Written by Joanne Lee
Published in the November 6, 2015 issue
I have always wanted a tattoo. Ever since elementary school, I would write and draw things all over my skin. These pen marks, however, were short-lived. What I sought was permanence.
I started off by Googling everything I could about tattoos. Would it hurt? Would I get an infection?
If I wanted to, could I get it removed? How much does it cost? Though I
did end up finding a lot of helpful information, I decided to consult a
friend who had already gotten several tattoos. She immediately suggested that I start off with a stick-n-poke tattoo. She explained that it was less painful and definitely less expensive than getting one done at a parlor. Being 16 at the time, I decided to give it a try.
The materials for self-tattoos include objects that are mostly found at home: a needle, a regular pencil with an eraser at the end, thread and non-toxic ink. First, I took the needle and sterilized it. I poked the end of the needle between the eraser and ferrule of the pencil so it would be stable. I wrapped the thread around the needle, leaving less than a millimeter for the needle to hold the ink as I started poking. Finally, I poured the ink out and stuck the needle into my skin after dipping it in ink.
To some degree, I prefer stick-n-poke tattoos to professional ones. These tattoos are much dearer to me because it is my own work. My handwriting, my design—mine. As it is a self-done tattoo,it was easier to adjust the pain of poking accordingly because I know my own pain tolerance.
I also came to realize the importance of placement. If I had placed a self-encouragement tattoo behind my ear, it would never work to my benefit. All I have to do when I need a little help is glance at my finger, wrist or feet.
My first tattoo is a simple word abbreviated in Korean that means “precious person.” It’s a phrase my grandpa would tell me unfailingly while I was growing up. I thought about this tattoo for a long time and so far, I do not regret it at all. Some of the other tattoos I have are affiliated with religion and mental illness.
I do plan to get some tattoos done professionally in the future, but I’m glad I started off with stick-n-poke tattoos. Stick-n-pokes, in a way, prepare you for professional tattoos and are undoubtedly more personal.