first time tattoo advice

It’s been quite a long while since I have posted about tattoos on here.  But recently I have had a slew of tattoo related questions in my inbox!

I just have to say, I’m so happy so many people have found solid and sound advice here.  I know entering the realm of the tattooed can be intimidating at first.  I remember I was nervous before my first tattoo!

After many tattoos and friends made and years worked in a shop, you come to learn a lot.  Mostly that tattooers, piercers and the anyone running the desk are generally total nerds and genuinely lovely people. But also, that they are there to not only make beautiful art, but also to help you get the best tattoo possible for you.

I was recently asked by a reader fast approaching her 18th birthday about getting her first tattoo. She has been swooning over the work done by Russian artist, Sasha Unisex.  

sashaunisex on Instagram

She had read my article { Don’t be a Tattoo Copy Cat! } and I’m glad she took the advice to heart.

She loves the unusual, new and unique style of Sasha Unisex, but does not want to have an artist imitate her work.  She was curious if I had any recommendations on local artists for her in Texas that may specialize in a similar style and any other advice I had for a tattoo virgin.

Here is what I shared with her, though I have expanded on this a bit since I exchanged emails with her, but I thought I should share it with you all:

Dear D,

Since you have found a style that really appeals to you, and you are not in an uber rush to get tattooed I recommend taking your time.  I know the excitement of being legal to claim your body and mark it how you chose is almost overwhelming.  But I recommend waiting and continue researching.

You will always end up with a far better tattoo in the long run.

I know so many people, myself included, that rushed to get something done and ended up regretting it.  I have done an extensive {and expensive} cover up on my first tattoo while others may still have them, but use them as reminders of when they didn’t know any better.   I don’t say this to discourage you from getting tattooed, just as a reminder, we all make mistakes.  I just think using patience and caution is always the wiser route when planning on a permanent decision.

As for finding an art style you love and an artist that appeals to you, fear not!  Texas has many talented artists and I hope you are if you ware willing to travel a wee bit to get a rad tattoo {for something that will be on you permanently, why wouldn’t you?}  I do not have a recommendation off the top of my head, but I know, with more research, you will find someone who knocks your socks off!!

I recommend checking out websites like and, also finding prominent tattooers on instagram is helpful.  Look at who those artists are following as well. It can be kind of a rabbit hole, but I promise it is a rewarding one!  You will be exposed to soooo many great artists & styles.

Thinks & Ink magazineThinks & Ink magazine

The other thing to keep in mind is that tattooers travel. Which means they do conventions and guest spots all over the world.  Texas {or a neighbouring area} may not be that unlikely for someone like Sasha Unisex, or another artist who appeals to you,  to come visit for either possibility.  And never completely cross off travelling to get tattooed yourself.  Talk about a journey and a story to attach to your art!Just take your time, keep looking around and be patient.  Go into shops and talk to them ask them questions, listen to what they have to say, they are professionals.

Look at their portfolios, look up reviews online, ask friends or get online to forums and websites.

Sadly, not all shops and artists are keeping your best interests in mind, but the good news is, this is not common, just something to be mentioned.  Never let an artist convince you to go with them if you are not head over heels in love with what they have put out.  Trust your gut.   If you are looking for a particular style and they don’t have it in their books, then they are not the artist for you.

This, conversely, can be said about finding an artist that you do like and are head over heels in love with, don’t ask them to do something they have never done or are not comfortable with doing or is not displayed in their portfolio.

You will definitely end up with a better piece that will keep you happy for a long time!

Additional advice when getting your first tattoo:
  • eat at least an hour before your appointment!! and do not drink the night before!
  • also, avoid taking any pain meds before your appointment that are blood thinners. Tylenol s ok!
  • Avoid what is called “prime real estate” places like your upper bicep/shoulder are prime places for larger work when you get older and if you decide to get more tattoos, working around something pre-existing not only compromises the new art you want, but also makes it more difficult for an artist to work around.
  • A really great rule to keep in mind is, small tattoo, small body part.   Small tattoos in larger body parts can look lost and floating, like someone stamped you or placed a sticker on you.
  • wear clothes that make it easy to access to area you want tattooed. {ex, getting your thigh tattooed, where a skirt.  Getting your ribs tattooed, wear a cheap bikini top so they can tape the garment to you if they need more access. And If it is an area where you need to strip down a bit to get tattooed, wear something comfortable and easy to get back on after the tattooing is done for the day!}
I was trying to brainstorm someone in your area, but really, that research journey should be yours, as you will find so many great styles and open yourself up to so many ideas and find oodles of talented artists!
I also recommend checking out these instagram pages:
They all feature quality artists. And make sure to check out each artist that appeals to you and look at who they are following and where they are located.
Happy hunting and good luck! <3


Do you have a tattoo related question? Then fire me an email!!

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// caturday #14 // Wendy Pham

// caturday #14 //  wendy pham // caturday #14 //  wendy pham// caturday #14 //  wendy pham// caturday #14 //  wendy pham// caturday #14 //  wendy pham// caturday #14 //  wendy pham

Wendy Pham (aka wenramen) is an INCREDIBLE tattooer based out of Conspiracy Inc in Berlin, Germany.

She’s an all around amazing artist and tattooer, but I can’t help but love her for her awesome cat art and cattoos!

I’ve only picked a handful to show you, but I strongly encourage you to look her up, I promise you will not be disappointed!  She just released a really great book called Kingdom of Wenramen and often has some amazingly beautiful prints for sale!

You can follow her on  instagram or tumblr!


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Caturday #03 // Horitomo

GAH!! I love Kazuaki Horitomo Kitamura so much!!

Tattoos & cats, a match made in my personal heaven!

Horitomo - tattooed cat Horitomo - Rat tattoo cat Horitomo - Divina Narcisa Horitomo - Cat with rat Horitomo - Cat with koi Horitomo - Cat with dragonHoritomo - Inspired by a print by KuniyoshiHoritomo - Monmon fudo cat

Horotomo - Tattoo matching cats on feetone of Horitomos kittiesHoritomo photo

Kazuaki Horitomo Kitamura tattooes at State of Grace in San Jose, California.  You can purchase his book, Monmon Cats online through select retailers.  If you’re on instagram, I STRONGLY recommend you give him a follow, dude loves his cats and he’s a sick tattoo artist!

Sqeeee! Happy Caturday!

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Nerd Alert!! How to find a unique gift for your favourite nerd!

This edition of Friday I’m in Love is a gift guide for your resident nerd! There is no end to the useful and nerdy things you can get for your loved ones:

You can find it all in your local hobby/comic store or online.  But maybe you want to go a little more personal, unique or local? Here is one of my suggestions for your favourite nerd!

A local Vancouver Tattooer & artist, Aaliy Rose, has some really amazing prints for sale on her etsy shop or a Unity Tattoo in Vancouver on Commercial Drive. I’ve been lucky enough to purchase a couple of her prints at local conventions already.  She’s got you covered if you’re nerding out over Game of Thrones, Jurassic Park, The Watchemen, The Life Aquatic, Breaking Bad, Mad Men or Dexter etc.   I have the Jurassic Park & Evil print, I’d love to add the GoT set to my overly covered walls!

Baratheon by AaliyRose

House Baratheon

Lannister by AaliyRose

House Lannister

Stark by AalieRose

House Stark

Targaryen by AaliyRose

House Targaryen

Jurassic Park by AaliyRose

Jurassic Park

Life Aquatic by AaliyRose

The Life Aquatic

Breaking Bad by AaliyRose

Breaking Bad

Dexter by AaliyRose


Evil by AaliyRose


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accoutrements des animaux

This weeks Wishlist Wednesday is going to be dedicated to animals…though not what you might expect.

This one’s all about taxidermy (real & faux), mounted pieces, bones, tentacles, antlers & teeth. There are even some animal tattoos!

I love animals, but I also love weird stuff, here is a perfect mix of both!

I was totally turned on to these AMAZING brooches by Hungry Designs on The Dainty Squid, She’s hosting a giveaway, so go over and enter!

Mounted Jackalope Rabbit Brooch by Hungry Designs Mounted Triceratops Brooch by Hungry Designs

I have my ears stretched to 00g and often wear tunnels with earrings looped through.  These ebony wood hanging bats made by Diablo Organics  would be a lot of fun to wear, especially because I totally have a thing for bats!

00g Hanging Bat earrings

This ring is just too cute!  It’s a life size casting of a chameleon skull by Moon Raven Designs, look how it fits on your finger!  So badass!

Sterling Silver Chameleon Skull by Moon Raven Designs Sterling Silver Chameleon Skull Ring by Moon Raven Desings

I really wish I knew who did this collection of antlers & unicorn horn headbands.  I’ve been keeping these images as inspiration for a crafty project.

Antler Headband Collection

I’m totally in love with the minimalistic approach to (faux) taxidermy being done my White Faux Taxidermiy (WTF..teehee)  I love that it’s white and i really really dig the touch of gold! Tres chic!

Faux Deer Mount by White Faux Taxidermy

Gold velociraptor skull model by White Faux Taxidermy

I know some people will find this morbid, but I find this so beautiful and different.  Precious Creatures is making really unique and gorgeous little momentos of tiny creatures and I think they are so very lovely!

Precious Gold Gilded Rat Paw Chandelier Brooch

I follow LadyLocks Creations on instagram.  She has such beautiful and unique items, just this week she posted an image of a tentacle necklace.  It’s gorgeous ans so cool!

Bottled Octopus Tentacle by LadyLocks Creations

Bottled Skunk Teeth Necklace by LadyLocks Creations

I also have to throw some love out to some really great animal tattoos!  Here are a few current favourites.

Birdie by Daniel Gensh

Birdie by Daniel Gensh

Cattoo by Natalie Gardine

Cattoo by Natalie Gardine

Fruit Bat by Amy Savage

Fruit Bat by Amy Savage

Rabbit tattoo by Matt W Lambdin

Rabbit tattoo by Matt W Lambdin

As usual, if you find anything great on this post, you can always check out my pinterest boards for more awesome stuff!


Good Tattoos

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Good tattoos don’t happen in kitchens


When I was younger I had terrible taste.  Most of us do.

All I knew is that I wanted to be covered in tattoos.  I was gothy and I thought spider webs, bats, moons & stars were the shizz. Okay, I still do, but I don’t want crumby stamps of them all over my body, like I did when I was 18.  I didn’t know then what I know today.  Now that I have far better taste, now that I know what true artists are capable of.

My first tattoo, was by a “scratcher” and it’s awful! It’s huge and in prime real estate, it’s dark and has strong straight lines. In short, a nightmare to cover up.  But luckily, I am good friends with an amazing artist who is  currently in the process of covering this hideous thing up with something AWESOME! I’ll post photos once it’s complete. I’ll actually write a whole post on cover ups and the process involved.

whats a scratcher

A scratcher is someone who is not tattooing at a shop.  They are someone offering you a really cheap deal to get tattooed.  They are often working out of their kitchens, bedrooms, basements, vans etc.  There is a reason they are not tattooing at a shop.  The reasons can be various, often, that they have no training and they need guinea pigs.  Or their work is not up to snuff to hold up at a shop. I don’t know about you, but I think I’m worth more than just being a guinea pig on something so permanent and personal.

I will never, ever, ever let a scratcher touch my skin again.  I was 21 when I got my first tattoo, I knew nothing of the industry and nothing about safety.  I had no idea that I was about to get sub par work, because, honestly, I didn’t know the difference.  I did after I got my tattoo though.  It looked like shit, it didn’t look like the drawing at all.  I cried a lot. I suffered it’s ugliness for ten years until I was able to find an artist worthy and up to the task of covering it up.


“If your body is a temple, why not decorate the walls”, right?  And why would I decorate with second rate, poorly applied tattoos? Especially when you can get fine art?

At that point, I stopped and questioned myself and what I was doing with my body.  Was it worth screwing up my skin with cheap tattoos, just because they were cheap?  No.  No it wasn’t worth it and I cooled it on getting tattooed for a while as I put a lot more thought into what I wanted and who was going to do it. It’s my body and I only want the best I can put on it from now on.

Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to become really good friends with a few tattoo artists that eventually got me a job managing a shop.

You learn a lot in a shop, not just about good tattooers and what they are capable of, but also about safety.

I’m so happy this finally got fixed. Talk about a nightmare! A memorial tattoo so botched up by a scratcher and finally fixed by a professional!

You get what you pay for


But the biggest reason not to get tattooed by a scratcher is because they more than likely have no idea about blood born pathogens.

This is serious.

This is about your safety.

Scratchers don’t know how to combat things like Hepatitis C.  It is extremely rare to contract anything like Hepatitis C in a professional, licensed tattoo & piercing shop, as we have learned about blood born pathogens and how to protect ourselves and our clients from any form of transmission.

That person tattooing you in their kitchen, does not.

Hepatitis C can live outside of the body for up to 4 days.  So if your scratcher tattooed someone sick yesterday or even 3 days ago, your chances of contracting a life threatening illness is in the high percentile.

“Oh, I saw them, they wiped everything down with bleach, used 99% rubbing alcohol and sterilized their equipment in boiling water”.  No they didn’t, because they do not have access to the things that would make this possible.  If they’re not wiping down with a hard surface cleaner like Cavicide or Optum TB and if they’re not using an autoclave to sterilize their equipment, then they’re not doing anything for your safety.  There are a number of practices, protocols, chemicals and equipment used to keep safety at a high standard in shops.

“But they wore gloves!”  That doesn’t stop them from cross contaminating things.  You can wear gloves all you want, but if you touch something dirty and then proceed to touch a clean area, that clean area is no longer clean.  Professionals learn how to avoid this.

There is a big difference in these two terms, sanitized & sterilized.  Sanitize roughly equates to very clean,  sterilize is not only clean but also free from bacteria or other living microorganisms and all foreign materials (ie things that can make you sick or cause an infection).  That scratcher is barely cleaning and no where near sanitizing or sterilization.  (I also feel really uncomfortable with the thought that they may have boiled their spaghetti in the same pot they’re “sanitizing/sterilizing” tools)

Just keep in mind, you only get one body to travel this life in.  Don’t risk it for cheap tattoos (or even piercings for that matter) that will look like shit and can potentially get you really sick.  Don’t trust anyone who offers you a cut rate, or refers to their tattoo machine as a “gun” (guns shoot things, it’s a tattoo machine).  Don’t trust someone with a “sweet deal tattoo gun” kit they bought online.

If it’s happening in a home, you probably should rethink what you’re about to do (just google “tattoo infection”…ugh, heebie jeebies!).  Trust someone who has put not only years into learning their craft, but also have learned how to keep you & themselves safe.  Trust the person that has spent hundreds of dollars on their machines, because that person cares, that person wants to share art with the world and give you the very best piece they can give you.

The art is worth it, the artist is worth it and most importantly, You are worth it!

If you’d like to see some killer good tattoo work, check out my pinterest board {good tattoos}

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Don’t be a Tattoo Copy Cat

Imagine you come up with a really great concept for a new piece.  You’ve done your homework, found an artist you really love, pitched the idea and booked the appointment.  You trust your artist with your idea and wait until the exciting day your appointment arrives.  The design is perfect, even more than you imagined!!  You get your wonderful new tattoo applied and take a photo to show off to your friends or to share over instagram or pinterest.  Your artist is proud of their work, and they too, take a picture and add it to their portfolio & share it online!  Very exciting indeed, they’re so stoked on the piece, they want to show it off!

Everything is roses.

Fast forward a few months, sometimes only a few weeks or days, and you come across your tattoo on the internet again, though, it’s not on you.  It’s heart breaking, someone has ripped off your EXACT IDEA!  Not only that, but the artist ripped off another artists work, entirely, claiming it to be there own!!   There are differences of course, probably most are negligible, it may have some new script added to it, or some colours & placement are different, but it’s definitely not applied as well.

What do you do?  What does your artist do?

Unfortunately, this happens ALL the time.  And sadly, there is not a lot that can be done, other than educate.

What we try and tell clients when they come in with a picture of a tattoo they want is “We do not copy tattoos”, period.  We follow with telling them that particular tattoo belongs to someone else, and we can design something original and unique for them.  We try to persuade them in a positive manner, most of the time, they totally understand.

The fault of copy cat designs is not entirely on the client, often, they don’t know any better.  For the most part, it is the copy cat artists fault as they DO know better and it is their job to help educate the client.

Things to keep in mind if an artist is willing to directly copy a piece:

  • The artist has zero integrity, they are being lazy and taking your money that is not earned in honesty.
  • They are taking advantage of you as an uninformed client and also taking advantage of another artists hard work.
  • Their art & skill are also not up to snuff.  Any true artist would want to put their own spin on a piece, a little bit of themselves into a tattoo.
  • Pride of craftsmanship, if you encounter an artist that has no qualms with copying another artist’s piece, you know you’ve encountered someone who does not care, do you really want to be tattooed by someone who doesn’t care?

Mitch Allenden was kind enough for me to use some images of his work being plagiarized.

Ultimately and sadly it comes down to plagiarism and after you’ve been tattooed with a copy cat design, you are branded for life as a copy cat.  The world is both very big and also very small.  What would you say if you walk into a coffee shop while on vacation and someone comments on your tattoo, you’re stoked, but it turns out the person commenting on your tattoo is the original owner.  They’re choked and you’re left embarrassed.

Copy Cats

Tattoos are a wonderful form of expression.  If you see a design or style by an artist, see if you can get tattooed by that artist!  Sometimes it requires travel (what an awesome souvenir!), or sometimes they travel to conventions that are close to home!  If you find a design you like, investigate local artists with a similar style, bring your reference into them and see what they can spin out for you!  You will be far more happy with an original piece, done just for you, than a poorly executed copy cat job!  Your artist will be thankful to have a chance at a fun new piece as well!

Here are some great links coming from an artists perspective!  Give ’em a read through!

Follow my tattoo boards on pinterest!