My Tattoo Process

I’m a big proponent of the idea that when you turn 18 you should do something to celebrate the fact that you’re an adult. I went skydiving. I don’t support 18 year-olds getting tattoos as their I’m-18-I-can-do-what-I-want experience. And here’s why -they’re permanent!

Foot tattoos Ruth Carter
My Awesome Tattoos

If I got a tattoo every time I thought I had a good idea for a new piece, I’d be covered in ink and probably regret most of it. A tattoo should be something that you love and holds as much meaning on the day you got it as when you’re 85 years old with saggy skin.

I’ve been tattooed five times and I love my work. But I have a process for getting a tattoo that has to occur before I climb into the tattoo chair.

It’s so important to pick something that is meaningful and timeless so that you’ll love seeing your tattoo every day. I think a lot of people pick something that’s meaningful for a limited time and so over time their tattoo loses value. Once I’ve decided on a design that will be meaningful for the rest of my life, then I have pick a good location for it. This wasn’t a struggle with my foot tattoos, but it has been with my latest idea of getting a variation of the Ignite Phoenix bird tattooed on my body. I initially thought I wanted it between my shoulder blades but now I’m thinking I want it on my left rib cage.

Once I decide on what I want and where I want to put it, then I have to wait for “the sign.” There isn’t one sign but more of a gut feeling that it’s time to get the work done. With my first tattoo – the double shooting star on my right foot – I talked with my artist about my plan and I asked her to give me the weekend to make sure it was time to have the work done. That Saturday I was cater-waitering and I taped up my foot because we were working on rough terrain out in a vineyard. When I took the tape off at the end of the night, a big chunk of skin off the top of my foot came off with it – right where the tattoo was supposed to go. That was a sign that it wasn’t time to get the work done.

The Steam Crow Ignite Phoenix Bird I'm contemplating for my next tattoo
The Steam Crow Ignite Phoenix Bird I’m contemplating for my next tattoo

With my Libra tattoo, I knew it was time to have it done when I put my feet up on the recliner one night and I did a double-take because I didn’t see the tattoo on my foot. My brain had already put the design on my body. I had that tattoo put on my body within a month of getting that sign.

I’m still waiting on the sign to get the Ignite Phoenix tattoo, and my brain is still trying to figure out if I want black and gray with touches of color or full color for this one.

If you’re going to get a tattoo, do your homework on your artist in advance. You’re buying custom artwork so get someone who can execute your idea. Good tattoos are not cheap so plan to drop a buck on the endeavor and tip your artist well. When you go for your first tattoo, make sure the artist understands that it’s your first tattoo so they can walk you through everything that’s going to happen. My artist offered to do the first little line without ink just so I could experience how it feels, which I declined but I appreciated the thought.

And yes, getting a tattoo hurts, especially when tattooing over bone like on your ribs or foot. I got light-headed during my first tattoo session and the artist asked if she should stop. I said, “No. Keep going. It’ll hurt less.” I’ve had five tattoo sessions on my feet, including painful re-coloring, and I only had one time when I had to tell the artist to stop because I needed a few minutes’ break from the pain.

If you’re 18 years old and want to do some type of body modification as a proclamation of your status as an adult, get a piercing. I’ve had fourteen. They’re awesome. And they’re usually cheaper than a tattoo and relatively easy to reverse if you decide you don’t want it anymore.

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