(Body Art by Cat)
Maybe you have seen one of your friends get one. Or even your mother or father. It seems everyone has one. Some are small and diminutive while others can cover an entire limb or even the full body. Some of them are ancient, such as the ones a Neolithic Iceman named Otzi has on his spine, dating back to 5,300 years ago. Celebrities have them, including Brad Pitt, who pays tribute to Otzi the Iceman on his forearm. Some are portraits while others are hearts, crosses, landscapes, peacocks or scripture. Some can even glow in the dark. They are sometimes called "body art" or "tats" and their popularity is continuously growing.
Of course we are talking about tattoos. The Vanishing Tattoo reports that: "Thirty-six percent of those ages 18 to 25, and 40 percent of those ages 26 to 40, have at least one tattoo, according to a fall 2006 survey by the Pew Research Center." That is a lot of tattoos!
But before you take the plunge and get a tattoo there are some important things you should know. In order to understand what you are about to get into when you decide to get a tattoo I have called upon the expertise of one of the top tattoo artists in the field today. His name is Cat Spencer and he is here to give us some much needed guidance about getting a tattoo. You may find more of Cat's body art and digital art in his on-line Tattoo Gallery.
Cat, what should one know about their tattooist before consenting to get a tattoo? Can you tell us more about your background?
I've been tattooing since 1991. After an extensive background in art and several years of freelancing, I was invited to take a professional apprenticeship in 1990.
A good apprenticeship covers not only the "artist" part of being a tattoo artist, but also the mechanical side, including machine building and maintenance, mixing inks, proper techniques for sterilization and safe application of tattoo art, and the necessary hours of training to qualify for testing and licensing.
Testing and licensing varies from state to state, with some states being much more strict than others. Unfortunately there aren't set guidelines or rules for licensing across the country. There is quite a bit of variation in the necessary background and education for state licensing. For this reason, it helps to know that your tattoo artist is affiliated with a recognized organization which promotes continuing education in the ever evolving art.
I have been a professional member of the APT, the Alliance for Professional Tattooists, since 1993. The APT sets guidelines and standards for professional tattooing. They offer annual updates in the recognized standards set for professional tattooists to adhere to. The APT hires professional medical instructors, pathologists, legal personnel, and the like to insure that it's member have the most up to date information regarding the safe application of body art. More information about the APT can be found here.