As the taboo on tattoos and tattoo culture continues to lift with each passing year, tattoo clientele has grown and diversified. Tattoo artists will experience many personalities throughout their career. However, there are a few similarities all clients share whether you’re old or young, a newbie or a tattoo collector, timid or brave. Most are emotionally driven to get tattoos by two reasons; vulnerability or thrill
Vulnerability is a facet of your character and personal life that you may hide from most people. Usually select friends and family, (and perhaps your therapists) are the lucky few you consider yourself to be vulnerable with. But what about with your tattoo artists? Most seldom stop to think of the vulnerability one subjects themselves too when deciding to get a tattoo. Clouded with excitement and nerves you forget that, essentially, you have signed up for a stranger to drag needles across your skin for hours…and gladly pay for it! Tattooing is an intimate art medium that can require trust and an open mind from both parties. It’s often overlooked how much time both you and your artist spend on a tattoo.
For some clients, the thought process and making the commitment is a journey itself. By the time you are ready to consult with your artist you may have high hopes and expectations for your custom design. Or perhaps you have been following your artist for a while and have been dreaming of getting one of their personal designs. Either way, most connections start happening before a stencil has even been printed out.
Likewise on the artist’s end, the hours of drawing and preparing are channels for your artist trying to connect with you and other clients with their designs. After all, for many tattoo artists their main purpose is creating and sharing art for others to enjoy and connect with. Once you’re in the artists chair, now it’s time to spend a few hours together. Conversations about art, tattooing, and even both of your personal lives may arise during this time. Tattoos that require multiple sessions may start to be adjoined with a feeling of familiarity with your artist and their residing shop’s atmosphere. All the while you accept the permanence of not only the scarification, but your artist and the time you have spent with them.
The concept of pain is a transition from those who appreciate the vulnerable experience of a tattoo vs. those who go for the thrill as it pertains to both emotions. You’re vulnerable because you subject yourself to the pain knowingly, and many are afraid of this experience whether it’s their first time or they are looking to test their pain tolerance on a long session. However, others live for the pain, and it is often referred to by artists and clients as therapy.
Pain seekers love the thrill of tattoos for various reasons; it gets your adrenaline going, it’s a grounding experience, or even the rush from defying the status quo. While tattoos are far more acceptable these days, there are still stereotypes you commit to be subjected to if you are to become heavily tatted. Additionally, the idea of committing to permanency is sometimes what stops people from enjoying tattoos. With the fear of little control or striving for perfection, there is a group of potential customers every year that book a consultation, show up, and realize the “thrill” of this commitment just isn’t for them, perhaps it’s not thrilling at all. For some, becoming heavily tattooed and leaning into the stereotypes that come with it is actually the excitement they’re yearning for. When you receive tattoos, you’re essentially image building. Though many use tattoos to wear their thoughts and feelings, these clients embrace the grunge and grit that get tied to one’s personality.
Your reasoning for getting tattoos may change over time. Perhaps you couldn’t align yourself with being a vulnerability seeker or a thrill seeker…or perhaps you’re both! Either way, it’s always fascinating to develop an understanding as a tattoo artist why clients get their tattoos. So many personalities and design ideas walk through the door, and at a broad glance people do get tattoos for the reasons listed above. However, it’s in the details of client stories and perspectives behind their designs or love for tattoos that help artists stay motivated, grow, and to keep bringing ideas to life.
-Article written by Savannah Rae
-Comedy and Tragedy Graphics by Savannah Rae