How to help my wife not get a bad tattoo?
August 9, 2016 2:03 AM   Subscribe

My wife has been talking about getting her second tattoo ever since I've known her, i.e. for more than a decade. But now she's decided to go ahead with it, and I'm worried that she's making bad/hasty choices.

About a week ago, my wife told me that she was going to see a local artist about getting her old tattoo retouched, and about getting a new one, slightly larger and more colorful than the old one. It's not going to be a large piece of work - probably 3 or 4 inches across. She's since told me that she has paid a deposit and will be going back for the tattoo on Friday.

The place she went to, on the recommendation of a close friend who had some work done there a few weeks ago, rings all sorts of alarm bells for me. They're two young women who have just opened a shop a few miles away. They don't have a website; their only portfolio is a Facebook page. That's not a big deal in itself, but the photos posted on their page are... they've been posting images of other artists' work (often with the artist's name left on the photo) and captioning the images with offers to do that tattoo for x amount of money. This week, those images are gone; I suspect one of the original artists asked them to take them down.

The portfolio images I've seen are pretty inconsistent; some images seem to suggest the ability to do some averagely good work, while other photos show shaky line-work and blotchy shading, and many of the tattoos lack any kind of vibrancy. In short, they're the sort of images I think I'd expect a teenager to doodle in class while they daydream about becoming a tattoo artist. The photo I've seen of the work they did for her friend isn't that great either.

This is very much in the category of things my wife wants to do as a treat for herself; she's been looking forward to getting this tattoo for a long time, and hasn't really asked my opinion. I'm just worried that she's rushing in and making a mistake that she'll come to regret. Or maybe she'll be fine with it, and I'll be the one wincing inwardly whenever I see it. How do I phrase things such that I make my feelings clear without upsetting her or coming across as wanting to control the decisions she makes about her own body? Because I'd really like to get her to slow down, do some research, and pick a really good artist whose style she loves. But I don't want to be pushy or overly negative at a time when she's clearly looking forward to something, and I don't want her to feel that I think she's unable to make decisions (and artistic choices) for herself.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Why can't you say exactly that? Barring the part you're worried you'll have to look at something ugly. That you're concerned about their skills. And more importantly, infection control training.

But even if she goes ahead and its baaaad, if she thinks it's bad she can get it "fixed". If she's going with cut price, can you make more money available for an extraordinary artist as an extra show of support. Not that you have a problem with her choice to tattoo, but concerns about the provider. If they are the only concerns you voice, it's a good deed to say something and totally acceptable from a loving spouse. If it's aesthetic, that's a different, least pleasant, side that I wouldn't get in to.
posted by taff at 2:26 AM on August 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


"Wife. I'm happy for you to get a tattoo but I'm concerned about the professional quality and skill of the shop you selected. Since this will be permanent I want you to get the best and the current shop has too many red flags that make me worried about the outcome. Here are some local shops that I found that have really amazing Yelp/other reviews and check out their portfolios! "

Also - if if helps - as a pretty tattooed internet stranger, I wouldn't step near this tattoo shop.
posted by Crystalinne at 2:48 AM on August 9, 2016 [42 favorites]


Also I would like to add that a bad tattoo actually can't always be "fixed" so easily. Beyond infections and blood related illness - a bad tattoo can cause scars and raised skin. Too dark of colors can be difficult to color over and raised scars can be very difficult to hide. Patchy color leads me to believe they aren't setting needles correctly which increases the chances of "chewing up" the skin leaving it raised or leading to "blowouts" of color too deep in the skin. I think if you show her good portfolios of other artists the difference will be stunning. Good work costs money - a cheap tattoo is never a good tattoo.
posted by Crystalinne at 2:54 AM on August 9, 2016 [13 favorites]


When I first read your question I thought you were going to object to the design or her getting a tattoo at all. But you're more concerned about the service provider, which I think is a totally legit thing to share your concerns about. Just frame it around the fact that you want to make sure she has an awesome experience and it's not about the tattoo at all.

"Hey I was checking out the tattoo place you were thinking of going because I'm excited for you and curious about their work, and I noticed some oddness, what do you think?"

I also think offering to chip in some money if it will help broaden her choices of artists would be really nice.
posted by like_neon at 3:08 AM on August 9, 2016 [37 favorites]


Yikes, the fact that they were highlighting other artists' work on their FB page rather than their own is sketchy enough BY ITSELF that I wouldn't touch this place with a ten foot pole. Your concerns are totally reasonable. Please speak up before Friday, this shop does not deserve your wife's business.
posted by Pizzarina Sbarro at 3:15 AM on August 9, 2016 [32 favorites]


"Darling, I've been thinking about your tattoo and I want you to be able to get the best, most amazing tattoo of your dreams, and not to worry about the cost. Let's find the tattoo artist who can do this work as a top quality piece of art. I'm going to [give up my daily coffee/skip that planned weekend trip/postpone getting that new laptop] so that we can afford it."
posted by lollusc at 3:35 AM on August 9, 2016 [47 favorites]


why not do some research and show her a bunch of examples of different local artists that you think do good work, call around to find out their availability. Be positive and get excited about her getting the most beautiful tattoo possible. Do you have any other friends with tattoos? ask to see who they recommend. dazzle her with the artistic possibilities.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:47 AM on August 9, 2016


I see that she has already paid a deposit which may also make her feel extra committed to this place so I would recommend that you verbally assure her that it's totally ok if the deposit money is gone if it means she can go somewhere with a stronger reputation/credentials and that you can figure out together how to cover the loss in some other way.
posted by like_neon at 4:07 AM on August 9, 2016 [14 favorites]


This:

"Darling, I've been thinking about your tattoo and I want you to be able to get the best, most amazing tattoo of your dreams, and not to worry about the cost. Let's find the tattoo artist who can do this work as a top quality piece of art. I'm going to [give up my daily coffee/skip that planned weekend trip/postpone getting that new laptop] so that we can afford it."

Plus this:

I see that she has already paid a deposit which may also make her feel extra committed to this place so I would recommend that you verbally assure her that it's totally ok if the deposit money is gone if it means she can go somewhere with a stronger reputation/credentials and that you can figure out together how to cover the loss in some other way.

Even when we haven't had much money between us, my hubby has always found ways to pay for it when a bit more money was the straightest and least painful line from A to B.

For example, when I didn't want to "share custody" of a dog with my ex, because it meant seeing my ex every other week, I wanted my ex to take the dog. When ex told us that there'd be an extra deposit and monthly fee at ex's apartment to take the dog, hubby said "We'll pay it." (It was actually the ex's dog, for crying out loud. Not mine. Technically I shouldn't have had to pay ex's dog deposit and extra rent. And it certainly shouldn't be my new partner's responsibility, but it was the straightest line between A and B.)

Totally worth it.
posted by vitabellosi at 6:47 AM on August 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


Find another shop for her and don't let her get a tattoo at this shop. It's one thing to get a bloopy tattoo when you're a kid, as a grownup, you go for the best.
posted by amanda at 6:58 AM on August 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ask her why she's particularly interested in this shop, and share your concerns. Is she interested in this shop because it's cheap? In that case let her know you want to pay for it to be done at a top notch shop, and help her research one.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:11 AM on August 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's also several emotional commitments here: to the young female artists your wife's already met, and - I'm guessing more significantly - to the close friend who has already had work done there (and could choosing another artist be perceived as a snub of close friend's choices?).
It sounds like addressing this problem could require assisting your wife to back out of these commitments too.
posted by 7 Minutes of Madness at 7:16 AM on August 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


Going a little beyond the other suggestions – why not contribute? If her choice of shop is partly based on budget, maybe you could chuck in a few hundred bucks and research more reputable shops nearby working in the style she likes?
posted by zadcat at 7:18 AM on August 9, 2016


My girlfriend was looking at getting a tattoo from a shop that I was like, not keen on for a number of reasons. I told her why I didn't think they were the kind of place I'd want to get work done (and she's obviously seen my work and has been with me when I got my latest tattoo, so she knows my standards as far as artist and quality). I framed it in terms of: these are my concerns. You say X is important to you w/r/t to your tattoo, this is work I've seen out of that shop that does not meet that criteria, etc. It doesn't hurt that she already has one tattoo that she isn't happy with, that was impulsive, and so she was okay with hearing me when I told her why I was leery of that particular shop.

As it turns out, when she vetted the place in a clear-eyed manner, asked the questions about the work that needed to be asked, she didn't feel comfortable with them at all, and cross-referencing my concerns to her interactions, decided this was not the place. And then I helped her find an artist that doesn't ring alarm bells with either of us, and who is well-regarded, and works in the style she is interested in.

Outline to her your concerns about the shop and the artists as you have here, and offer to help her find the place that is the RIGHT Place. Frame it as you have here, concern for her and legitimate things you see as flags about this shop. Money should not be an object when you're talking about tattoos, so make sure she feels okay paying for it what it's worth. Finally, if you are able to contact the mods and tell them where you are, some of us here who have tattoos may be able to point you to shops in your city that we would recommend.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:57 AM on August 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Another tattooed lady weighing in. Yeah, there's no way in hell I'd go to an artist who posted someone else's work and offered to copy it. That in itself would be a huge red flag for me.

The portfolio images I've seen are pretty inconsistent; some images seem to suggest the ability to do some averagely good work, while other photos show shaky line-work and blotchy shading, and many of the tattoos lack any kind of vibrancy. In short, they're the sort of images I think I'd expect a teenager to doodle in class while they daydream about becoming a tattoo artist. The photo I've seen of the work they did for her friend isn't that great either.

This smacks of someone who didn't do a proper apprenticeship. They may even be scratchers who ordered their gear off the internet. In my area, the business isn't regulated at all and there are a lot of sketchbags opening up shops. In our city, the really talented and professional tattoo artists tend to have waitlists and most only do original custom work. No flash or copying someone else's work.

This isn't about you being controlling or telling her what to do with her body. It's about telling her she's about to make an ugly, permanent decision that she'll be wearing for the rest of her life. Please, please show her this thread. This is one of those cases where you do not want to go for the lowest cost and/or fastest option.
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:03 AM on August 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


Bad tattoos last forever. It is completely reasonable not to want your wife to be walking around with bad ink on the tattoo she has dreamed about for ten years. She may be trying to be thrifty, but you should never be thrifty with a tattoo if you can help it. Offer to make the financial burdens go away and tell her it's fine.
posted by corb at 8:35 AM on August 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Many of us (I imagine) have tattoos - if you can update with a "closest urban area" then those of us near you can give her other personal recommendations, including local female artists if that is what she wants. We have a few extremely good ones around Boston.
posted by pammeke at 8:44 AM on August 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I agree there seems to be an emotional component here -- is it important that her tattoo artist is a woman? That she shares the same artist has her friend? Or it is just the cost? I'd ask her why she picked this place and go from there. No, getting a bad tattoo isn't worth it just due to some emotional connection, but I also think you shouldn't be ignoring that.

I have a tattoo that's not great (not terrible, but not the best either) but I got before a friend's wedding while that friend got another tattoo, too. It was fun! I think about that when I think about it! But that was kind of more of a spur-of-the-moment thing (well, we'd kind of joked about it for a week) than something I'd thought about for 10 years.
posted by darksong at 8:50 AM on August 9, 2016


I think this is actually a pretty prickly conversation to have. Because the gist of your point and the most the advice is "Slow down, do your research" But your wife has wanted this done for 10 years, has been to this establishment (you have not) and decided to let them do the retouch and the new ink.

It sounds like, to her, she has slowed down and done her research. You just don't agree with the final outcome of that. That in my opinion is a harder conversation to have. I do like the recommendations to find a batter place and present that, just saying place X sucks would be a bad move.

I have several pieces and I would push back a little that outcome and technical perfection are the only viable factors. The first tattoo I got was from a world renowned artist and is perfectly done but was the least pleasant experience in the chair I've ever had. Every-time I see that one I think about that crappy night. That matters. My current artist is less accomplished but I love him and like sitting for him and as the things I want are not wildly technical the difference is imperceptible. YMMV.
posted by French Fry at 9:59 AM on August 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


the fact that they only have a facebook page isn't a huge deal imo (i've gotten tattoos from some great artists who only have instagram as their digital portfolio) but holy hell if i saw a shop promoting themselves by offering to copy other artists' work i would stay as far away from it as possible AND tell other people not to go there. i think that's a super valid concern to bring up with your wife, and it might be awkward for her to ask for her deposit back but will definitely be worth it in the long run.
posted by burgerrr at 11:22 AM on August 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Whenever a partner has raised a concern that demonstrated his concern for my well-being (as you are doing now), I was so grateful. Follow one of the scripts above. Making it clear that you totally support the tattoo but are concerned about that particular shop and wonder if she wants to take some extra time to do due diligence sounds like a loving act. Please do that. And if she doesn't listen to you, you can have a clear conscience that you raised the issue for the best of reasons.
posted by Bella Donna at 4:33 PM on August 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I was ready to be all "OMG IT'S HER BODY WHAT GIVES YOU THE RIGHT WHARRGARBL," but you sound completely legit here. I'm with everybody else upthread.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:46 PM on August 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


Urgent advice: Don't frame it as something she is doing wrong, i.e. "Rushing ahead and not doing her research".
Also don't frame it in a "I know better than you" way.

Tell her you are a bit worried about that artist for x reasons and what does she think?
posted by Omnomnom at 11:43 PM on August 9, 2016


Mod note: From the OP:
Thank you so much to all of you for your wonderful advice. I spent a couple of nerve-wracking hours last night drafting an email to my wife (who is away at a conference at the moment). Sent it just now and got a nice reply which basically said that she's happy to trust my judgement, and was surprised that I'd put as much thought into it as I did (I'm not the best communicator!) The appointment is now cancelled and I've offered to help however I can to find the best artist we can. For those who asked, we're in the UK, in the Midlands. So there are potentially a lot of good artists within reach. Thanks again.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:38 AM on August 10, 2016 [28 favorites]


Good to hear! Memail me if you or your wife want a list of some of my favourite tattoo artists or shops - I live in the southwest.
posted by mgrrl at 3:49 PM on August 17, 2016


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