For a couple of years, now, I have been considering having a second tattoo, but I wanted something very specific, and I had terrible trouble settling on the right image.
Finally, last week, the husband bought me a gift. It was a little silver charm, a replica of an ancient Greek artifact, and, as it turns out, exactly what I was looking for as a starting point for my tattoo. I was more than a little bit pleased, not least because I had a lovely new charm for my keyring, as well as the inspiration that I’d been looking for.
As luck would have it, only a day or two after receiving the gift, my brother introduced me to his tattooist, who recommended a lovely young woman to do the work for me. I liked her immediately. She was sharp and engaged and had a lovely, easy manner, and she looked amazing, which doesn’t hurt.
She took photos of the charm and went away to work on the design, and I booked an appointment.
I spent some of the intervening time working on a design myself, but not too long. I just assumed that my tattooist would understand what I wanted, and that would be that.
I returned for my appointment, and the tattooist showed me the sketch that she’d made. It wasn’t right. Honestly, I was disappointed. It didn’t look the way that I’d imagined, and I didn’t like it very much. I talked to the tattooist about the problems, and she pointed out the limitations of tattooing inks. She made some good and very useful points.
Here’s the thing, though, as I see it.
The tattooist didn’t understand the cultural reference and the symbolism of what I intended to do, and why should she? She is a young, very lovely woman and her education and cultural reference are bound to be very different from mine. I’ve seen her work, and it’s very beautiful. I think she’s an accomplished tattooist who produces a lovely line, and I know that she works in a number of styles.
I’m guessing, here, but I also think she might work with a lot of women, and a lot of younger people, and that most of her work is intended to be decorative... Meaningful perhaps to the wearer of the tattoo, and some of her work consists of script, so appropriate in that way with quotes and snippets of poetry, but straight forward. The sort of arcane cultural reference I was going for didn’t jibe for her with the figurative nature of my tattoo and the creature I’d chosen to have represented in it.
I got it wrong just as much as she did, by not explaining myself to her.
She drew me a happy, smily, slightly cartoon referenced sea creature, because that’s exactly what she thought the brief was.
I’ve been working on the design some more, and I’ll take it to show her again very soon. I think she’ll be surprised, but I have no doubt that she’ll produce the tattoo that I want, and, I hope, she’ll have the opportunity to learn something about a customer’s expectations outside of her usual range of experiences.
Watch this space.