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I see it on social media constantly- where should I go for a tattoo? A piercing? A very specific style of tattoo and an obscure type of piercing?

And that's okay. Like most businesses, tattoo parlors and piercing studios live or die by word of mouth and their reputation in general. However, if you want the best possible tattoo or piercing, I'm afraid you're going to have to go talk to some actual tattoo artists and piercers. I know. It's scary. Even if you set the whole thing up online, you still have to communicate with the person beyond just setting a date, especially if you want a large or custom design.

So ask yourself- what is scarier? Booking with an artist you've never spoken to because a lady at work's aunt really likes them, or just putting on your big kid pants and doing the research? You never know what biases or motives people have when making a recommendation and I see people asking for those recommendations on social media to an audience of complete strangers. They could tell you a mediocre artist is amazing because they are their drinking buddy or their significant other or because that person owes them money.

Like most things, the proof is in the puddin', Puddin'. 

PRO TIP- find an artist that draws constantly. Art and photo by Tim Kohtz
BONUS PRO TIP- find an artist that draws constantly. Art and photo by Tim Kohtz

Most shops, and individuals working at those shops, have social media accounts that they update often. That's a good place to start, so you can get a good sense of their abilities and also their preferred style. I don't think you should necessarily go to the person who prefers to do traditional-style tattoos and ask for a portrait. But I don't think you should exclude them as candidates either, and that is why you need to look through portfolios.

It is the Year of Our Lord 2023, so many artists have their portfolios online, but others will have a book of photographs at their shop- or both. It's okay to ask to see it, and any artist who acts weird about it should be knocked off your list immediately. They are either unskilled or incredibly arrogant, and you don't want either of those people tattooing or piercing you. To me, an unpleasant experience is nearly as bad as getting a bad tattoo or piercing. All tattoos hurt your body, but there's no reason for an artist to otherwise make me feel uncomfortable. There are too many great artists out there to put up with anyone being a jerk.

Last but certainly not least- you should check out any potential shop for cleanliness and hygienic practices. Luckily, all legal, professional shops must be certified by the Health Department. But if a shop seems less than up-to-par to you, trust your gut.

Have fun and enjoy your new tattoo or piercing, now I'm itching to get another one.

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