If I ever gave someone permission to put something permanent onto my body, I would either have to know them and their habits extremely well or there would be a vetting process to make sure they aren’t a fucking idiot. Here are some stories, either from people who didn’t do that or the artists themselves.
1. A good anti-drug commercial
My uncle used to be a heroin addict, and his best friend was an aspiring tattoo artist. So one time they both got loaded and his friend asked to give him a tattoo. Halfway through they both started nodding and the artist fell asleep, dragging the pen down his arm giving him a 5cm long squiggly line before either of them noticed. Sure enough, they decided the best course of action was to do the same line another 3 times starting at the same point to create a symmetrical plus sign. And that’s the story of how my black uncle got a huge malformed swastika tattooed on his arm.
2. Lost in translation
My father is a tattoo artist. He regularly tells a story about when he was much younger, and still new in the business. The man wanted to have his bald head tattooed with a cricket. My father asked him how he wanted it done, and the man answered in a bawling Australian accent, “However you want to, mate. Make it good, and surprise me.” Well, when it was completed, my father pulled out a mirror, and showed the man his new permanent feature. The Australian gawked, mouth drooping with horror. It turns out, he had wanted something involving cricket – the sport – put onto his forehead. The Australian just kind of stared at himself for a few minutes, then burst out in laughter. He loved it! He paid, and left, with a huge smile on his face. Later that afternoon, he brought one of his buddies who wanted the exact same tattoo, but on his bicep.
3. Make sure they have a diploma
My cousin was a tattooist for a few years, mostly working in a ghetto shop. A woman came in with a photo of her still-born child and wanted the baby’s face tattooed on her arm with some text below it. Since my cousin was a high school dropout, his spelling left a lot to be desired. Her caption read, “God’s little angle.”
4. That would be awkward
A friend of mine had a young lady and her family come into the tattoo shop. The girl wanted her name “Whitney” as a tattoo. My friend drew her name up in a nice arch, and showed it to her. She decided she wanted it straight instead. So my friend went back, cut the letters apart and taped them back together straight. He showed the revised design to the entire family and everyone thought it looked great. So he tattoos her, she and the family are happy with it, they go home. A little bit later he gets a call from the girl. Turns out when he pieced the letters back together he forgot one letter. The N. He actually tattooed the word Whitey on her. And she was black…My friend tattooed Whitey on a black girl. Luckily they were cool about it and he gave them an awesome cover up for free.
5. That’s one way to cover it up
A friend in high school was very proud to be Norwegian and decided to get a pirate ship flying a Norwegian flag that covered most of his back. The tattoo artist fucked up and drew the Swedish flag instead. My friend went back and ended up having the flag portion filled in as all black. Now he has a huge meaningless tattoo of a pirate ship flying a black flag.
6. Know your limits*
I was starting a huge koi coverup piece on a girl’s side a couple months ago, she’s super skinny and the second I start on the outline she starts shaking like a chihuahua and would not stop. Her entire side got a nice shaky as fuck koi fish. She never came back for another session to attempt to clean it up and honestly I was pretty relieved, she was the worst to tattoo. I felt terrible that she got a bad tattoo even though there was really nothing I could do differently. And her boyfriend paid for it, which made me feel even worse since she fucking ruined it and he had to pay for a shitty tattoo. Girls with low pain tolerances should NOT get rib tattoos!
7. Good call on her part
I misspelled "independant” on my friend’s leg. She was “dependant” on a smarter artist after that.
8. This artist made an improvement, not a mistake
My friend got the text “Live to skate / Skate or die” going around a circle. The artist wrote, no joke, “Live to share / Share or die.” She managed to fix it but I think he should have stuck with the alternate version.
9. Always tattoo sober
I used to drink a lot, so generally that was a bad thing. Thankfully the shop I was starting out at was owned by my uncle, so I was cut a ton of slack for being a total drunk idiot. I remember one day I had come in, quite drunk, not really even walking straight. Usually they kept a needle out of my hand when I was like this, but it turns out we had a scheduling error so my uncle somehow talks me into inking this guy. He just wants a quote on his upper back. "Not all who wander are lost.” The details are a bit fuzzy, but I remember grabbing a random ink color and just going for it. I remember leaning in very closely to the guy’s back, hunching over in an insanely uncomfortable position and propping myself up by a wobbly arm because my legs had decided to turn to noodles somewhere along the way. So finally the tat is done, and the guy gets up and asks to see a mirror to look at his new ink. I give it to him and just sort of zone out until I register that he is now screaming at me. So the tattoo had come out perfectly. No typos, no issues. But because of the awkward position in which I had tattooed him in, it was upside down and crooked. To top it off, I had used pink.