if you hold on to too much baggage, it’ll make you sick. Better out, than in. Or, at least, that’d be my interpretation of it. Or, I’d remain open to a custom piece, which, to me, are more special anyhow. Either way, I knew for sure that I wanted it on my side…a rib piece. Y’ouch.
So, that took care of the who, the what, and the where…which left, only, the how [much] and the when.
Having a budget when it comes to your tattoo, is important. Another thing I’ve learned from Miya? Know what you want, and expect to pay for quality work. Not sure what quality work is?
Let me give you a hint, unless you’re a big fan of Jafar from The Lion King, the one on the right, ain’t exactly a worthy depiction of the pride’s most notable predator.
The good thing about City of Ink though, is, no matter how small your budget, you will ALWAYS get a quality tattoo. YOU actually get to choose your budget—you tell them how much you want to spend, and they’ll build your tattoo based on that price. That said, you can’t expect to walk into a tattoo shop and say:
“I want a back piece—of Tarzan, swinging on a vine from one tree, over to the other tree, where Jane is…oh, and I want birds flying in the background, and the sun rays shining through the leaves of the tree…oh and flowers, please give me flowers…and, if Mowgli could be chasing Baloo around one of the trees, that would be great…I’ve got about $150.”
Get real. I mean, do you walk into Footlocker expecting Payless prices (I mean, yes, it’d be nice, but no, that’s not a REAL expectation for most). Some people will spend $5 a day on Starbucks coffee for a year (you do the math), but are appalled at spending $500+ on something that they will wear on their skin forever. If you don’t drink coffee, feel free to substitute that analogy with the $40-100 a week (or even, every OTHER week) you spend on gas…there’s 52 weeks in a year, like I said, do the math. Drive back and forth to work for a week and both your $40-100 AND gas are gone…and you have NOTHING to show for either. Have cable? Think about how much you spend every month to watch Honey Boo Boo traipse around in her halter top with dried icecream stains smearing her face. Sure, it’s entertaining for a few minutes, but, what are you left with, besides a few less brain cells?
Okay, there’s no dried icecream [you totally imagined it, though]…but, you see where I’m going with this, right? You have no excuse to skimp out on your tattoo budget.
I solidified my budget, and called the shop to schedule my appointment and to make my deposit. I was locked in for Saturday, January 19 at 1pm.
So, to summarize: I researched my artist for a year…figured out what I wanted, where I wanted it, and how much I wanted to spend—and locked it all in with a deposit for my appointment. I’d done my due diligence in regard to putting proper thought and consideration into this tattoo.
And then, it all started to kind of crumble.
First, I received a call back from the shop manager (whom I actually sort of adore, he’s always so helpful and nice), that there’d been a mistake. The Artist would be out of town until Monday. My appointment would have to be rescheduled. No need to panic, though, we’d just reschedule it for Monday when he got back. Same time, same place.
I’d gotten up early Monday morning, threw a flannel on over my gray, ribbed tank, a pair of intentionally tattered designer jeans, and pulled on my favorite oak-hued cowboy boots. I hit the road, sans breakfast, and drove the 186 miles to the shop.
I love solo road trips—no futile chatter to interrupt my quality mp3 time. A solid 3 hours and 39 minutes of non-stop music. But, I digress..this isn’t a blog entry about music.
With a nearly dead phone (3hrs and 39 minutes of music and GPS can really drain the life out of a mobile phone)…I finally arrived in front of City of Ink at 12:30. I’m almost always early.
The blinds and window covers, which were normally open, were closed.
Odd…maybe the sunlight was bugging them.
I grabbed the door knob, twisted, and pushed. Locked.
[Please insert instant panic]
I’d worried about showing up, and the shop being closed for the holiday. I may have even dreamt about it. And now, my worst nightmare was coming true. I’d driven 3.5 hours for nothing. I could FEEL my face, thick with disappointment.
Don’t panic, Robyn, you are early—The Artist is probably inside getting things prepped.
I knew what I’d do….I’d call—if anyone were inside, maybe they’d answer.
Nope. No such luck.
I remembered then, that I still had the shop manager’s number from my last visit, back in May. Instead of having a full-on meltdown, I opted to give him a call.
No answer. I’d have to settle with leaving him a message:
“Hi, this is Robyn. I’m sorry to bother you, but, I have an appointment today at 1pm and I drove up from Alabama…and…the shop looks closed, but, I’m early, so maybe that’s all it is…if you don’t mind though, can you give me a call back when you get a second?” Rambling Robyn.
Then, anxiety lingering, I took to The Twitters and tweeted Miya—if anyone would know whether or not the shop was open, he would.
He advised that the shop opens every day at 1pm, and assured me that if I had an appointment, the shop would surely be open. I was just early. Phew.
Relieved, I popped over to The Olde Kitchen, next door, to grab a bite, since I’d skipped breakfast.
Despite an ailing battery, I decided to kill some time while waiting for my shrimp and grits, by scrolling my Instagram feed.
Full-On Melt Down: ENGAGE!
There, at the top of my feed, posted a mere fifty-six minutes prior, was a photo uploaded by The Artist. In it, his feet were propped up on a balcony. I didn’t recall ever seeing a balcony at the shop. More alarming, there was a palm tree.
THERE ARE NO PALM TREES IN ATLANTA.
Okay, okay. Breathe. The shop is going to be open in another half hour…and well, just because he posted a picture, fifty-six minutes ago, doesn’t mean that he TOOK it fifty-six minutes ago. Chill.
I swear I’m not this neurotic about anything else—but when it comes to getting tattooed, I’m sort of a basket case when facing any hiccups in my planning.
The grits arrived just in time, and seemed to have helped calm my nerves a bit. Or, maybe it was the sweet tea. Or, the waiter. I can’t rightly be sure, but, a half hour later, I was fine again.
I was even better once I paid my bill and walked the few feet back to the shop, finding the blinds wide open, and people lounging inside.
As I walked in, I was greeted by name and given the customary tattoo waiver to sign. [Have you ever read that thing in its entirety? You’re signing your life away.]
Great, he knows my name. Which means, he was expecting me…which means, we’re on track. I could breathe easy, now.
A short time later, a guy took a seat beside me. It was not The Artist.
“Robyn?” He stuck his hand out and introduced himself to me.
“I’m Q, I’ll be doing your tattoo today, because unfortunately, The Artist hasn’t made it back in town yet.
I hoped my disappointment hadn’t shown on my face. But, I was sure it had.
As I mentioned earlier, I wholeheartedly trust the work of every artist in that shop. But, you’ll also recall that I’d been following The Artist for a year now. I’d specifically chosen The Artist for my next piece. I’d specifically driven almost 200 miles for The Artist—specifically (you know, in case you’d somehow missed that). So, how could I not, on some level, be at least a little disappointed? As fate would have it, my disappointment dissipated just as suddenly as it’d surfaced.
Q asked what I had in mind, and I’d explained the Banksy spin. We pulled it up on Google images and he seemed to like it, though, he didn’t appear to be overly enthused. I went on to explain that I wasn’t opposed to a custom piece—that I’d actually prefer it. The thing that I understand about individuals who tattoo, and artists in general, is this: they obviously have the talent and wherewithal to REcreate, but when you give them the opportunity do their own thing, that’s when you really see them shine. Besides that, you end up with a piece all your own.
He pulled up some of his work, and to say the least, I was impressed. OF COURSE, I was impressed. I was at City of Ink, how could I not be impressed?
I know two people who are going to be appalled at what happened next (“Beans” and Twin Teri, if you’re reading this, I mean, YOU TWO—so, brace yourselves). Ready?
I told him I’d been thinking about getting an owl.
“An owl would be dope.” He’d said, seeming to genuinely mean it.
He’d clicked onto another picture.
“This is a tattoo I did for a girl who’s a writer.” The tattoo was of a pretty cool-looking piece of scroll paper and a quill pen, adorned with roses.
“Nice. I’m actually a writer too. At some point, I want to get an old school typewriter inked on me.”
And then, that thing… that thing that I look forward to happening with every artist, happened—a glisten in the eye, and then the proverbial light bulb going off. Or on. Whatever. He was excited.
“You know what? It’d be dope to have the owl sort of swooping down on the typewriter and sort of grabbing it or something with its talons.”
It certainly wouldn’t have any sort of preconceived ethereal meaning for me, but I immediately liked the idea because it sounded like it’d be visually stunning, and most important: unique.
“Alright, I’ll just need a little time to sketch it up…20 to 30 minutes, an hour at the most.”
It seemed like a minimal amount of time to craft the masterpiece he’d described to me, but, what’d I know? I didn’t care about the amount of time it took, I just wanted it to be perfect…besides, I was itching to get out on the streets of Atlanta to do some exploring with my Nikon.
I’d returned from my escapade an hour later…no Q.
So, I’d decided to take another walk. This time, longer.
An hour and a half later, I returned—still, no sign of Q.
It was fine though, by this time, Shaka and I—a photographer I’d befriended the last time I was in town, who’d been filming my then artist, Tuki Carter, during my session—had drummed up several conversations ranging from aliens, to ancient civilizations, to the human condition. Another half hour had passed and I hadn’t even realized it.
Bringing an end to my enthralling conversation, Q emerged with a piece of white sketch paper held firmly, face-down to his chest, with both hands.
He held it a moment longer, and then turned it over for me to see.
“So, here’s what I came up with…the paper coming out of the typewriter is sort of on fire…which attracted these moths, which attracted the owl…”
HOW. DID. HE. EVEN. THINK. OF. THAT?! Creative minds, astound me.
I loved the s!*t out of it.
I already hadn’t minded the wait it took to sketch it, but now…now, I especially appreciated that time. After all, to quote one of my favorite musicians, Tony Lucca, ”it takes the time it takes, to get it right.”
After he’d transferred the image to my skin, he’d paused a moment to admire it.
“I love the placement of the wings…it’s like this one is sort of hugging your rib, and the one on your back is spread just right. It’s perfect.”
I looked down, and couldn’t help but agree.
As I lay there, waiting to hear the buzz of the needle, another artist appeared—she stood over me, admiring the design.
“There’s no way you guys are gonna finish that in one session…you’ll be lucky to get through the outline. I couldn’t do it, if it were me.”
I explained to her that I actually have a pretty high tolerance for pain. In fact, in a weird sort of way, I actually LIKE the feel of getting a tattoo. I’d be lying though, if I said that I wasn’t at least a little worried about what kind of pain a rib tattoo would produce. But, I was confident—I’d driven 3.5 hours and endured two mild panic attacks.
We would finish.
And, we did.
ONE session. THREE AND A HALF hours long…on my RIBS… NO breaks. I officially consider this ink, my Tattoo Badge of Honor.
If you see me walking around in the dead of winter, with my shirt raised, showing off my rib, now, you’ll know why.
I couldn’t be happier with my new art.
So you see, every little bump in the road, I tripped over to arrive at my final destination, in the big scheme of things, was for a reason.
Sure, on the surface, this is just a blog entry about a tattoo—but, the next time you find yourselves deep in the throes of life’s missteps, remember…keep calm and let life run its due course, in the end, you just might wind up with a typewriter toting owl on your ribs. And welp, everybody knows, that’s badass.
Until next time…
[ ♥ ] . Peace. And Bacon Grease.