Initiation: You enter the shop and auditory impressions hit you right away. The tattoo machine is humming it’s in a distinct key, the sound you are hearing took a long time for the person who is using the machine to figure out how to perfect. A good tuned machine will resonate perfectly. No chatter or rattle just a smooth sounding electro-harmonic frequency. Years of technical information has been passed down to have this strange awkward device sound the way it does let alone perform such an complex task consistently.
Then the visual impact hits you. You are bombarded by images, some familiar, some totally alien. The colors bouncing off one another, and the thousands of symbols, patterns and designs are overwhelming, yet highly interesting. A level of confusion and heightened visual intoxication can occur.
We move on to the smell. A tattoo shop smells like one thing, a tattoo shop. The aroma of Green Soap is strong and distinct. You have a birth experience just walking through the door. Many come with a chosen design; others choose what the tattooer offers on his wall or books. In either instance the client is involved in a choice that is life altering if not only aesthetically, but socially. There is a harmonizing occurring in this process. The person must choose his mark. Some researched others instinctively. Albeit out of tradition, ignorance or necessity a permanent outcome will be the final.
Ceremony: The customer is now led to the area where the ceremony will take place. The tattooer’s room is usually an extension of himself. Totems and personal objects. Again if it’s Buddhist thangka painting or a professional wrestling poster really makes no difference, in this observation! Much like most ceremonies before the actual event occurs pleasantries are exchanged, the customer or in this case initiate is made to feel comfortable and the stencil is applied. The tattooer and the customer come to an agreement. This is Key. A deep trust is brought into view. The tattoo begins.
As in most religious rites the customer has to perform a austerity. They have to sit through what to some is the most painful experience they have yet to face. The customer leaves the tattooer in control of the process. The level of concentration is at its peak. The application is being conducted with electromagnetic energy. The ink being inscribed underneath the skin is organic in its nature usually prepared with extreme caution. Every single element involved in the process is essential and serves its own function. The tattooer and the customer share a very intense of exchange of energies, sometimes for many hours. In some instances the tattooer must remind the subject to breathe! Both work at a common goal of completion with as little trauma as possible. Upon completion the tattooer is paid for his services, the customer is given a marking that will outlast the spirit within the husk that he or she chose to adorn.
The client is now tattooed. He spent a moment of his life, in what many seem to be a very abstract setting, to leave with a permanent badge that will bring fourth conversation, insight, judgment, alignment, attraction and repulsion for the extent of their lives. People complain all the time tattooing has lost its magic, yet I believe it is right in front of our faces. It’s just clouded by our own judgment, negativity and lack of true understanding for what we really do.
(From the full article as seen in Tattoo Artist Magazine issue #23)
Robert Ryan can be found at:
314 Main St.Bradley Beach NJ 07720