OK, so I've been mulling over the notion of getting a tattoo for nearly a decade now, and as of this week I'm finally sure of the design I want. I live in the South San Francisco Bay Area (San Jose/Santa Clara) and am finding myself a bit overwhelmed by all the Yelp reviews, etc., of local tattoo parlors. Specific shop recommendations and/or tips on identifying the most newbie-friendly establishment would be greatly appreciated.
I've determined that I'd be quite happy to have this cat graphic I drew
(or some minor variation thereof, per artist input) on my upper left arm area pretty much forever. I'm planning on keeping the size no larger than about 1.5" x 2.5" overall, and also on sticking to black ink only (as that way it's unlikely to clash with any of my shirts!).
That aside, I'm 34 and have zero experience even walking into a tattoo parlor, let alone actually having work done there. I have read plenty online already along the lines of "make sure the shop you pick is hygenic" and "make sure you eat an hour before the session so you don't pass out", so really what I'm after is specific local recommendations for good places to go, particularly if you're a raw newbie to this sort of thing.
Especially awesome would be recommendations from folks who've actually been to shops in the general San Jose/Santa Clara/Sunnyvale/etc. locale. The only real dealbreaker I have as far as shop recommendations go (well, other than cleanliness and a lack of blasting noisy music-I-didn't-pick in the background) is that it absolutely must be a SOUTH Bay establishment. In other words, it cannot
be something that would entail traveling to San Francisco or Oakland, etc. I just really don't want to deal with being in a vehicle of any kind for possibly an hour-plus following an experience that I have no clue how my body will react to.
Also welcome would be advice on what to look for in an establishment when you have zero experience as a tattoo-ee.
I definitely want to, for instance, be able to bring my own drawing and not have the artist try and re-do the whole thing in 80s-airbrushed style (for instance), but rather be willing to make suggestions and have me approve the final design. And I want to be able to ask questions, etc., during the process without that being considered annoying (though of course I want the artist to be able to concentrate so I'll endeavor to keep the blithering to a minimum). And so on. Which means it'd be good if I had a way to figure out in advance if a given place is likely to be cool with whatever level of (polite) n00bness I may end up displaying, and I am currently not sure what to look for.