By Melissa Smith | Arts and Entertainment Editor
Senior Courtney Warden lowers her head and pulls up her hair, displaying a tattoo of the infinity sign which lies on the nape of her neck.
“My tattoo is my parent’s initials and me and my sister’s initials put together. Both of my parents have it also. It’s just my family, and the infinity sign is just to show it’s not changing- it’s forever.”
Warden’s family isn’t the only thing that will last her forever-her tattoo will too. And though she values her body art, Warden recognizes that risks come with the act of getting inked. However, many students tend to ignore the health risks and social stigma that accompanies it.
“I got [my tattoo] for my grandpa who passed away, like a year ago” senior Jimmy Colborn said, baring the inscription of Phillipians 4:13 on his ribcage. “He gave me a necklace that had the Bible verse on it, so I got it. I didn’t care [about the health risks]; it’s worth it. A thousand people get tattoos and nothing happens.”
Senior Samantha Bressi has the same verse on her left wrist, but it means something else to her. The verse says ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’, reminding her of the tribulation she was able to overcome by her faith in Christ.
“I had two tumors, so I got it on the side of my head where my tumor is,” Bressi said, adding, “No, [I didn’t care about the health risks], because I wanted the tattoo- so I did whatever it took.”
Both students’ parents didn’t exactly approve of them getting their tattoos, but since they were 18 at the time, they couldn’t be stopped by parental disapproval.
“They didn’t necessarily support me; they just weren’t mad about it, because it had meaning,” Colborn said.
“Yeah, my dad wasn’t too happy about it, but I didn’t tell him for like five months,” Bressi explained.
Though Colborn was adamant on getting the tattoo, he does admit that one factor bothered him more than the pain and risk of infection.
“It’s just a needle. It’s not scary- I was scared what it would look like. Like, if it would be bad.”
For Bressi, the pain of getting the tattoo wasn’t so much unbearable as it was annoying. Colborn felt differently.
“Yeah, worst pain in my life. I wanted to cry, not going to lie. It [lasted a full] two hours and 15 minutes. It feels like you’re getting stabbed and pinched a thousand times.”
Colborn believes that tattoos don’t require much care after being finished.
“You basically just put this lotion on it- like Neosporin- to stop it from getting infected,” he said.
Conversely, Bressi felt that a greater deal of work was involved in keeping the application site clean.
“Well, you don’t have to take care of it once it’s healed, but at first you have to wash it, you have to put sunscreen on it. At first you have to moisturize it non-stop so it will heal. It will peel at first, but if the ink comes out, you’ll have to get it redone.”
One takes many chances when getting a tattoo: bloodborne diseases, allergic reactions, infections-the list goes on. Still, when working with an experienced and professional artist who knows the trade, the likelihood of an health issue is much more slim.
“We have to ask if people have any types of disorders, as far as like skin is concerned. There’s such things as keloids, eczema… things like that that would prevent people from getting tattoos,” Johnny Fitswell, a tattoo artist at nearby Tattoo Nation, said.
Surprisingly, skin conditions aren’t the only things taken into account for clientele.
“We just make sure that everybody’s blood sugar level is all right when they come in to get a tattoo that could just mess with your blood pressure,” Fitswell said.
There are many precautions that establishments like Tattoo Nation take before tattooing or piercing a customer with their tools.
“We have to basically sterilize a lot of things, everything has to be vacuum sterilized, and at like 450 degrees,” Fitswell explained. “Everything that we use is pretty much pre-packaged- sterilized needles, because that’s usually what we use here, just a bunch of needles for tattooing and piercing. So that’s kind of part of the deal too.”
There is no such thing as a short sterilizing process at Tattoo Nation.
“As far as some of the tubes that hold the needles, those have to be scrubbed with solutions; that’s a whole long lengthy process. On top of that, it has to be like ultra sonic-ed, then it has to be autoclaved.”
Those objects that are not subjected to extensive cleaning are strictly made for one-time use.
“Most of us use disposable everything , you know; the industry is veering that way. We use multiple colors, multiple tattoo machines. It’s easier to just toss everything when were done,” he said.
Once a needle is used on one customer, it will never touch another person’s skin ever again.
“That means after we’re done, we can just toss it. We’re just like ‘that’s it’; there’s no reusing anything here,” he said.
When getting a tattoo, artists like Fitswell feel that one should think long and hard about the desired image.
“Sometimes people come in sporadically and get stuff done, which is fine; and we guide them in the direction they want to go,” said Fitswell. A nearby customer interrupted sarcastically.
“Like, if I wanted to get THUGLIFE on my chest would you stop me?” he chimed in. Fitswell responded with a laugh an a resounding “No”.
Tattoos usual represent something special in a person’s life experience.
“It’s self-expression. There’s hundreds of reasons people get tattoos,” Fitswell said. “From memorial tattoos to just something like their favorite artist, or something that’s in their life like forever.”
However, not everyone is fit for a tattoo.
“People sometimes don’t take ink, and some people reject jewelry. It depends on their bodies. So some people cannot get tattoos; the ink won’t stay, it will be patchy. It really depends on the person, the individual,” Fitswell explained.
He believes that not going to a professional is the biggest risk one can take when getting a tattoo, and has advice for those who are leaning that way.
“One thing that we always encounter are people who tattoo at home. Now, being that we take bloodborne pathogen classes, I’m going to give you one example. Hepatitis can be transferred by touch. So if people are getting tattooed in their house, and they think that it’s fun- they’re tattooing their friends- if one person has Hepatitis, it can stay on their body for eight days. Then, that Hepatitis will get transferred to somebody else,” Fitswell said.
Hepatitis is swelling and inflammation of the liver, often used to refer to a viral infection of that organ.
“Hepatitis kills the liver; like, it’s a pretty serious thing. So we get that a lot- Like ‘I got a tattoo from a friend at a house’,” he said. “There’s a lot of bloodborne pathogens that are even worse than that.”
Furthermore, a cheap tattoo can often be indicative of a studio that isn’t taking all the measures required for a safe procedure to be followed.
“We always want people to understand that the reason why tattoos cost so much is because theres a lot that goes into the whole process, and we have to make sure that nobody gets sick or transfers any diseases, so it/s very important that you tell your friends and stuff- ‘Nobody get tattooed at home’. These things can kill you, and it’s through the blood. All it takes is touching somebody’s blood,” Fitswell said.
Along with health risks, there are also social risks being taken, but Bressi and Colborn don’t see that as an issue, since they chose discreet locations for their body art.
“People have always asked me if I’m afraid if I won’t get a job, but I have watches that cover it,” Bressi said.
“It’s hidden. Well, at least if I have a job that requires pants and a shirt. It shouldn’t be a problem,” Colborn said with a chuckle.
The students look back with no ruefulness at their experiences with tattoos.
“I would never regret it,” Colborn said.
“No, it had a big meaning to me, I would never regret it,” Bressi agreed.
Warden isn’t sure whether or not she’ll want to have the ink forever, but is choosing to live in the present for now.
“I don’t know. I mean, if I do end up regretting it, I’ll take it off. I don’t like to live thinking I’m going to regret something. Because in the moment, that’s what I wanted to do, and it’s not like family changes,” Warden said.